By Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma
Appearance can be deceptive. Reality is always constant. The causes of high blood pressure are diverse. Some are man-made while some are acquired. To be on safer side, one must maintain both human and natural equilibrium. Tension can put someone off and render him or her useless.
In all human and natural circumstances, it pays to maintain the path that leads to righteousness or success. If we allow natural or human environment to control us, then we are bound to fail. Quantity is not what matters but quality. By fate and by divine ordinance, I was born a fool on the first day of April. However, by diligence I became a wise fool.
In my days in the seminary, during written examination on a particular academic discipline, we were allowed to write for two hours. The period was not enough for some voluminous writers. One man’s meat is indeed another man’s poison. For some of us who were not vast in writing, the time was too much. In that examination hall, a particular student caused academic commotion.
In every ten minutes he raised his hand up and shouted, “Paper!” At the end, he wrote twenty pages while I wrote five pages only. I was wondering what he wrote on those pages. The lecturer took time to mark our papers diligently. I was scored 80% for the five pages. Unfortunately, the proud and voluminous student got 20% for the twenty pages. That meant that for each page he was given 1%.
When the answer scripts were later distributed, he suffered instant madness. He saw my little script with 80%. He shouted on top of his voice, “No! It can’t be! The devil is a liar!!!” He hurried to the lecturer’s office to lay his complaint. Without formal greeting, he asked the lecturer, “Sir Father, I am at sea on why you scored me 20% for my twenty pages of academic quantification.” The lecturer laughed and asked him to give him the marked script. He obliged.
Then the lecturer raised it up and categorically stated, “My dear, what you wrote is nothing but a bundle of nonsense. Quality is better than quantity. Always go straight to the point and stop beating about the bush.” Could you guess what happened there and then? The student slumped instantly. He was resuscitated with a bottle of malt and a tin of liquid milk.
When he came back to his senses, he got up and was still licking his lips hungrily. He asked the lecturer, “Please, give me another mixture of malt and milk to clear my academic confusion.” The wise lecturer replied, “Go! What you need is not more malt and milk, but a sensible academic hard-work.” He went out dejectedly.
The above scenario reminded me of one of my classmates in secondary school who claimed to be wiser than everyone in our class. During our second term Geography examination, he started by writing, “Before I delve into the Osmosis of the Monsoon Region, I must first of all clear the bush.” He was still clearing his presumed bush when the stipulated time for the subject elapsed. He cried foul.
He failed woefully. Personally I was wondering what bush he was clearing when the subject matter was clear. In addition, our classroom was neat and not bushy. Above all, he was always a neat student. His face was as clear and smooth like a baby’s. Where was the bush? Unfortunately, this particular promising student did not live long to clear the bushes along his part to success in life.
He died not long after our WAEC Exams in a mysterious circumstance. May God clear the bush in his life and grant him eternal rest. We, who are still alive by God’s grace, should endeavour to clear the bushes in our lives before it becomes too late.
Where am I heading to? The wise Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. Quality is preferable to quantity. Once upon a time, I was invited to the birthday celebration of one of my close associates. Rice and stew was very plenty. A big pot of mostly preferred vegetable soup was there sweating from the agony of the fire. The content of the soup was thick and appetizing.
Many hurried to grab full plate to transport balls of swallow down the digestive bodily machine for onward distribution to the body parts. Hurriedly, I swallowed three balls and bitterly shouted, “This soup is a bundle of nonsense!” It was intrinsically tasteless. The meat in it was not even palatable. I pushed it aside and went to the water closest to expel what I have swallowed before confusion sets in my digestive system. Everybody who tasted the vegetable soup did likewise. The birthday celebrant was annoyed. He gave the cook instant red card.
On many social and prayerful occasions, we pray for longevity and good health. In Igbo, it is expressed as “ogologo ndu na ahuisike.” When I celebrated my 40th Birthday in Germany many years ago, we toasted the birthday wine in my own native language, which I taught my German friends and well-wishers as “ogologo ndu” (Long life). Before a particular elderly German priest stammerer could finish pronouncing the “ogologo ndu” we have all finished eating and drinking.
In German Language, wine is toasted in these two words: “Zum Wohl” which means ‘For your well-being.’ Which is preferable: Long life or well-being? For me it is well-being. However, the two can go together. Nevertheless, long life without well-being is useless. It is expedient to pray for good life above long life. In other words, a short life well lived is better than a long life badly lived.
A long life badly lived is nothing but a bundle of nonsense. Normally during birthday celebration, we ask the celebrant, “How old are you now?” From my vantage point of view, the pertinent question should be: “How well are you now?” Then the prayerful wish that follows ought to be: “Many good years to you!” The good years can be embellished in longevity, if it is the will of the Creator. Qualitative living is better than a bundle of quantitative nonsensical life.
In a funeral oration, the daughter of the deceased father titled it “Not how long, but how well.” In the last paragraph she stated tearfully, “Daddy, it is a pity you left us without even last words. Death snatched you away from us when we needed you most. I love you dad. We all love you and know you are at rest and have also found peace in a better place.” What a touching oration!
The Word of God well digested and assimilated gives credence to human existence and departure. Hence the respected Sage categorically states, “But the just man, though he died early, shall be at rest. For age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years. Rather, understanding is the hoary crown for human living, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age” (Wisdom 4:7-9).
At the demise of anyone, our attention should be on how well the person lived. Unfortunately we count on how long. Indeed we miss the point. Missing the point is a bundle of nonsense. Often when an old person dies, we term it “Celebration of Life.” If it is a young person, it is captioned “Painful Exit,” “Gone too soon,” or “Sunset at dawn.”
On his own part, God rewards righteousness, whether the departed lived long or short. If you are asked to choose between long life and good life, which one do you prefer? During a burial homily, I posed the question before the congregants.
The general answer was good life. In essence some in their innermost hearts preferred long life. Often we see short life as a curse while long life is a special blessing. For me, longevity is good if it is accompanied with good life; otherwise it becomes a bundle of nonsense. At the evening of our lives, we ought to ask ourselves honestly: “What really have I achieved? What legacy am I living behind?” According to William Shakespeare, death is a necessary end which must come when it will come. Vigilance is the watchword.