Diogene of Sinope, a philosopher from Sinope (current Turkey) who lived in Greece around 400 BCE was known to be a mad genius. He would walk with a lamppost in broad daylight, claiming that he was looking for an upright man.
He lived an austere existence, typically avoiding earthly pleasures. He ate only when he was hungry and slept in a barrel in the marketplace. For him all humans where rapacious, he had not met an upright man and was keen to meet one.
He was also referred to as a cynical philosopher, for he’d assault anyone with sharp-edged witty words, and highlighted what scums they embodied.
He intentionally debased and destroyed currency to teach society that it was worthless after all; that there were more important things to life. He constantly challenged the establishment.
But he was always right. He spoke wise words, taught integrity and other virtues… They acknowledged his cruel honesty, but they felt uncomfortable in his presence, for he was an unsettling person to dwell with. He lived, as expected, a marginal existence, astray from society.
One day Alexander the Great heard of the famous philosopher and travelled to Corinth to meet him.
Diogenes was reclining on his barrel enjoying the morning sunlight (agasusuruko) when an imposing human shade suddenly eclipsed the sun. He raised his eyes in annoyance to see imposing Alexander in his mighty armor.
‘Do you know who I am?’ Asked Alexander.
‘Well?’ said Diogenes, eager to dismiss the intruder and proceed to his vitamin-D intake…
‘I am the Great Alexander!’ Emperor of Greece
‘Right..’ replied scorning Diogenes, his repulsion for arrogance exacerbated by the chill of the interfering shade.
‘Ask of me anything you need, I shall give it to you at once!’ commanded Alexander.
Diogenes shook his head and told him: ‘before you do all that, could you first stop preventing me from the only thing you cannot offer?’
‘And what that might be? -Asked an intrigued Alexander, surprised at the thought that there was anything he couldn’t afford a living man,
‘Stand away from my sun!’ -concluded Diogenes, before turning away…
Alexander was bewildered. If he doubted Diogenes wisdom before, he was now convinced this was the most special man he had encountered. He later said: ‘If I, Alexander was to be a man other than who I am, I sure should be Diogenes.’
Now let me tell you about Murama, the city runner. You have seen him for sure; more than once even. Next time you do, please take a moment… You know him as a mad person, a man whose dementia leads him to run. For many he is an object of pity, an ‘aimless wanderer’ – like the title of my friend Kivu’s latest film. For some though, he has always been an object of wonder… ‘Where is he going? When will he turn back? what goes through his mind?’
Murama Nzamu Mutagiranabi, his full names, does not beg, litter or bother anyone. He doesn’t stand idle on the street, panting with his tongue out after a long run: like I would do… He is always running. He runs with an incredible resolute. He runs, runs and asks nothing in return. He runs alone, he runs far…
Unlike Diogenes his counterpart, he doesn’t speak much, teach or criticize. He isn’t coherent or conventionally smart. But that’s also what makes him inspiring. Like everything unusual in this city, you can choose to mock or be inspired.
I also learned that he was married, and that his wife and child live in America. He told me he once was a soldier on the Zairian Army. He even attempted to join Rwandan army and was not enrolled. He worked for KK Security and was later discharged for ‘strange’ conduct.
He has won twelve medals in the Kigali Marathon, but nothing on the podium. Today he works as manpower in building churches. ‘I’ve built two churches’ -he told me with a proud smile. His employer says when he is sober he is a decent person. ‘You should see him in his suit in Sunday service.’ -he told me. I discovered a man who actually had a story and an organized life, earned an honest living and exercised a lot.
If he goes away, you wont probably miss him. He is not a man to be missed, he is not famous. Granted he pays no taxes or win Olympic medals. But it doesn’t matter. Like birds, flowers and stars, he is a precious feature in the Kigali landscape. Our own Forest Gump…
Many of you think he needs help; he doesn’t. You will see him on the run soon. If you couldn’t join him, at least try and stop smoking or get started on that thing you’ve been procrastinating. Tell yourself: ‘I wanna be starting something, I’ve got to be starting something’ – because he runs for a cause: yours and mine, lets make it count.