A new flow—and back to “Who’s it for?”

Re-introducing the Being Human Friday letter!


So if you’ve been on the newsletter a while, you might remember I used to call this Friday letter 5 for Friday, named because I would share one thing from each of the following categories:

  • a Thought: which wasn’t essay length but something on my mind

  • True Talk: a quote from someone

  • a Tip or Trick

  • a Trip: something I enjoyed

  • a Thing: something that didn’t fit into any of the other categories

I pulled it because although it was fun, it started to feel a bit like a drag, mainly because I found myself struggling to fit into each of the categories.

I realise I just want this letter to be chill, but also be real. And while I like a bit of structure to things, that wasn’t helping in this case. So we’re switching it up, and taking it easy, which is why I’m calling it…

🥁 🥁 🥁 🎺 🎺 🎺 🎊

Friday Flow


(Hope you like the name as much as I do!)

Okay, time to get to the actual letter, now that I’ve spent a good bit talking about, well, the letter! Here’s the contents of today’s Friday Flow:

🇳🇬 A great new essay on Nigerian identity
🐦 My old tweets on “Who’s it for?”
🌹 Richard Feynman on the beauty of science
☝🏾A Nigerian proverb

🇳🇬 A great new essay on Nigerian identity

Damilola Oyedele, a Nigerian writer resident in the US, shared a wonderful essay yesterday about the ways Nigerian-Americans have sometimes portrayed what it means to be Nigerian, especially when done in ways that have sometimes left one with a vague feeling of discomfort. It’s a great essay and you should read it—even if you end up not agreeing with all of it, it’s good food for thought.

It was inspired by a lifetime of similar experiences, but triggered by the most recent, a Vanity Fair YouTube video in which Insecure’s Yvonne Orji was explaining Nigerian slang—leaving many Nigerians with a weird (but probably familiar) combination of pride in her person and cringe at her performance. See the video for yourself.

If you’re not Nigerian, you might struggle to understand why the cringe, to which I would ask if you’ve ever had any experience of having people portray something you considered personal in ways that made you feel uncomfortable—well it’s a bit like that. Except worse, because when you don’t have a lot of representation normally, every single representation has to be that closer to perfect. In some ways, it’s an unfair burden to anyone trying to represent, which is also why the best thing in the end is really more representation, so no one has to carry all of the weight.

🐦 My old tweets on “Who’s it for?”

Last year I saw Hear Word, a Nigerian-produced and acted show in Edinburgh—back when actual shows were still a thing and the Fringe wasn’t cancelled. And I had left feeling uncomfortable and it took me awhile to process why. Ultimately I decided the issue was I wasn’t sure the show was clear itself on who it was for.

Incidentally that’s connected not only to the essay by Oyedele, but also to my essay from earlier this week, A Question of Empathy, in which I explored the value of asking “Who is this for?” (Check it out if you haven’t already).

I explored the whole thing last year in a series of tweets, which I thought I’d save you the trouble of going to Twitter for by placing them right here—if they don’t show in your email, click here to go to Twitter, after all, sorry. (Feel free to retweet and all that, if you like!)

If you haven’t seen Damilola’s essay, seriously go check it out: you can always come back to this email. Here’s the link, again: Is This Us? The many holes in Nigerian-American Portray of the Nigerian Experience.

🌹 Richard Feynman on the beauty of science

I think about this a lot when I hear people speak of analysing things as if analysis robs things of beauty. I get where they’re coming from, but I think it’s a misguided view that comes from binary thinking: assuming that things have to be either-or, when they can often coexist.

I have a friend who's an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don't agree with very well.

He'll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I'll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he's kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is ... I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees.

I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it's not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there's also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic?

All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don't understand how it subtracts.

—Richard P. Feynman

☝🏾Nigerian proverb

I have been sharing proverbs (mostly Nigerian) with a few friends, as part of my re-engaging with the proverbs of my people, but also because I believe they offer a ton of food for thought. So I’ll be sharing one each week here, and would love to hear what they get you thinking. Here’s today’s proverb:

One finger cannot remove lice from the head

Reply back and tell me what that speaks to you!

Yours in flow,
Doc Ayomide