Can You See God?

It was late, near midnight, and I was in the library, trying to finish a paper whose deadline (midnight) I wouldn’t meet anyway, and overdosed on coffee to the point of mentally hyperactive discomfort. The paper I was writing was far less exciting for me than the project of passion that I was working on simultaneously with the team over a long distance: the Solitaire EP.

Moving to California for school caused a lot of complications and coordination problems with the Vision Inspired team back in Ghana, not least of which was the 8-hour difference between us. This was early in the morning in Ghana, around 7 or 8 am, and Tronomie had just sent me a Whatsapp audio of the final arrangement of Dear God part 2. He hadn’t slept all night. Of course I halted my work immediately to listen to it. And. I. Loved. It. I think that was the moment I actually began to get excited about the whole EP. I think this is how Tronomie became my favorite singer. The only person who loved it more than I did was my manager/CEO, Ekko, who had, as usual, offered his creative input and direction – in this case, his suggestions had worked such that Dear God had begun to sound not just like two songs, but like three.

Before these Vision Inspired Magicians did their surgical sorcery to Dear God, it had existed as a classically angsty Akotowaa spoken-word-on-beat with all the enthusiastic anger my performances are known for.

“I feel caged by expectations, grades, examinations, the range of practical occupations” – Akotowaa [Dear God]

And it was very short – barely even 2 minutes long. Also, it wasn’t supposed to be part of the Solitaire EP. Ironically, now that Tronomie is on it, I think it’s the longest Solitaire track.

When I got the “final draft” of Dear God, it was the first time I’d heard that final bit of the song; the Ekko addition that made the song sound like three instead of just two. The aim of all the light production and the BVs was to end the track on a sonically significantly happier note than the one it began with. When Ekko asked me what I thought about it, I said, truthfully, that the sound I was hearing did not fit my perception of something that should come out of God. (And for those of you who still haven’t gotten the clue that Tronomie is the voice of God on this track, here’s your chance to pretend like you knew it all along.)

As horrified as I was to admit it, it was true. Despite my intellectual awareness of the complex nature of God, I still had a fixed, streamlined vision of Him in my mind – one that was very much captured by the production vocals Tronomie had created at the beginning of Dear God part 2. The sudden, powerful drums. The vocals swinging through crescendo and diminuendo to give me the impression of a dark room, smoke and an invisible, invincible, untouchable, out-of-reach force. That was God. The sweetly-singing “Love me” person just wasn’t adding up to the one whom I’d heard sing before him, in my brain. Problematic? Indeed. (Ironically, I had written the lyrics, and I don’t know how I expected the words “love me” to constantly sound booming and menacing, more like a command and less like a request.)

I had another poem in the works by this time, one I was to perform at the VIM concert on the 23rd of December. It was supposed to be a Christmas poem. I’d been working on it for a while but it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. It was one of those unfortunate projects that felt like everything that was coming out of my pen was trash. I was trying unsuccessfully to turn the Biblical story of Jesus’ birth into a poetic narrative, but it lacked any meaning I could identify… until after this incident with being asked about how I felt about the end of Dear God.

When I began I See God, I didn’t know it was going to be my Christmas poem. It was merely a story I was telling of a man who could only see the harshest side of God, being introduced to the loving image of Him. The God of John 3:16.

“I see God in the rolling thunder,

The crashing of the waves and them pulling under

Everything that cannot withstand

The fearful power of the ocean’s command” -Akotowaa [I See God]

In the beginning, this fictional man’s rant to the stranger who has joined him seems harmless. You see God as impressive and powerful; is He not these things, anyway? Will every knee not eventually bow to him whether it desires to or not? But then later, you start to see how destructive this kind of image, when held in isolation from the whole nature of God, begins to get.

“I see God as an icy God

A block so cold proximity burns

A rock so old it doesn’t age

The God that sent Egypt the plague

…A God that, by nature, pushes people away.” -Akotowaa [I See God]

When this carries on, the image of invincible power turns into an image of unbridled cruelty. Such a Being becomes unapproachable and incapable of love, much less getting others to love Him. He is indeed a God who pushes people away. A Being like that is someone I’d be careful to keep my distance from because I’d be terrified of what He could do to me if I even breathed the wrong way.

The stranger whom the man in my poem is showing his God off to remains unimpressed. You can tell that the man who spoke was proud of his speech. The might of his God probably fed his ego; made him feel special and conceited, for belonging to a religion whose God would effortlessly smite the gods of any other person’s religion. I can only imagine how he expected the stranger to look at him with starry eyes, envying this man his religion and even fearing him a little for being a worshipper of Someone so fearful. But then the stranger says to the man what I would now say to myself:

“Your God sounds like a terrorist

A God without rhyme,

A God without reason

A God that only knows the harshest season

A God of power but not of love

A God as a vulture, never a dove

The God of the flood,

But not of the rainbow

That’s the God that most of us claim to know.” -Akotowaa [I See God]

The question, as I was thinking of all this dialogue between the two men, was where had I seen evidence – plain, undeniable evidence – of the loving, soft God that would croon “Love me” softly to me? Where could I find evidence of the John 3:16 God who “so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son…”? Well, in the circumstances of John 3:16, of course!

If God loved us enough to send His son to save us, in what manner would His son be sent? In a tornado, perhaps? The falling of the sky? For goodness’ sake, this is the entrance of Jesus we’re talking about. Jesus, who is a son of the terrifying, all-powerful God; Jesus who is himself God. Surely, the earth would at least quake a little. But Jesus showed up in a way I’d have never, ever expected an omnipotent being to show himself to mankind: naturally, as a baby, naked, small and defenseless, pulled from a woman’s vagina into a manger. It really doesn’t make any sense. If you showed me a naked, newborn baby and told me that he was God, I’d probably laugh in your face. Interestingly enough, that isn’t what the shepherds did. I would really love to know what those guys were thinking that night. I wonder how difficult it was to accept everything that they were experiencing.

