The Rationality in Mortality Mentality

By Sunday Akin Olukoju

I have seen a sizeable number of leaders talk as if they own tomorrow. I’ve seen a lot of bosses behave as if they will be in that position forever. I have seen a few police officers talk as if they will be in uniform till kingdom come. I’ve heard some pastors preach and boast as if they are demi-gods.

I’ve witnessed parents flex muscles as if their kids will remain kids forever. I’ve seen a few immigration officials put up attitude that portray them as bigger than the countries they claim to serve. I’ve read a lot about some rich people who think they can buy death.

I’ve read about some scientists, medical doctors, and engineers who think they have the world in their pockets. But why are human beings so gullible, and so full of themselves? Why do we forget about our mortality before we talk or act or react?

Mortality mentality is just a way to remind ourselves that we are born to die. Mortality mentality is a perspective that reiterates the importance of stewardship. It calls us to guard and guide whatever is in our care, given the known and unknown vulnerabilities. It fires us up to be watchful and be responsible with the earth and its contents in our care as all the treasures are exhaustible. It invites us to jealously see to the growth and flourishing of the inhabitants of the earth given the expiry date of each inhabitant.

Mortality mentality is a constant wake-up call for each of us to reflect daily before we start having a completely false sense about who we are and what we live for. It challenges us to live prudently and work diligently. It is a clarion call to selfless service, to think beyond our own personal needs and seek the enrichment and protection of the commonwealth.

Mortality mentality forces us to reflect about our purpose in life. It pushes us to ask questions like:

What do I live for? Why am I here? Who am I? What is the purpose for living? Is there a reason for life? Why was I created in the first place? What is my goal in life? Do I have a vision, and if so, would it lead to abundant provision for others?

Was I created for something that I need to find? What is it about humanity that I need to explore and discover? Is there anything missing in life that I need to recover for humanity’s sake?

Mortality mentality will push us to want to add value, send an encouraging note to someone struggling, give someone a smile, volunteer, mobilize for a laudable cause, protect the vulnerable, and provide for the needy.

It helps us have a deeper insight into the importance of a mere mortal lifting up another mere mortal so that our joy could be full and our interaction filled with wonderful memories before the nightfall for the current set of mortals.

Mortality mentality calls our attention constantly to the importance of legacy. It is a reminder that any position of power has its life span, and very ephemeral. Human beings are wired to believe that their positions of power will remain forever.

That is why care and caution are thrown into the winds while we misbehave and mismanage our commonwealth. We become completely irrational in our thinking. We become totally uncontrollable in our attitude and behavior. But is there any rationality in mortality mentality? When we realize that the only thing that lives on forever is our good works, we will strive harder to leave good and great memories behind.

Humans will die. Names will fade. Cultures will change. Clothing will tear. Laws will continue to evolve. But good legacies endure forever!

Think about it – if I remind myself constantly that I will die one day – may be, just may be, I can be a little sober, but strive harder to leave a good work behind. Maybe I can be a little more contented with what I have, but give more to the needy and encourage others to do so. Maybe I can be a little nicer to others, and in the process, win few others to follow suit.

And just may be, I can laugh more at life and my mistakes instead of being uptight, frustrated and or disillusioned – and in the process, help a few others beat frustration and disillusionment. So there could be rationality in living with a mortality mentality.

But you may want to say: Not so fast! What about those who believe that since they will eventually die some day, they might as well take their own lives and even go down with few others now?

The rationality in mortality mentality will constantly remind us about our call to higher stewardship, timed-existence, as well as our powerlessness to live forever. It will caution us to protect what we cannot create and procreate what will protect our good legacies.

It will remind us of those on the wrong side of history who left despicable legacies that added no value. It will also call out some ways of life that we must avoid. So, what are some of them?

A life of profligacy and wastage is one that the rationality in mortality mentality will quickly identify for us to act upon. It identifies the limitedness of resources and the exhaustibility of such resources.

It helps identify the profligacy and wastage going on, and warns us of the dire consequences should we refuse to heed the call for probity, frugality, accountability, prudence and discipline. A situation where the world is turning a deaf ear to global warming is a direct recipe for disaster that mortality mentality has warned us to beware of. A situation where we consume what we do not need and want what we do not produce can only mean a direct disregard of the mortality mentality. We must recognize the danger of starvation.

A life of arrogance and pride will set in if we do not operate with a mortality mentality. As human beings, we are always very full of ourselves, leading some to be fools forever. The absence of mortality mentality gives a false sense of adequacy and self-righteousness. The absence of mortality mentality deceives people to believe so much in their beauty, money, power, position, education, and or family and earthly possessions.

It blinds people from realizing that all earthly possessions could go up in flames in minutes. It confuses people to put their hopes and confidence in something perishable. It gives some people the wrong impression that they are invincible. It drags a lot of people into delusion of grandeur. It causes some people to think of themselves as gods that deserve to be worshipped.

A life of selfishness and self-righteousness is another thing to expect in the absence of mortality mentality. We become self-focused simply because we cannot understand that all we accumulated will be separated from us, sooner or later. With mortality mentality, we can abandon ourselves in the course of helping others.

Without that knowledge, we run the risk of wrecking havoc like wild donkeys as we grab and grasp mindlessly. Mortality mentality calls our attention to live a life of selflessness, a life of giving, and a life of blessing others. A life of selfishness could easily metamorphose into a life of wickedness, with the most powerful destroying the lives of the most vulnerable.

Mortality mentality will properly guide us to deploy rationality in dealing with human complexity focused on total intentionality to pursue morality that will positively shape reality.

(❚ Dr. Sunday Akin Olukoju is a university tutor, a college advisor, a community newspaper correspondent, and the president of a community organization)