Kenyan-born author Alex Bliss has launched a slim tome of philosophy and self-help. Weaving Back the Thread
is “an invitation to new ways of being in the world”. It broaches many topics, from the arguments for free will vs determinism to a critique of the nihilism of postmodern thought – all the while encouraging internal growth and spiritual development. Alex answers our questions below.
1. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your background? What took you down the route of philosophy and thought?
Author Alex Bliss
I began as a volunteer Medical Laboratory Technologist back in 2016 but that would change after a few months after discovering a community-based organization in the Kibera slum in Nairobi. Under this community-based organization there was a thriving educational initiative with more than 80 children at the time. I joined as a volunteer humanitarian. These were children who had not been absorbed by the nearby public schools. What the project did was give these children an opportunity to go through their elementary school education like their counterparts in more favourable environments.
My involvement with the Kibera slum community afforded me the opportunity to join The African Leadership Institute (AFLI) that is based in Johannesburg, South Africa as a Change Maker. I am fortunate to be working alongside 57 other young leaders from across the continent of Africa on projects that seek to shift young Africans to the centre of the development narrative.
The last born in a family of seven, I grew up in an insular village next to Mt. Kenya forest in Eastern Kenya. I lived in that village much of my life. It is a community steeped in the quotidian struggles of peasantry, and the only chance to venture outside of its confines came through the school I attended for my primary school education about 8 kilometres away. It is a school in a military base that was originally meant to serve the children of the Kenya Defence Forces but was also, thankfully, open to the general public.
I would say that what sparked off my interest in philosophy was my own thought process. Since I was very young I’ve been an introspective person, and in the process of trying to understand my inner worlds, I felt the need to also launch an inquiry into the nature of things—particularly things that relate to the human experience. I am very much fascinated by the very nature of being human and being in the world.
2. What are your inspirations? Which thinkers or writers have influenced your thought?
I know this may sound like utter megalomania but I’ve had mystical inclinations for as long as I can remember. When I was about 3 I used to think that I could turn myself into another creature if I got tired of being human, say a tree, a cow or a butterfly. Particularly, I wanted to become a bee so I could eat honey all the time, and for a time, I even changed my name to Mr. Bee and insisted that other children call me by that name. We didn’t have TV or any influences that could have caused me to have reincarnation thoughts and ideas. In Sunday school they taught something different. In fact, I came to learn of the word reincarnation much later in high school. Although I do not subscribe to the reincarnation idea today, it is interesting that I had such thoughts looking back retrospectively.
Oddly, it is the eccentrics who have inspired me the most in my life. I hold human beings with the courage to reject uncritical conformity of any kind in high regard. To me, they are the real deal—walking, breathing examples of novelty of being. One such eccentric is Jacob Boehme, a seventeenth century figure. A lay thinker and a mystic, Jacob Boehme advanced his ideas against a
Mystic and thinker Jacob Boehme
backdrop of robust scientific, medical, and astronomical inquiry, and in addition to his admirable anticlerical dissidence, I really love his irenic messages and particularly, his announcement of an impending great reformation— a new age of love, patience, peace, and joy.
3. Who is your target readership?
Weaving Back the Thread is a book for all ages. The beauty of it is that it is not prescriptive. It challenges the reader to beat a path of their own in their quest for truth and existential meaning.
4. What “prep work” does a person need to do in order to live their best life?
Like I’ve detailed in Weaving Back the Thread, I think progressive awareness is important in this process. It simply means seeking to know who you really are and to understand the nature of your agency in the world. I call it progressive awareness because as you acquire new knowledge, and as you move into different informational states, you experience growth. Another thing is, choosing to be fully present in the reality of your body and circumstances. Embracing immediacy/reality helps us make the best of each moment, because it’s only in the present when we have the power and the ability to respond. That way, we are able to work towards our “ideal” without exerting too much pressure on ourselves. I think this can relieve us of the weight of existential anxiety in this fast-paced world of ours.
5. What are your thoughts on PC, cancel and call-out cultures?
This is a huge one. Looking beyond its fancy façade, I’m inclined to believe that PC does not serve to uphold social propriety as some people would have us believe. I think it is an intrusive mechanism that disrupts our being together in the sense that we become overly anxious in our day-to-day interactions. There is the question of social propriety/order that we must consider in our dealings with one another, of course, and in the event of abuse or assault, there should be frameworks to facilitate legal redress. When such legislations are in place, accountability becomes a key consideration thereby discounting the need for censorship.
On Call-out and cancel culture, however, I think it becomes necessary considering that modern-day oppression is gaining a firm foothold and morphing into more sophisticated forms. Is it a perfect strategy? No. It has downsides, but in the wider scheme of things, cancel culture has served to address some of the deep seated racial and class issues, and has also helped to bring people to accountability. We certainly cannot demonize the disenfranchised minorities for using their voices to call for justice and reparation. And because by cancelling and calling out people we want them to be accountable, my only plea to all of us is to allow room for amends so that we don’t have to eternally castigate those who have “owned their stuff”, so to speak. That way, there is progress.
6. What are your thoughts on identity politics and intersectionality?
Sigh. This is another emotive issue. For sometime I thought identity politics was not necessary, but after careful thought, I concluded otherwise.
If you have not been “othered” or discriminated against on the basis of your race, religion, sexual orientation or any other difference, you certainly will frown at the idea of identity politics. In the face of systemic oppression, it is nonsensical to expect the minorities to abandon their groupings because collectively, they are able to get their voices heard. Moreover, there is need to support people who are disproportionately disparaged and discriminated against, and such support is better channeled through institutions or groups that identify with them. We need to understand that identity politics and intersectionality play a pivotal role in the protection of civil liberties and not to dismiss it as an artifact of extravagance from the left.
7. “Living in the moment” vs ambition and planning. Is there a conflict in doing both?
I don’t think so. Unless we are talking about the life of a pure sensualist – teehee.
We can do both. We can live in the moment and be ambitious at the same time. What makes it possible is consciousness. As conscious beings, we are reflective, and what forces us to reflect is the inevitable clash between our reality and our desires, given that we do not always get what we want. When we find ourselves in circumstances different from what we desire, we are forced to reflect. It is through reflection that we seek to create our ideal reality, which is, in effect, being ambitious.
You can follow Alex Bliss on Instagram. You can buy Weaving Back the Thread at Amazon today.