BOOK REVIEW: A TALE OF SPIRITUAL GAMBLERS
I do not know how to write reviews. I tend to be overly subjective.
I say to people with whom I constantly discuss writing, “Writing is like belching; you know it’s coming, but you don’t know the impact yet. It’s coming from within; it is molecules coming from your core, bringing out your insides (even those you were not conscious of) for the world to inhale and judge.”
Reading “A Tale of Spiritual Gamblers” actually concretized that thought above. The book is just like its writer, Pelumi: witty, hilarious, serious, unconventionally dictioned, sharp, pain-carrying, harrowing, infinitely wise and playfully direct. It’s like Pelumi mutated into a book and his spoken words spread across the pages, visible curliques of his entrails.
If I don’t miscalculate, it’s almost a year now since I read it. I came to Ibadan, saw Pelumi, got his book, went to my friend’s place, read it, and refused to recover from it. It overwhelmed me; I was supposed to do a review (I naturally attempt, unbidden, reviews for works that transport me) immediately after reading it, but the words were literally stuck in my throat (head). I was in fits and starts. It’s like being called upon to narrate a dream that still has you dumbfounded.
ATSG is like a grandmother who has the onus of answering her grandchildren’s endless queries about heirlooms and stuff like that. She spreads out her arms, gathers them up against her wrinkled cheeks and whispers in their ears, “Listen, my children, I may not exactly supply the answers you want to hear, but I will validate your questions. I will use my life. Just listen.”
It is a book I could have regarded with my customary disdain, given the likelihood of it turning out to be an appeal to the ego of pastors and people like that. I could have picked it up with a sneer, and I would have hated myself afterwards. Perhaps books shouldn’t be judged by titles, too. Hey! I’m even thinking titles are traps, deceitful little baits positioned to throw the reader off their complacent seat of intellectual hubris.
ATSG is the most non-discriminatory, nondenominational, undoctrinal spiritual book I have ever read. (Hi, Pelumi, may I quickly alert you to the fact that you are an incorrigible agnostic? Thank you.😊)
Pelumi was most generous with this book. He took every person that has read it by their hand and led them into the hinterlands of his most vulnerable, most interior life background. It’s like pornography; only, this time, you are not deriving pleasure, but you’re still filled with guilt all the same. A guilt more historical than personal. A particular sentence broke me.
“I am not physically challenged. I am a hospital defect.”
The cruel ineptitude of certain hospital workers was familiar. I have been negligent before, to the point of almost watching someone die while I sat there giggling and saying, “Stop kidding.” So when I read that place, it splintered my spirit. And then it enraged me. I blurted, “Okay, people have to stop THEIR jobs in this country.” My friend darted me a startled glance and I mumbled, “Sorry.”
When I stumbled on the word “penis” and it wasn’t used sanctimoniously, I smiled in appreciation. Because sex talks as a church person are near-forbidden; yet sex talks that guide us are necessary. ATSG is a book so unconventional that u quickly forgave its raciness, it’s swiftness to end.
Pelumi brought to the fore, in this book, things a Christian person ISN’T SUPPOSED to bring to fore. I admire the fierceness of his reproof of religious dogmatisms, which he astutely buried under a thin veneer of humor and ironies. He exposed the horrors of unkindness from high “spiritual” quarters. He hit on the perturbing perpetuation of spiritual stagnation, how Christians whose Christianity should be about CONSTANT renewal of their minds are still tenaciously determined to remain in obsolete obscurity. How people who call themselves Christians do not have open minds, do not entertain the possibility that they could be doing things wrongly, and DO NOT WANT to follow Jesus’ legacies: SEEK KNOWLEDGE. LOVE, MORE THAN JUDGE. Pelumi called their practices “a restrictive cultural religion” and I whooped in agreement. He had this to say:
“I have come to agree[…]that many [people] in the world today practice ‘restrictive cultural Christianity’. […]They end up not seeking knowledge.”
