Saturday, October 31, 2009

Goodreads Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I haven't had much time to read lately - this book was a gift, in every possible sense.

Here is the first person story of a boy who had to learn how to build his electricity generating windmill by re-inventing each principle along the way toward its construction. Of course, he couldn't have done it without books to demonstrate the possibility and to provide hints for his experimentation. He couldn't have written this book either without his partner who coaxed the author's own voice to the written page.

But for the rest of us who take our understandings as grants already fully processed, and only assume that we understand what we really take on trust, here is someone who created his understandings pretty much from scratch, despite being told that he couldn't or shouldn't. We have never proven even to ourselves what we think we understand. We might be able to pass an academic test, but can we use what we say we know to change our world?

This is a truly humbling story. What then are we waiting for? Why do we let our schools destroy genius when there are so many who are starving for their resources. Why do we persist to measure what students don't know? Why do we sift out, instead of embracing in?

What William Kamkwamba has done is to demonstrate for the rest of us where true genius must always be engendered. His started in a kind of refusal to be told what is true, whether by poverty or poor scores to prevent schooling, by famine to prevent basic living, by corrupt and ignorant government to prevent basic security, or by the collective magic every one else still lived by. Here is a person who always insisted on discovering his own limitations for himself against truly staggering odds. We'd have given up at boo.

And he truly does believe and makes the reader believe as well, that what he did for his own village can be done for all of Africa. Bring light to the night, water to the fields, sanitation to the living, strong upright sanity to where magical thinking invites corruption. But more than that, he provides his example for what we might do if we also were to ignore the certainties which represent our own powers that be. If we were to overcome our own beliefs in corrupting magic.

We also must unlearn as much as William had to unlearn before we will release our own still hidden genius. Let's not be too sure of the certainties which have been granted us.

I doubt any of us understand anything as well as William understands what he does. And what he understands is not the mechanisms which he realizes, so much as the prior impulse which got "magically" engendered in him by a loving family and community, but also and mostly by William loving himself. Forgiving himself. Being himself.

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