“What if he looked naked?
And quiet?
With the facial features of an Israelite
With baby skin not made of iron
covered in blood and prone to crying
The one who made us in His image
taking our image and making it His
defying your notion of a superhero
and speaking to people just like this?
A lamb to complement my argument for the lion
the one who forgave and healed and saved
and became a shoulder to cry on” -Akotowaa [I See God]

Yes, God is mighty and supreme. It is impossible to ignore this aspect of Him. But God is also meek and humble. It is impossible to ignore this side of Him. To hold the image of a perpetually angry and mean God will push you away. However, to ignore Him as a supreme holder of power in favor of the loving image, to believe that every single thing you do would be looked upon favorably no matter what, will also condemn you. Be careful how you see God. I do not have enough expertise in theology to explain this to a greater extent yet, but hopefully you understand what I’m saying.

When I stopped to think about it, that image of a superpower-less, naked baby countered my perception of a solely huge, unapproachable and severe God. And since the circumstances around this were the ones for which Christmas is celebrated, well, I finally had subject matter for my overdue Christmas poem.

I merged I See God with the as-yet-titleless poem I’d been constructing, and I’m happy to say that I wrote a poem that would have changed (some part of) my life if I hadn’t written it myself. As a matter of fact, something about my life (i.e. my vision of God) did indeed have to change before I could even write his poem. I’m proud of I See God. I think it’s excellent content-wise. (The sonic quality is questionable, given that it was recorded on my phone, and the VI guys did their best to enhance it so that it didn’t sound entirely like trash. Shout-out to Reynolds TheGentleMan for the dope production!)

I don’t know how many people have the same problem with how they see God as I did. Whoever they are, wherever they are, I hope they somehow get to hear I See God and be as impacted by listening to it as I was by writing it.

-Akotowaa

For complete lyrics of Dear God, click here.

For complete lyrics of I See God, click here.

Have You Ever Seen A Storm With The Lights Off?

Have you ever seen a rainstorm with the lights off? Well I did yesterday. And it was unbelievable.

Last night, there was a blackout. People had exams the next day. Naturally, there were many shouts and curses. The wind was still. The heat was intense. Naturally, the heat had to break.

I walked outside to hear rain pattering on the roof next to me, but shelterless, in the open, I felt nothing. The rain was falling in a straight line, and I was centimeters from it, on the dry side. I tried to tell people, but it’s amazing how many humans don’t care about cool things like this.

With the lack of artificial light, the luminescence of the waning, gibbous moon was evident, shining so brightly that standing outside, in open space, you could see your shadow. The center of the moon’s light in the sky was red, but farther away, you could see rain clouds in a sky that was neither black nor indigo, but a lightening violet. Again, it’s amazing how many people don’t care enough to just shut up and stare.

The electricity flashed on and off again maybe three times, but I liked it best when the lights were out.

As other people rushed for the safe darkness of their rooms, I remained outside on the veranda, upstairs in my hostel, and I was there when the storm actually started; exposed enough to feel the elements fractionally as they wreaked havoc on tranquility, but protected enough not to be wreaked havoc on. I was smiling like an idiot. These orchestrations of nature get me illogically excited. I promised myself to write about it, hence the words you’re reading now.

I was with a friend called Deborah. Here’s a funny occurrence: She began to ask me, “Have you ever just been scared of being struck by —” Interrupting her was a simultaneous crack of thunder and flash of quasi-daylight-inducing — yep, you guessed it — “lightning,” she finished weakly, and we both burst out laughing. Nature is chock-full of jokes. Nevertheless, I decided to attribute it to her and pronounced her Ewe. (Please ooh, she’s not actually Ewe.)

Watching the storm, I entertained thoughts of science — how water evaporates from the earth’s surface and waterbodies and condenses into clouds; Poseidon—getting angry over the parched seas that comprise his territory, vowing to return that condensed vapour back where it belonged, hence the downpour; and Zeus, god of the sky, showing off his power with his master lightning bolt, just because he can; and maybe a rogue minotaur or sphinx, growling out thunder from a cage up in Olympus. You might think me a maniac, but this mythology obsession I have isn’t half as bad as it used to be.

In truth, the whole storm felt apocalyptic, and despite this and all the fantasies about the Greek gods, the thoughts that were most prominent in my mind were ones about my own God, capital G, the only one who could do all these at once, the Conductor of an almost-natural disaster’s wild, grand symphony. To me, every piece of nature that I am too captivated to stop admiring is a reminder of His obvious existence and power, and I suppose that’s why I get uncontrollably happy.

The lightning made the grass look as green as the sun ever could. The amplified thunder was music to my ears. And the rain? It was a paradox of physics. It fell as drizzle, and it fell as solid sheets. It fell like a white waterfall of liquid and it blew like gray vapour, diagonally, spraying me and getting me cold. Did I care that through the window, it was wetting my bedroom floor? Ha! Ask yourself that question. Did I care for that singular line of someone’s unfortunate underwear getting drenched? Maybe I should have…but I didn’t.

Later, when I went back inside, I realized I’d been holding a bottle of water the whole time. I also realized that its temperature was as if it had been in the fridge for an hour. But who needs electricity when you have hydro, lightning-electric power?

And I will end by sharing a corny, ridiculous joke I came up with a long while ago:

Why do people use the expression “the air was charged with electricity”?
—Because the sky has a lightning cable.

(Sorry if you people who know nothing about Apple devices don’t get it.) =)

-With maximum love to everyone who bothered to read the whole thing,
Ivana.