Vanity of Vanities

By Pat Amobi Chukwuma

The Holy Writ rightly says, “All is meaningless – says the Teacher – meaningless, meaningless! What profit is there for a man in all his work for which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, a generation comes and the earth remains forever. The sun rises, the sun sets, hastening towards the place where it rises. Blowing to the south, turning to the north, the wind goes round and round and after all its rounds it has to blow again. All rivers go to the sea but the sea is not full; to the place where the rivers come from, there they return again. All words become weary and speech comes to an end, but the eye has never seen enough nor the ear heard too much. What has happened before will happen again; what has been done before will be done again: there is nothing new under the sun. If they say to you, ‘See it’s new!’ know that it has already been centuries earlier. There is no remembrance of ancient people, and those to come will not be remembered by those who follow them” (Ecclesiastes 1:1 – 11).

My English Language teacher in my class 3 in secondary school at Aguata High School, Aguata, late Mister Onyeka, told us that no word is new and that all grammatical expressions had been constructed and kept in the cooler, only to be expressed gradually. So, whatever correct English Language speech we make have been made and kept aside. But if you make wrong grammatical construction, that’s your own making. In my class five, my English Language teacher taught us syntax. This means the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-informed sentences in a language. Unanimously, the class gave the teacher ‘Syntax’ as his nickname. Mister Syntax, where are you now? If you are still alive, I salute you from the depth of my heart. But if you have gone to the world beyond, rest in peace. We shall meet to synthesize in heaven.

Life comes and goes. Man is alive today but dead by tomorrow. A typical Catholic Hymn for the dead expresses it more profoundly in these words: “Our life is very short, only but few days. We are alive in the morning but dead by the evening; just like leaves in the forest that someone plucks. A big man in the morning has become a corpse by the evening. The king of the people is now food for the insects.” Vanity of vanities all is vanity! A man who does not know how his young wife will look like in her old age should glance at his mother in-law’s face. Stop before a corpse and behold what you will be. Please if you have never visited a mortuary, kindly do so after reading this write-up. There is a big lesson awaiting you there. Not long ago, a group of young girls from my parish made an excursion to a mortuary. They were dumbfounded after seeing death face to face. They came out in tears and trembling. Those touched at heart gave up their sinful habits there and then. During this Lenten period, I highly recommend that all Christians and non-Christians alike should as a matter of urgency, make an excursion (visit) to any nearest mortuary. Death is inviting us to come and visit him because he is suffering from cold. He needs our warmness. He warns that anyone who fails to visit him will die soon and come over to him by force. A stitch in time saves nine. Opportunity comes but once. Hurry now before it is too late! The best spiritual retreat that touches the heart should be done in the mortuary.

A coffin maker who says that his business is not booming, why is he still alive? He should die so that one of the coffins will be bought for him. My kinsman says that death awaits anything that breathes. Are you breathing? Breathe up! Breathe down! When you breathe up and do not breathe down again, then death is at work. When we are about to go to bed, we tell the other ‘goodnight.’ Death is the final goodnight. Sleep is the sister of death. A person who is sleeping is resting in peace. A dead person is also resting in peace. The former is resting on the bed while the latter is resting in the grave. One of my friends was tired and excused himself to rest for some time. He lay on the bed and slept off. I inscribed R.I.P on a piece of paper and kept it beside his pillow. Eventually he woke up and saw it. He asked me, “Who wrote this and kept beside my pillow? Please if it is a joke stop it. I was sleeping and not dead.” I laughed at him and remarked, “You told me that you desired to rest. Did you not rest in peace? You may be resting on the bed today while you rest in the grave tomorrow.” We laughed it off. However, the message has been passed to you and me.

If you are handsome or beautiful now, do not brag about it. Beauty or handsomeness is ephemeral. It is just like a flower that flourishes in the morning but withers in the evening. Make-up does not last. Ugliness is waiting by the corner. If you want to know the real facial appearance of any woman, it is when she wakes up from sleep in the morning. Death does not respect handsomeness or beauty. Both masculine and feminine qualities are temporal. They disappear with age. Looking at an old woman’s face, it seems like her bride price was not paid. Have you seen a handsome or beautiful corpse? All corpses are embedded in ugliness. That is why it is said: As ugly as death.

