OpEd, Politics

How everything we thought we own returns to nothing

Life is full of uncertainties and unforeseen circumstances that only take us by surprise. You can never tell the future and what happens tomorrow. If you do, you are a trained liar. You can leave home to buy soap at the nearest shop only to come back as a corpse. Blame God or Karma for that.

You can also be cured of a deadly disease and on your way home from the hospital, you get an accident. After being cured of the disease, you were happy and had a lot of things to do again. A new life, new hope. Now you had another event that changed the course of your life forever, an accident. Don’t take life as a joke because we never know what is coming. It could be tears, it could be joy or even breakthrough.

What if you plan to travel and you miss the bus? What do you think you will say? You will blame God for missing the bus that should have taken you to your destination. A few minutes later, you get bombarded with the news that the bus has overturned and none of the passengers made it out alive.

In reverse, you will thank God for saving your life. You have kids to look after and a young family to raise and a lot of things to accomplish before your exit but a few minutes ago, you blamed and cursed God for missing the bus that later crushed and killed all those on board.

Sometimes God takes time and he works behind the scenes even when we can’t see. And your problems, why are they not getting done? That is a bizarre question to ask because you will never run out of problems. All that you have to do is to improve them and make them better ones but the good news is that nothing lasts forever. Don’t be deceived that your good or bad situation will last forever. If you are comfortable or not, this too shall pass.

If you have been a keen observer of life, you might have seen how time reduced men to nothing and raised others to the top. If I am not making sense, you have to see what will happen in the next ten years. Things will eventually take a new turn and beautiful faces will begin to have wrinkles. Some people will lose a thing or two, others will gain in the process. This is best explained in the fictionalized story of a man I can call Mane.

Mane, was a king, and he was considered the richest man of his time. To this day people use the expression “rich as Mane” to describe a person of excessive wealth. He was said to be visited by a certain friend, who was a legislator known for his dignity, reserve, upright morals, humility, frugality, wisdom, intelligence, and courage.

We can call him Solon. This guy did not display the smallest surprise at the wealth and splendour surrounding his host who is Mane, nor the tiniest admiration for their owner.

Mane was so irked by the manifest lack of impression on the part of this illustrious visitor that he attempted to extract from him some acknowledgement. He asked him if he had known a happier man than him.

Solon cited the life of a man who led a noble life and died while in battle. Prodded for more, he gave similar examples of heroic but terminated lives, until Mane, irate, asked him point-blank if he was not to be considered the happiest man of all.

Solon answered: “The observation of the numerous misfortunes that attend all conditions forbids us to grow insolent upon our present enjoyments, or to admire a man’s happiness that may yet, in the course of time, suffer change.

For the uncertain future has yet to come, with all variety of future; and him only to whom the divinity has [guaranteed] continued happiness until the end we may call happy.

Solon was wise enough to get the following point; that which came with the help of luck could be taken away by luck (and often rapidly and unexpectedly at that). The flipside, which deserves to be considered as well (in fact it is even more of our concern), is that things that come with little help from luck are more resistant to randomness.

Solon also had the intuition of a problem that has obsessed science for the past three centuries. It is called the problem of induction. I call it a rare event. Solon even understood another linked problem, which I call the skewness issue; it does not matter how frequently something succeeds if failure is too costly to bear.

Yet the story of Mane has another twist. Having lost a battle to the redoubtable king named Cyrus, he was about to be burned alive when he called Solon’s name and shouted (something like) “Solon, you were right”. Cyrus asked about the nature of such unusual invocations, and he told him about Solon’s warning. This impressed Cyrus so much that he decided to spare Mane’s life, as he reflected on the possibilities as far as his own fate was concerned.

The truth is that life is like dice, when you play the dice, you don’t always know what you will get. It is by chance and not by might that you win this game. Sometimes you don’t know exactly how you get where you are currently. Maybe it was your hard work that made all the difference. You are now successful but you are not aware of what is coming in future.

It could be your last breath, it could also mean another victory and on the same note, it might be tears. Don’t judge life, just be part of it and watch how it plays out. You can be nothing today. Nobody will believe in you but you don’t know what is coming for you. It is your success story. It is a victory.

And lest I forget, if you have been following time closely, you might have come across the stories of men who were everything. Those who can decide who lives and who dies and mostly men who have all that they need. Some were presidents, others businessmen.

When the time came, they had to leave everything behind and be buried in small graves. Don’t play with life. Nothing is ever important in this life. If you are in a privileged position, help others.  Pay a child in school, invest in your people. For most people, what they know as God is someone who takes them for lunch. Help humanity and create beauty in the world.


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