Death and Human Endeavours
Look around at fellow animals. Look at the birds of the air, the cows, the gazelles and the lions in their particular position in the ecosystem. Look at the ecosystem itself in itself. What are human beings accomplishments in measure to what already is? The accomplishments are important but after them comes the question ‘so what’, which brings people to ask into what really matters.
Eat and eat and eat, have sex and sex and sex, drink alcohol and alcohol and alcohol, read and read, study and study, exercise your muscles to the maximum, keep healthy through the most sophisticated ways possible, the questions still glares ‘ till when and to what end?” Above all else, for every individual person, there comes a point of reckoning, when we have to face the unknown. None of us is born indifferent to death. Death often hits many hard. Some faint, sink into depression, commit suicide, commit murder, visit witchdoctors and magicians, pray all sorts of big prayers and visit all sorts of shrines and purported holly places. The event of death is always shocking news even when the individual has been sick for a very long time.
It is very tantalizing to realise that death is at the corner… is always at the corner; it is seconds away, just at the wink of one second and it is done. This fact teases human being’s minds, torments the weak hearts and fills the weak souls with a horrific fear for tomorrow, others and self. Death makes nonsense out of human beings’ struggles. They build all sorts of caricatures and structures. They invent all sorts of life saving apparatus and substances. They eat well; visit all sorts of places and do everything that deemed necessary such that death’s coming may be at a later death. However, despite all the efforts, sooner than imagined, human beings find themselves crushed onto the ground by brother death.
Sincerely the death of a loved one is the worst thing that can happen to one in a lifetime; most fatal, according to my experience, is the death of one’s dear mum. I have lived to realise that a mother is a special person in an individual’s life. In the patriarchal society that our world is, women’s roles are looked at as being subordinate to men’s roles. It is even disturbing for me to talk of men and women’s roles. I only know of one role that is proper to men i.e. making love to a woman such that he deposits his semen in the right place for fertilization to take place. On the part of women, carrying pregnancy and breastfeeding seems to be the only role that is proper to them. The other roles that are improperly called men’s or women’s roles are only social constructs; what society has decided to ascribe to men as opposed to what it ascribes to women. That withstanding, the roles that have been ascribed to women are looked down upon. However, my own experience tells me that the roles that have been ascribed to women (the work of nurturing) are the most basic; the ones more fundamentally needed for individuals to grow into responsible members of the society. We all know that human beings unlike all the other animals needs more nurturing from childhood if one has to survive and grow into a responsible adult. The women of this world play this role i.e. of nurturing one towards becoming a responsible adult. They provide the basic trust that is fundamental to being responsible in the world. It is one who trusts that can be trusted. Responsibility involves trusting self and being trusted to carry through with certain duties. They provide us with, through breast milk and later in the food they cook, the basic elements of which our physical selves are compounded. They teach us the best way of dealing with the world i.e. being tough-minded lovers; they discipline us and toilet train us, introducing us to hard lessons in a loving way. Therefore, when such an individual dies, it is a great loss. What we miss is there nurture or the comfort of being with one that invested in us unconditionally.
Death strikes at any time and in any way. For some it is through terrible, horrific road, air, or rail accidents. For some it is by way of drowning, poisoning, suffocating, being murdered or sloughing away from the working of bacteria, fungi or virus.
Death in all its occurrences appears like our being robbed forcefully, we are not given a choice. This might explain why many people fear and tremble at the mention of death. They abhor even the sound of the word alone. They feel small and helpless on its advance. In the advent of death, all human beings are challenged to turn towards that which is the real object of reason.
Meaning and rationality: What is this object of reasoning? I am convinced enough to claim that the object of reason is meaning. Thinking anticipates understanding while reasoning anticipates meaning or making sense out of all the available data. Why do people choose to focus on certain aspects in their life while others in the same situation are focussing on different aspects? For example, why would one decide to live as a hermit while another in the same circumstances chooses to become a robust politician? Human choices are conditioned by the will to meaning or the human search for meaning. This means that, what really determines people to act in a certain way is their attitude towards the given circumstances and this stems from the meaning they make of the circumstances.