Two weeks ago, 157 passengers and crew boarded an Ethiopian Airline Boeing 737 Max 8 from Addis Ababa heading to Nairobi in Kenya. The flight took off safely. Just six minutes after take-off, the evil one hijacked the plane. There was panic and uneasiness among the passengers and crew. The young pilot made a distress call to the control tower and was directed to return to the airport. He couldn’t make it. The helpless passengers and crew were shouting and crying when the plane started somersaulting in the air. The new Boeing crashed fatally. All persons on board died instantly while the debris caught fire. The passengers and crew did not only die but were roasted. The pilot was a promising 29-year old Ethiopian. They boarded the plane walking as fully fledged men, women and children, but they landed in pieces. Then they were taken to the mortuary in body bags. What a tearful tragedy! Ethiopians are mourning. The entire world is mourning as well because the passengers came from different nationalities. Nigeria lost two persons in the air crash. The church lost a religious sister and a priest. How human life passes like a shadow! We shall all die, but how and when? No one knows.

When you board a plane, you are boarding a potential coffin on the air. When you board a vehicle, tricycle or motorcycle, you are always in danger of death. No wonder our dear ones wish us farewell whenever we embark on a journey. It is always a journey to temporality or to eternity. When you reach your destination safely, then you thank your God. But if you do not make it, fare thee well to eternity. Someone invited me to come and bless his newly bought pleasure car. I went. When I saw the car, I laughed mysteriously. I asked myself, “Where is the pleasure in this car?” You can understand what I mean when you see a smashed car on the road. It is pleasure today but tragedy tomorrow. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
Are you rich today? Do not boast about it. No condition is permanent. Prosperity can translate into adversity. Also, wealth is not health. Do you not know that the rich also cry? Use your wealth for the service of God and people. At death no one is remembered for the quantity of wealth accumulated on earth. You are remembered only for good name and services rendered to enhance the well-being of others. Money can buy you a house here on earth but it cannot buy you heaven. A certain rich evil man was terminally sick. A priest of God came to his bed-side to pray for him and to ask him to repent from his sins. Instead of embracing the last penitence with his heart, he ignored the priest’s admonition and was boasting that with his money he can bribe God at the judgment seat. No wonder he tied a bag containing billions of money and cheque books on his waist while lying on his sick-bed. When he was struggling and breathing his last, he was shouting “My money! My money! My money!” The next moment he saw himself in the hottest part of hell. He started crying and chorusing, “Had I known! Had I known! Had I known!” The Commander of hellfire came and said to him, “It is too late. Welcome to my kingdom and enjoy everlasting torments.” Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. Unfortunately, Nigeria is today practicing ‘Pocketcracy’, which is government of the pocket, by the pocket and for the pocket. The pocket has overridden the people. Thus things have fallen apart in Nigeria. The late Sonny Okosun prophetically sang in those days: “Which way Nigeria? Which way to go? I love my fatherland. I want to know. How long shall we be patient before we reach the Promised Land? Let’s save Nigeria; sooner Nigeria will die!” Indeed Nigeria is almost dying through bad leadership. A corrupt Government is fighting corruption. How can she succeed?

The Independent National Electoral Commission has just conducted the Presidential, National Assembly, Gubernatorial and State Assembly Elections. Some of those elections were rigged in favour of anointed candidates in secret and in broad daylight at the different collation centers. In some cases, the result preceded the elections. Instead of election we had selection. Millions and billions of money exchanged hands as vote buying. The drowning and outgoing Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, says that he will not go down alone. Hence if his Senatorial Certificate of Return is denied him, he will reveal how the Presidential Election was rigged in favour of Buhari. We are waiting for that great revelation of the century. The Bible says that whatever is hidden shall be exposed. Some of the just concluded general election results were announced under duress or gun-points. Militarization of the electoral process took place here and there. This gave rise to ‘Militarycracy’. Electoral violence claimed many lives. INEC itself has been compromised by the powers-that-be. It is not truly independent but dependent. The Moral Law states that the means justifies the end.

Contrarily, corrupt politicians say that the end justifies the means. Injustice can only prevail for some time. Victory achieved through corrupt means never endures. Good can never come out of evil. All power belongs to God. Those who grabbed power unjustly come and go down in history as impostors. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!

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