Ese Ark’s Naked is a real breath of fresh air, a lens through which we get to see an enhanced view of those murky parts of our lives where we are unconsciously just ambling through, whilst also providing us with fresh feasible real life evidences and solutions.
Ese Ark employs excellent but simple diction in narrating her personal experiences; allowing us a panoramic view into her personal life and family from childhood, broaching in the process, quite a wide range of relevant topics like: family; is it thicker than water? Girls; are they cat fighters? Boys; am I inferior to them? Sex; is it overrated? Religion; my journey to unbelief. Guilt and shame; my public breakdown. Love and marriage; I didn’t marry for love. Therapy; am I crazy? Awareness; from believing to knowing. Purpose; why I’m here…etc.
As she wriggled between the forenamed topics, she tried to connect with us on an intimate level by sprinkling background information and valid evidences where necessary. The book begins with birth (two sides of a mysterious coin) and death (a reminder to love now). She was born on the 29th of March 1984 to a mother, as she was told, who didn’t breastfeed her because she had to go back to school to finish her education, while her little one lived with her grandma. After eighteen years, she finds out that she has a step sister who was born in the same month and year as herself.
The author dissects her own small unit that is family, casting it as a clear prism which allows us a closer look at a distorted social construct imposed by the ‘we vs them’ mentality that comes with being part of a family, race, class, and other societal divisions. She offers a snapshot of the downside of this social divide: today leaders of poor countries are known to send their ‘families’ to better parts of the world while the citizens feel the heat of under-development and decrepit amenities. They think that by protecting the small unit, they are doing enough to protect themselves from the rest of the people. People steal billions of naira and hide these on behalf of their ‘families’ while other citizens starve to death. The fact that you can be unkind to some people because they are not family proves that you are an unkind person, and even your family should be afraid of you, because what if you were not related to them? You would not care if they died of hunger and that is a very scary prospect. She further posits that we can choose our family. We can convert friends to family and still get all the love and security we deserve. By and large, we are all connected. Family is the whole of humanity and the earth is our home. It is our duty to protect our home and each other.
Real and continuous awakening requires a certain level of personal determination, self-awareness and curiosity. Ese Ark rightly did nothing to flippantly douse what lies between sleepwalking through it all and a complete and powerful awakening. On her journey to awareness, she recounts with strict precision, the rigors of it all: “the first time I heard anything about consciousness was when I read Eckhart Tolle’s “Power of Now.” By the end of the book, which took me eight days to finish, I felt I had found something but I didn’t know what it was. I could not articulate it. The book ended with the question, “how do you know you have surrendered?” To which Eckhart replied, “When you no longer need to ask that question.” “At first I thought I completely understood what he talked about. It took me three more years to get the message and bring it to my reality. Prior to when I started living the message, I struggled greatly.”
The author farther takes us expertly through a comprehensive eye-opener—her totter from law school to religion. She found, through her grapples, the fortitude to question that omnipotent halo of religion that is endemic in these parts of the world, infusing us with a salvo of aplomb to try and satiate any misgivings we might have about religion at any time. Her reasoning started with, “why would god choose to save me over the girl on the other side of the planet? I’d always see stories of wars and suffering in the news and I wasn’t feeling so lucky anymore. I believed when I was told that god cared about me and was providing for me but seeing as I prayed for the people who were suffering, I wondered why god didn’t care enough to help them too. One day I asked the ultimate question, “what if this god narrative is a lie?” “What if the pastor wasn’t hearing from god and was just controlling people for the heck of it and his congregation of righteous people were simply submitting themselves to be used and controlled? How else do you explain a parent subjecting their child to torture or death because some spiritual leader claims said child is a witch? How do we explain people strapping on bombs to kill themselves and others because of promises of a better afterlife and sex with virgins? Why are religious people the most judgmental people in any setting?
Subsequently, worthy of note is her dexterous anatomy of pain (the mother wound), festooned with her veracious emotions around the subject: the average Nigerian female has had painful experiences with her mother. This used to confuse me in my relationship with my mother until I found out it wasn’t peculiar to me and there was something I could do about it. In the not-so-distant past, I couldn’t talk about my mother without feeling anger or hate. She went ahead to invoke a few insightful excerpts from Bethany Webster a corroborative tool intent on shining more light on The Mother Wound: when I found Bethany Webster, I learnt about something called The Mother Wound and this was the peak of my understanding and healing. She defines the mother wound as “the pain of being a woman passed down through generations of women in patriarchal cultures. And it includes the dysfunctional coping mechanisms that are used to process that pain.”
The book ends with the inevitable nature of death; our utmost fear and denial of the phenomenon. When it hits not directly at us but just close to home, how do we manage to find appropriate words for the bereaved in that moment? What happens after death? Is there a silver lining? “For me, death therefore serves as a reminder to love now. Death tells me I will not be here with these experiences forever. Along with telling me to love now, death challenges me to live while I am alive. It tells me to write this book, sing my own song, tell my story, love hard, give without expectation, receive freely and never fall to the level of merely existing.”
Ultimately, Naked is a sufficiently equipped treatise that seeks to displace unconscious living. Reflecting that to be vulnerable is to be alive; that it is possible to ask and receive answers; that it is possible to look inward and try to know yourself; that it is okay to acknowledge and let yourself feel, and then come back and grab it all by the scruff of the neck. However, even in trying to enlighten, Naked is assertive just enough not to be aggressively pushy but open and lucid enough to let us exercise our own discretions.