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Sat, 08 Jan 2022 Feature Article

Death, The Great Equalizer: Why We All Must Be Good And Humble

Death, The Great Equalizer: Why We All Must Be Good And Humble
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If we enter into the world hall of fame, we will see an impressive list of names of people who accomplished great things: some of them were great political leaders, military leaders, spiritual leaders, inventors, scientists, and philosophers. Nevertheless, all of these people had one thing in common. They were here one time, but they are no longer here. Death is the common denominator for all humankind. Despite all the advances we have chalked in medical science in recent years, one thing is certain that science can prolong life but cannot prevent death. Science will never cure the aging or the dying process. For our bodies are subject to decay. The Bible declares that "just as man is destined to die once, after that to face judgment."

David wanted to know the end of his wretched life that he might begin to reckon the days till death brings it to an end. He learned that there is an end to life's sorrow, which is the hope of all who have hope beyond the grave. He describes the shortness as a handbreadth. A handbreadth is one of the shortest natural measures, being the breadth of four fingers; such is the brevity of our lives on earth. We should know that our lives hang on so small a thread. Charles Spurgeon declared, "That the least gnat in the air can choke us, as it choked Pope Adrian of Rome; a little hair in our milk can strangle us, as it did a councilor in Rome; a stone of a raisin can stop our breath, as it did the breath of Anacreon." Death is closer to us every day than we think.

We must hasten towards the goal or fulfill our purpose by the shortest and most decent path possible. The possibility that at any moment from now, we might not be here anymore should prompt us to ponder on how we have behaved concerning God, our families, our friends, our workers, the people under our care, and our stewardship to the community resources placed under our care.

It has been said of a wise Eastern monarch that hired an officer in his house, whose sole duty was to remind him of his immortality, by calling out every morning at an agreed time, "Remember king, thou shall die!!!" One will ask why someone would pay a person to stand before him to alert him that he would die one day. This wise king had learned that power, wealth, popularity, intellectual advancement, heroism, military prowess, and conquest cause us to forget that we are here today, but a time will come when we will be here no more. This reminder helped him to be humble to his subject all the time. A deeper reflection on our lives' brevity and the uncertainty of our present station moved Solon of Athens to advise his generation to fix their eyes on the end of life.

Another wise king, Solomon, after he proved that secular wisdom has no superiority to folly in bringing true happiness to man, sought his happiness differently and gave himself up to cheerful enjoyment. Nevertheless, he concluded that worldly joy is unsatisfying: All is vanity, the vanity of wealth gathered with care and privation. We all try to reach the top of the mountain, but we realize that there is nothing at the top when we get there. Marcus Aurelius said the only wealth we will keep forever is those we give away. Our value is not determined by the things we hoard or accumulate, but rather our wealth is measured by what we give away, not what we collect.

A reflection on our finitude must cause us to put a break to all our schemes to get ahead of others or amass extreme wealth at the expense of others and help us regulate our lives. Any man or woman who begins every day with a serious reflection that they are born to die would not undertake or prosecute anything wicked. Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and a philosopher reflecting on the imminence of death and the ideal of the "good man," offered these words, "Do not live as if you were going to live for ten thousand years. The inevitable is hanging over you. As long as you are still alive, and as long as it is still possible, become a good man." Thinking about the brevity of life should cause us to think about how we live our lives, and the sense of agency does not allow us to waste our time by concerning ourselves with what others do or say.

The things that disturb us or deprive us of our happiness are our desires, griefs, and fears, and to all these, considering our mortality is a particular and adequate remedy. Epictetus was right in saying that we should think about poverty, banishment, and death, and we would never indulge in violent desires or give up our hearts to mean sentiments. We imagine or focus our attention on the pleasures of some future possession and suffer our thoughts to dwell attentively upon it, till it has wholly engrossed our imaginations and caused us not to conceive any happiness but its attainment, or any misery but its loss. Everyman has experienced vanity when a sharp or tedious sickness has set death before his eyes. How do we live before the face of God, knowing that we live in a world where living people weep for the dead and themselves wept over shortly afterward? Corruption of leaders profiting from power or stewardship for their pleasure is the height of ignorance.

For the Greco-Roman philosophers, our shared humanity or reason should direct us to seek for the common good of all. Our lives are intrinsically linked together. So leaders who deprive other community members of what is due them will one day receive their due recompense. For great philosophers like Plato, evil stems from not knowing the good. How can you educate Ghanaian leaders to know that it is not in their interests to steal from what is meant for the whole community? They may build mansions with the money meant for road construction, resulting in driving on dusty roads, triggering asthma that may kill them.

The extensive influence of greatness, the glitter of wealth, the praises of admirers, and the attendance of supplicants, had appeared vain and empty things when the last hour seemed to be approaching; the same appearance they would always have if the same thought was always predominant. We should then find the absurdity of stretching our arms incessantly to grasp that we cannot keep and wear out our lives to add more wealth. When the foundation itself is shaking and the ground on which it stands is moldering away, we will understand that we are here for a short time. Why can't we be humble and know we have a shared fate?

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