The Books of My Numberless Dreams

The Great Imperative meme

Posted on: May 3, 2007

I’ve been tagged by Geoffrey Philp to answer the question, What has been the great imperative of my life? The question intimidated me, not the least because Philp’s own answer was entertaining and impressive. His assurance that one’s answer did not have to be so long did not help as much as it should have.

The question is intimidating because at first I was unsure of my answer. Initially I interpreted the question in career terms and that was no good since I’m still a bit reticent about that. (This is to the consternation of my entire family, who fear that I may become nothing more than a highly educated bum if I falter the tiniest bit off the track; for what else did I go to university, especially a “foreign” one, if not to get a nice job?)

The great imperative of my life has been to seek knowledge. Knowledge about the world, about other people and, a little belatedly, about myself. From a young age I enjoyed watching the Discovery channel and National Geographic because they told me more about things very close to me — marine life documentaries were a favourite because I lived right by the sea — and far away, like the safari shows on sub-Sahara Africa or the Forbidden City in China. I remember looking at pictures of the Sistine Chapel, tracing my fingers around the Biblical figures and believing that somehow all of it, and the trials of Michelangelo’s life were somehow directly connected to me, although I could not, at the time, understand how. I heard the Hornpipe theme from Handel’s Water Music reverberated in my mind, filling every space, and I thought that it must be expanding my mind. Instinctively I knew that this music was helping me to discern new ideas before I ever read a Redbook article at the hairdresser instructing mothers to play Mozart for their potential baby geniuses. I listened in awe to Peter Tosh’s arrangement of Psalm 27, “Creation”, on the radio, with no clue at the time about who sang it, and felt each note and each thunderous crash in the background deep within my chest — more than almost any hymn or canticle sung at Church, I felt that this song revealed more to my about the concept of God in relation to myself. Of course I did not think in precisely those terms at the time — all of these moments occurred before my teenage years — I only recognised how similar the state of reverence I felt was to some Sundays at church when the congregation and choir sang Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face.

My entire blog, so far, captures pretty well how books fit into that, I think.

It is also why I love to travel. On school trips I would always find another daring companion and ditch the boring “scheduled tours”, make friends with a local, and get away from the packaged tourist experience. My mother prayed extra hard whenever I went off on another solo backpacking trip, no matter how many times I told her that terrorists and other criminal elements were not inclined to kidnap middle-class Jamaicans.

Music, art, film and literature: every new concert, gallery, theatre I attend or book I read is another new eye-opener and another perspective, another step taken in my goal to know the world. How to morph that into something sell-able? Maybe that should become my great imperative. 😉

If anyone wants to pick this meme up, consider yourself tagged.

15 Responses to "The Great Imperative meme"

Good. I enjoyed the read. Great meme, innit?

Innit though! I enjoyed reading your answer to that question – I’m going to do some thinking over the weekend and see if I can come up with an answer of my own.

Rethabile it is a great meme and I’m glad you enjoyed my contribution. I’m also glad that you took the time to comment because I see, having visited your site, that you’ve done some posts on Komunyakaa. I’d never heard of him before but I recently received one of his books.

booktraveller yay, I was a bit self-conscious about this post because I feel more comfortable posting on books than anything obviously personal. I’m looking forward to your take on the meme.

What a great response!

Love your answer!

Hey, you stole my imperative! And you stole my amazing explanation of it too! How could you?!

I think my imperative is to try to understand human nature. Fairly similar to yours in practice, but more focused, maybe, on people.

Dear Imani,

Thank you for responding to the meme. Your curiosity is fascinating and i am starting to under stand your rather catholic appetite for books.


Michelangelo and Peter Tosh, eh? Cool

Thanks to everyone for the warm responses, I really appreciate them. 🙂

Sylvia what can I say, I’m a terrible person.

Dewey yes, I’m about as interested in the way a plant works as much as a person on most days.

Geoffrey P you’re welcome ad thanks for creating such a great meme. I like the adjective you used to describe my appetite — typically when people ask me what I like or am willing to read I tell them it would be easier to ask what I don’t like.

Fabulous answer to a fabulous question! I might not be able to resist this myself.

[…] Higher Education, Meme, Thoughts, Blogging, Personal — litlove @ 5:32 pm When I saw this meme over on Imani’s site (and she answers it beautifully, by the way), I knew I wouldn’t be able to […]

Imani, I think what you’ve written here is just lovely. I very much like the idea of exploring our life’s imperative. What a difficult idea!

Hello! We share a similar quest for knowledge. I like this meme. I was also tagged by Geoffrey and I posted today.

litlove thanks! I popped over to see your answer and of course, it was ten times better.
verbivore it was more difficult than I thought it would be. Initially I expected it to pop into my head. Thanks.
Stephen Bess I will go and check yours out. Thanks for commenting.

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