PEACE FOR THE WICKED


There is no peace for the wicked,’ saith my God. But is there peace for the righteous? Is there peace for the millions who before you shed suppliant tears, who anguish over the evil affairs of this earth?

The labourer will work his hand coarse and still will have scanty bread on his table; the mother will cry her heart out but her ailing child will still die in her arms. The man who refuses bribe will still go unpromoted. There is no recompense; there is no mercy; there is no peace: there is only wretchedness for these hordes whom you have pronounced peaceable.

O my God, walk my street and do not turn your face away! Look, the offscourings who litter the walkway, who stretch out hands for mercies that come in trickles, for whom no sun brightens their countenance, for whom no rain refreshes their soul. They are the remnants of a nation which cannot sustain itself; nay, they are the filth of a nation whose bourgeoisie feed their dogs with gold. The rest are hollowmen, soulless indwellers of your earth whom no music can rouse to a dance. Aho! What plaintive cadence can rouse their forgotten selfs? What alien hope can infuse life into their inexistence? There is no peace for them, my God.

But there is peace for the wicked. There is peace for the looters of the national treasury. There is peace for those who make bonfires with naira notes to warm the houses that have become cloyed with comfort. There is peace for those who drink from chalices of gold the sweat and blood of their fellow citizens. There is peace for those who wad currencies in their sock away pits, who erect edifices for no man’s occupation, who run to foreign lands to heal a toothache. For these first sons there is peace.

There is peace, my God, for those who mock your name on the pulpit. There is peace for those who use your name as bait for their victims. There is peace for those who build temples for you but turn around to inhabit them, who defile your temple and defy your power. There is peace for those who rob in your name. There is peace for those who ride on your wings while treading on the souls of your redeemed, the seventh sons of your calling. Yes my God, there is peace for those who defame you.

They have peace who trouble others. They have life who kill others. They have families who wreck other people’s homes. They have children who enslave other people’s children. There is but one death for the man who had killed a thousand. There is but one charnel-house for the man who had buried a nation. They have love who incite others to hate. They have peace who incite others to arms. They have tranquillity who set afire other people’s homes.

What speak of justice? What speak of the tens of thousands who have grown decadent beards because Justice does not know their ilk? What speak of the outlaws whose dark deeds have been whitewashed at court sessions? There is justice for the master, O my God; but where is the justice for the servant? There is justice for the herder, but where is the justice for the oxen? O God of Justice, are these whom Justice embrace your children – and are these many others the condemned, the unknown, the Ishmaels who may weep in vain for a drop of comfort?

Talk then of justice and peace for the meek! Talk of the meek who are now the carpet for the wicked’s trampling. The meek are not the possessors of the earth, my God. The fruit of their kindness is bitterness. The hand which gives, the heart which aches, the soul which forgives – there is for them a common denominator of sorrow! Men will trample upon the flowers of the earth and it will go well with them. Men will uproot refreshing seeds and still live their full terms of life. The wicked spreads his memory abroad – on edifices, on statues, on parchments. Yes, even at death the tombstone of the wicked keeps him alive. But for the meek there is no stone to mark his grave; no eyes had shed tears for his passage; no clouds had gathered to mark his fall. In death, as in life, the meek remains barren – the meek whom you have proclaimed the possessors of the earth!

My God, speak of guilt to consciences deadened with evil schemes! Speak of guilt to souls alien to goodness! They will know no heartbreak who break the hearts of others. They have paramours in dozens who seduce the faithful man’s betrothed. She who has lived her whole life in concubinage will marry and birth children, but the chaste lady will wither in helpless spinsterhood.

There is neither peace nor justice for the righteous, O my God! The earth is not the possession of the meek. Happiness is not for the heart which aches for you, nor song for the mouth which supplicates you.

But for the wicked there is peace!

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AS I LAY DYING 


Joshua Omenga 

How was I to know that this day will ever arrive when I will look back at all my years of living, all my strivings, all my loves and hates, all my desires and loathing, all my years of devotion to religion, all the pains and travails of my life, and the moments of laughter with friends and wild jubilations for things achieved – that in this moment, as I lay dying, I would look at them all and sum them up in one word: Vanity? Not a prophet could have foretold this…

Now I see clearly the road which I have traversed in this life, the crooked and the straight, the ones in which I have made diligent efforts to choose, the ones I have chosen impulsively; that all of them, the road taken and the road not taken, lead, in this inevitable hour, to one end. Wherefore is that voice that in life warns man of making bad decisions? Is this not the fruition of it all, this narrow end at which all life’s journeys converge? What means the telling of different stories when each man’s story must have this sad ending? O child, do not wet my deathbed with tears! Don’t weep for the life which has ended; weep instead for your life, and if the mist may clear from your eyes, learn what you may of this unvarying tale, for one day, you will find that all life’s end is the same.

I cannot say, ‘Life has given this to me’, for none of life’s gifts is permanent, and none of them is of any use to me now. Shall I talk of the wealth that I have acquired? Shall I remember my tardy expectations, my shrewish bargains, my unreserved husbandry? What do my toils mean in this last hour? What consolation may I derive from them? That they will be for my children? What joy is there in this knowledge, when I shall close my eyes to all affairs, to all sensations, to all knowings? No, there is nothing in it for me except the knowledge that I once had, that I once possessed; yea, that I have…

As for these children that I have shed many tears, spend untold hours to wipe their noses, wrung my heart in worry over their sick beds, held their little hands as they took uncertain steps in this uncertain world, smiled at their full-throated laugh – what are they to me now, when I shall behold them no more, when I shall think no more of them? What does it matter that they think of me when I don’t know that they think of me? Where is the truth in the aphorism that they are an eternal heritage, these children which this closing night will erase their memory from my head?