I read some more lines and kept saying, “Ha, this is it. This is fawking it.”
Knowledge expands your mind, makes you see for yourself how much you thought you knew, how much you need to know.
There are things I have realized about myself in the space of months that I didn’t consider hitherto. There are things I have unlearned. There were things I shouldn’t have done and said, things I thought I knew everything about.
This is what seeking knowledge does to you: it exposes you to yourself as a cheat, a fraud, and therefore impels you to go after dignity, a reclaiming of a kind of self-glory, a way of apologizing to yourself for being unhearing and unseeing, for being lower than you were meant to be.
Seeking knowledge is giving your soul and spirit some respect and submitting to guidance towards a better world. YOU GROW. This is why Jesus recommended it. Even Paul (many Christians’ Lord and Master😒), said you should always renew your mind. So who do you claim to follow as a so-called Christian who is not open to possibility that you might be wrong about something you’ve always “known”?
Pelumi’s book came very honest and very helpful. My favorite chapter is: “CAN WE JUST MASTURBATE?” Every struggling porn/masturbation addict who doesn’t like the effects should read that chapter.
Pelumi wrote this book exactly the way he talks. Perhaps that was why tears came into my eyes where he wrote,
“The world changed and left me behind.”
I came across more incisive sentences like,
“Well, I didn’t know Jesus then. I was only a churchy somebody.”
Another one was, “There is nothing as confusing as not knowing exactly why you are in a place.”
And then this one that I like(d) so much: “Spirituality is not the deactivation of the brain.”
I ran into motivation, too, the kind of sentences that leave you buoyed, that bolster up your confidence and tell you not to give up:👇
“[Even] the wheelchair has wheels. It’s to tell you that we don’t stop moving.”
Some were jaunty and appeared even silly on the surface, like pun, like paradox, like shallow repetition. But, if you peel away the thin top layer, you will find a whole standing block of wisdom. One of such sentences is:
“Value is always valuable if value [truly] knows value is valuable.”
Pelumi is a hopeless romantic. ☺️
Okay, scratch that. He’s logical. Love has not suspended his reasoning—yet. 🙄 He shared with us his love life. I think the most beautiful sentence in this book (and trust me, Pelumi may be a Werey Boy, but there were lots of beautiful sentences in the book) is:
“The choir thought I was drumming to the Lord, but deep within, I knew I was playing to make her dance.”
See nau. I almost saw the girl blushing if she knew about it. 🥰
About those who are stuck on heartbreak (those who cling onto regret, hurt, coulda-woulda-shoulda), Pelumi said,
“When you love someone, your love should make you see when you should let them go. It won’t be easy, but love is not holding on too much.”
He said something, too, something time and other books cannot scrub out of my mind, because it ACCIDENTALLY bordered on my romantic reality:
“Many hearts have [been] broken, many joys ended, because of ‘the world thinks we should not be together’. And I think only few people have gone against that.”
You will learn from Pelumi. Even new words. I found the word “autodidact” for example. I was delighted to learn what it means.😁
One year and I’ve still not gotten over it.
I think everyone in Nigeria should read this book. I don’t know how to put salt in things. That’s just how I feel: that everybody in Nigeria needs to read it. It’s a small book (you may not spend up to an hour if you’re a fast reader) but the things in it are far from “small”. Brevity is indeed bae.
My ex-boo, Future, read it and got hooked. He kept interjecting, “Ayo, omo, I will give my mum to read.” He gave his mum to read, and she has refused to drop it.
Thank you, Pelumi Michael, for writing ATSG.
I wholly enjoyed it. And your acerbic wit! I shouted with laughter too many times, but was quickly sobered up when I reached certain junctures.
It is a book well-arrowed for all human reflection.
©Emma Nuel Glasgow / Ayosojumi Ekklios Adeniyi | April, 2021. Ibadan
BOOK REVIEW: A TALE OF SPIRITUAL GAMBLERS