Saturday, November 18, 2006

Of God(s) and Us: Aimless Fluid being shot from the hip

I have a religion, which has no name, attempts no definition of God or Gods and is unconstrained by what has been and what is being. I’m often asked this question, “what do you believe in?” and I always reply, “I believe in the after-life”. I’m usually probed further “are you a Muslim or a Christian?”(As if these are only two existing religions, I’m sorry, I mean “ways of life”). I often find myself retorting with a sharp “neither”. Before I get crucified, I believe a quick clarification is appropriate.

There exist countless images of God(s). We have the Muslim perception of God, the Christian, the Hindu, the Yoruba, the Tao, not forgetting the image according to Judaism and countless hordes of others. These images often elicit conflicting and passionate arguments (like the Palestine question). And as we have it today, there is a tendency for the proponents of one of these images to confer on it the title “This is the only way” and the others; “The others way”. I sincerely hope this ascription is not in relation to the ascendancy of Western civilisation. Remember “The clutching of strangers’ gods is one trademark of a spiritually conquered people” so says W.B. Yeats (An Irish nationalist poet).

It is Nigerian to see success at material accretion as being synonymous with spiritual probity (albeit, this is the posit of the SAP induced modern day Dr.’s of Divinity and or Theology). There is no business that succeeds like one that exploits our fears. But, all I have said is by the way. I feel, the Universe being so large and we a tiny almost dispensable spec (in relation to the Universe that is), are in no position to comprehend the totality of God. Let alone being proxy to God’s thoughts, or passing, pronouncing and or carrying out judgement on his behalf. I think our image of God has sometimes being one big pretentious excuse for human actions. No wonder that good man said “Man made God in his own image”.

I hope our religiosity is not all an act. Finding ourselves being swarm by momentous feeling of insecurity (that is being accentuated by the economic recession), we dive deep into our repertoire of “arts of survival” and we get born anew, emerging in an actor’s robe.

Hollywood doesn't know this yet; Nigerians are the greatest of actors the good Lord ever created. How I just wish that they will tap from the immense talent that are bound in Nigeria and Arnold Schwarzenegger will suddenly become a third rate box office hit. No, don't get me wrong, it is not that we posses innate talent. It is just that our bare existence has been reduced to surviving, we are left no recourse, but to act, and act, we act well! Nothing matters any more except the response we elicit from our audience (those we look up to and those that look up to us). Even the revered aspects of life have been reduced to an art form. I guess a lot of us deserve to be nominated for an Oscar, if for nothing else, for wearing a smile like Nero while Rome burns. It really does take an act to survive in this Nija cauldron.

Prayers often offered in the public domain, repeatedly comes across as a recital with a distinct signature of feigning, or at best a display of simulated gross eloquence. This frequently appears as an attempt at the finest form of religious oratory that is in reality directed to those humans listening, and is shrouded in an ambience of false piety. When praying gets reduced to an art form, then where lies conviction? Without conviction how will our prayer get answered? Herein lies the Nigerian “molobikan” (spiritual stalemate).

Behavioural exhibits might lead someone to erroneously think that being religious should only be relevant and limited to spiritual enclaves or that which is directly associated with such enclaves (or other enclaves on similar platforms). In matters of business, office manoeuvrings, etc. here we are free to engage survival instincts, the amoral man in us should take over. All seems fair in our war. There appears to exist this clever arrangement in man’s favour, in his relationship with God(s). When it suits us we believe him/her; when it doesn’t, he/she does not matter. I guess our gods are pliable. Fredrick Nietzsche maybe just is right “Man is not a moral being” after all. It is all about “survival of the fittest” employing any means suitable and adaptable, Darwin no vex.

Our economy has been deregulated (or is it guided deregulation). We are now in a seasons of “laissez-faire”. It seems fair for the spiritual theatres, to also employ promise of prosperity on a horse back of greed, corruption and immorality, at sourcing for customers. A vehicle for traversing the labyrinth of the Nigerian economy, no doubt. Well, they are also subject to same market forces that affect gari and rice. In this era of active competition and commercialisation, it is just as well to employ an advertisement jingle that reads, “God only worships here”. It is hard not to be a cynic. Uhuru still lies at the end of a road unknown.


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