I received a WhatsApp message from a friend today that got me thinking. It is one of those messages that annoyingly clog the phone in these days of pandemic-enforced restrictions when majority of people had little else to do but fiddle with their handsets.
The summary of the message is that life is largely vanity; the house your father built is today being occupied by strangers because it is either too old fashioned or the children are too far away to bother. The many properties you are also gathering presently will someday most likely meet similar fate. If you die in your struggles, your spouse would be in someone else’s arms, perhaps your closest friend, in no time at all. The second aspect of the message is that people should live more for the good of others and less for self. Bla bla..
The message, by the way, was not my friend’s original creation. It was part of the general circulation that people who find them meaningful keep forwarding to their contacts. Now, let’s examine the import of the message. Is it truthful or not? Of course, it is. Backed by facts of the experiences several people have had at one point or the other, it is certainly not far-fetched. We regularly see or hear of families with identical stories. As for being charitable, there is little to be said about this. Extending kindness to others is generally accepted as a virtue to be much cultivated.
However, before going further, I need to introduce this my pal to you. Like many men, he has had his fair share of ups and downs. Sadly, perhaps due to several missed opportunities or having made more errors than good judgement along his journeys, he presently has far less to show for his efforts today than his circumstances ought to be. Therefore, this kind of message would appear to suit his present physical and psychological condition quite well. Now, this is where it becomes important to watch who and what we listen to. What is good for the goose may sometimes be poisonous for the gander.
Back to the subject of my focus. These days, the common news of sickness and death all over the place because of the pandemic can really cause some people’s faith to falter. What’s the purpose of life’s desires and pursuits? Seeing the rich and the wealthy die so helplessly, and their vast estates sometimes becoming subjects of litigation or rumoured feuds within their families, these can provide some sense of justification to those who lack the drive to achieve anything significant in life. “Afterall, those who made it, what became of their wealth eventually”?, they ask disdainfully.
Yet, there is a flip side to this kind of reasoning. Should the fear of what becomes of your acquisitions after death, in the hands of your children or spouse, checkmate your drive for success, even stupendous richness? To my mind, it is counterproductive to think in this manner. Provided you are not a thief, or one who acquires wealth by ungodly means, it serves no purpose to restrain yourself in the height of success your legitimate efforts in business or career can attract to you.
Again, there is the ever-difficult question of what is much or too much in terms of a person’s drive for wealth and success. Being contented with a particular level of success, or whether a man is moderately or inordinately ambitious, these are positions as different in meaning as the personality defining the words.
In a nation like Nigeria that lacks basic infrastructures, social amenities and institutionalized support systems, people outside government depend to a very large extent on individual effort to survive in business and personal enterprise. Whilst always contending with family and societal pressures, for you to maintain your position and prevent a slide in your financial status and class, you require some doggedness. It’s like a fight of life, literally. Put differently, to stay on the same spot, you must keep running. So, imagine what you have to do to advance.
Now, if you don’t plan for old age, what happens if you live that real long? There are those who acquire multiple properties knowing that upon retirement they will fall back on the sales or rents accruing from such investments. You may have done well enough for the children’s education and their future financial independence, but in your old age it will be gratifying enough to see them take good care of themselves rather than you being their burden.
Therefore, except for those who deny themselves the comfort that is well within their reach, a man’s success is first and foremost to his own immediate benefits and the enjoyment of members of his nucleus family. He can indulge himself in travels, chose a kingly residence and live his dreams. Of course, it is eminently rewarding to help the needy, but the rich should be free to decide if and whom to help with their finances. It is uncharitable, coming from others, to expect that a man must bear the world on his back in order to demonstrate selflessness. Only Jesus is a Messiah.
There are those who live with the mentality that the rich owe them a living. If you pander to their messages, and carry people’s burdens to your own disadvantage, only you will bear the consequences.