One’s attitude depends on one’s understanding of the essence of life. The meaning that a person gives to life determines how he or she approaches given situations. It is for this reason that a political activist will post pone responding to the drive of hunger; a physiological need in order to show that there is need for change in the political system of a country. It is the meaning attached that makes catholic priests to embrace celibacy and live fulfilling lives.
It is in childhood that people are trained (socialized) into the ways of the world. What one acquires through socialization are beliefs, habits and attitudes. Beliefs already formed, influence people’s interpretation of a given situation and how to respond in the given situation. A belief that has become personalized is called a conviction. From what one believes and does habitually, attitudes are reinforced. Attitudes determine what one focuses on in life. We said that sin consists in unreasonableness. Focussing on sin or a sinful life is focussing on a meaningless life. People who are entrenched in sin see life as meaningless, lacking in purposefulness. They care not about tomorrow or their fellow humans because for them nothing is worthwhile. This position, as we already saw is self-contradictory. Claiming that you are behaving stupidly because nothing makes sense is problematic because the behaviour that you are justifying makes sense. Such are the people who drink themselves silly, participate in all sorts of orgies until they become addicted to such, kill mercilessly and do anything to achieve pleasure, recognition and fame. They care not about whom they hurt or whom they de-capacitate through their actions.
Happiness: What people focus on in life is determined by what they answer to the question “what is the end of life?” This question can be diffused into two questions “what is a good life?” and “what makes the good life good?” it is widely agreed that a good life is synonymous to a happy life. A happy life by definition is a life of fulfilment. It is a life where one has capacity to determine self towards desired goals. This necessarily implies having the means, the opportunities and being prepared enough such that one can actually make the best out of the available opportunities, in the given circumstances.
Knowledge comes in very handy; one has to know about the available opportunities in the given circumstances, the means to utilize the opportunities and how to use the means towards utilizing the opportunities. Therefore, preparedness involves in having knowledge and not just knowledge of anything but knowledge into the given circumstances. Knowledge therefore, is the vehicle towards the good life or happiness. The informed individual is not easily cheated. There are many complexities that individuals have to encounter with in which one has to discern. Dealing with other people is no joke; one has to discern his/her steps such that he/she can achieve his/her aim without necessarily stepping on the other’s toes. One has to discern the given situation such that he/she may be clear about what is truly beneficial as opposed to what is destructive. One has to consider individual things and place them in right places in terms of beneficial, destructive, useless, helpful and worthwhile. There are many things that are useful but not necessarily helpful. Take alcohol as an example. Alcohol is useful and helpful in some instances. Alcohol can helpfully be used for anaesthetic purposes. However, alcohol can also just be used not to any benefit but rather to harm. There are many individuals that use alcohol; some socialize over it while others take it so that they may become dead drunk and give no damn about their circumstances. The latter fall under the group of sinners that desire not reasonableness. Rather they accept unreasonableness as an antidote to accepting reality i.e. things as they are. I would not agree with those who are often fast to condemn the taking of alcoholic drinks. Alcohol as we have indicated is useful and anything useful, in any way, needs not be condemned. For that purpose that it serves we should uphold it, and for the harm we should condemn it. In life, we have to discern and know when such like substances are useful to us and when they are harmful. We have the power to reason through. We necessarily needed reason, and the Designer knew. Everything has to be in measure otherwise we are in trouble. Eat food, food is necessary but you under-eat or over-eat and you are in trouble; you may even die. The same applies to alcohol (though at a little bit more tricky level), drink and take but you over-drink and you are bound to become unreasonable- a sinner. It applies to every undertaking; we have to do it in measure of our capacity. Under-work and you are doomed to be obese, over-work and you will collapse from fatigue. Study books, many of them (of course it is good to read widely and deeply if we entertain thoughts of becoming scholars of reckon) but without relaxation and breaks to involve in other affairs, our minds will crack and we shall either live as social misfits (people who do not know how to live comfortably in the society) or we shall literally go mad. It is just like when you over-load your computer, it will crush and become useless or it will continuously give false information due to inability to go as it was programmed.