A Market in Lagos, Nigeria. Wikimedia Commons

Nigeria. Beauty and Creativity

The CLU (CL university) students of Lagos, starting from life at the university, have begun working on Fr Giussani’s book. “You only need to follow an encountered beauty.”

We, CLU Nigeria, are involved now in a work on The Risk of Education. I really began to perceive the challenge of education when I got into medical school. Before then, I was used to a “fly” life–partying and organizing shows. But when I got to medical school, all I seemed to do was read–to me, this was monotonous. At a certain point, I began to have a problem with studying. It was not a problem of understanding; rather, it was a problem of associating studying with my desire for creativity, with my desire to do something great, unique, and extraordinary (for me, at that point, organizing shows was part of expressing my creativity). This problem persisted until, together with friends from Portugal (Margarida, Tomas, and Gonzalo), we worked on an article by Cesana called “The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty” (Traces Vol. 4, No. 7, p. 8). From the work on this article I was provoked to ask, “It is so easy to experience Beauty in this company and here on the beach, but how can I experience Beauty when reality seems so monotonous; how can I experience Beauty in the library when I am studying?” From that moment, I began to desire to experience Beauty in my studies and I could see a link between my studies and my desire for creativity. My studies became “a window open to reality.”

What Do We Study for?
We then began to judge our experience in school, out of a desire to live intensely. We realized that most students (including ourselves) were studying just to pass the exams. Also, there was this idea of trying to look like a genius–someone who could pass the exams without apparently being committed. So, for example, Ken (one of us) spoke about how he had to hide behind the library at night to read, so no one would see him (and how he was bitten by mosquitoes in the process). At this point, a desire arose in us to experience Beauty in our studies–how can we say life is beautiful if our studies are not? (As students, we spend most of our time studying.) We also wanted to propose this Beauty to other students. So we began to work on the book The Risk of Education. Initially, most of us saw education just as a tool for empowering ourselves, as a way of building a career. But in The Risk of Education education was proposed as an introduction to total reality. This proposal really corresponded!

“ Cara Beltà” (“Dear Beauty”)
Now to be serious about my studies was to be serious about reality–not just to be serious about making a good career. The work on The Risk of Education further sparked our desires and the need for Beauty became more imperative (we said, "Hey, it’s our lives we are talking about here.") For us, at that point, it became a matter of Beauty, and hence we tagged the cultural work “Dear Beauty” and we decided to choose instruments that would help us experience this Beauty.

We chose some beautiful films, art exhibitions, and also an exhibition on The Risk of Education. We then began to propose what we had encountered to our friends. We organized several “two days together.” In one of such “two days together,” which was held in Pakoto (southwest of Nigeria), we had about 70 students from different tertiary institutions.
It was impressive during the final assembly when we asked about the experience on the work and the days together. What came out was really a discussion of something personal, not the typical discussions we have on education–“There is always a power cut during lessons;” “There are no
apparatuses in the laboratories;” “The budget on education is too little.”

The Testimonies of our Friends
Bunmi, one of our friends, spoke of how the proposal of an authority as his truest self corresponded to him and he spoke of his experience of this. Tony, also a friend, spoke of how the work had challenged him to be more sensitive to reality because during the work we were mostly speaking about our personal experiences and this was something which was new to him. Amaka spoke of how she was initially expecting the discussions to be all about CL. Rather, what she experienced was an interest in her life and experience. Also, she said the days together had reawakened in her a taste for happiness. So far, we have begun to propose what we have encountered in our different universities. We have had film showings of “Les Miserables” (based on a novel by Victor Hugo). A lot of the people who came for the shows were attracted by the posters we used–this really corroborates the fact that man is a search for the meaning of things. After the film showing, two students joined our School of Community. When asked why they joined, they said that what they encountered during the film showing was unique, so they came to see.

The work, so far, is helping me to understand this point: for me to play out my desire of creativity, I don’t have to invent something that is not there. Rather, all I need to do is follow a beauty that I have encountered.