O child, listen wisdom is nothing! Knowledge is nothing! I have accumulated knowledge, known many secrets, read many books; but O child, they are to me like all the rest of my acquisitions! What is the knowledge that will decay with my brain, the wisdom that will not circumvent this moment? Ah, the philosophers are to blame for elevating wisdom, for parading knowledge as though it is anything. Don’t listen to them:  they all lie! When this moment arrives, you will find that there is no difference between the brute and the sage.

All is lie, child; all the things you hold sacred are nihil. There is no recompense for them all. Shun that voice that tells you to live good; shun that voice that tells you to live evil; shun all voice but yours. Choose that life you will, live it, and when it comes to an end, when this inescapable moment arrives, you will have nothing to regret. Yes, child, for in this last hour, all life is the same. I testify that when life has come to its end, it will not matter what road you have taken to reach it.

What dreams I will encounter in this eternal sleep I do not know. I hear the Voice, the Voice which had sustained my faith; It says, ‘Sleep and be with your God.’ I have believed this Voice, this God; I have laboured in this affair called religion – but what is religion when I close my eyes? What is God when I cease to exist? Is he not for the living – the living who go on suffering for Him, the living who hope to reap the reward of their devotion when they are dead? Whose then is God – the dead who will not have him or the living who will die for him? Ah, where are you God? Will you lend me your hand to feel, tell me what lies ahead in this inexplicable journey of my embarkation? Do not forsake me now, when all else has become nothingness. Or are you too, like them, nothing in the end? Are you merely the conjuration of religionists?

I have heard that it is the soul that you care for, not the body. But of what use is my soul without my body? I want to have my body; preserve that for me and you shall have justified my years of religion. I have tried to imagine the abstraction called spirit and if it is real, if ever in this vast cosmos one may point at a thing and say, ‘This is a spirit’, I see no reason why I should desire it more than other vain things that I have desired in life. I see no reason why, for the promise of a life away from my body, I should spent years of penance and self-abnegation, seek after the justice that the whole world is bent against, and endure persecution for the sake of pleasing you. How clearly I see all things now, when there is no remedy for lost things, when I cannot turn back and follow a different route. But all routes are the same. O vain, this life; one may plan and pray and still come to the same abysmal end. Wherein lies this hope that faith infuses in the heart which believes?

I have been told that sometime in an indefinite future, a vast celestial trumpet shall awake all dead to life and souls shall be restored. Which body will the restored soul occupy? A new created flesh? O God, you may keep my soul, destroy it even; but let this flesh of mine be there, this brain, this me, imperfect and ailing – let it be the object of my resurrection. What is the ‘I’ if I look for my being and not find it? I don’t want that soul whose substance have eluded men; I want this body as it is, this sensate ‘I’, this brain with all its knowledge and unwisdom, not a purified soul worthy of walking beside you.

Grant me immortality! Let there be no time that I will not be. What does it mean to not be, to cease to exist? Tell, O ye immortal – but can you, always existing, know what it means not to exist? I long to know! I long to understand this void for which I am destined! I long to foreknow, to anticipate; else how do I know when I cease to exist, when I have arrive at death’s destination? O God, if you are, if you know, teach me!

I look but I cannot see, I listen but I cannot hear, I touch but I cannot feel; everything is melting away. Nothing remains but this chasmic feel. There is peace around me, bliss ineffable. Am I this floating, unfeeling being in this vast impersonal space? What is this great luminary that provides no light and yet dazzles? I strain for this ethereal sight but I cannot reach it. All things are fleeting. All shapes, all colours, all tastes conjoin in one indescribable swirl and around me they circle; no, they are me. But there is no me – nothing of what once I called ‘me’. And yet, and yet… I grope, in my brain? I strain to think but think I cannot. Ah, this… where… may I… O? Cr… h…

THE PAINS OF ATHEISM 


Joshua Omenga
I have often heard – and will be surprised that any kindred soul in disbelief has not been deluged by – the Biblical quotation: ‘The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.’ It has always seemed to me till this moment that the creator of this Judeo-Christian God is not only creative but daring, having not only proclaimed with such finality against unbelievers but has also attempted to topple other gods. I do not know how those other gods have taken his arrogance, except of course that they too, like him, are the creations of some ingenious minds. But in calling  us, the unbelievers, fools, the maker of this God is, far from being insulting, only being commonsensical. For if this God desires worship as he is depicted; if he is so jealous of it that he would kill his people for worshipping, even temporarily, other gods, how best could he proclaim his interest but to call us, his subverters, fools? Yet I think that this ingenious creator of this jealous God ought to have found a more degrading term. 

Until now, I have always imagined the moment when atheism will be vindicated; when we the unbelievers shall laugh at the men of faith and ask, ‘Verily, are they not fools who opine, There is God? And are they not the most miserable of creations, these who have believed and hoped in a God who did not and never existed?’ O, so glorious a moment it would be; so illumining for the race of reasoning mankind, when the mask of several thousand years shall be removed from the gods; when the shackles of dependence shall be broken from the human race! Ah, how wondrous I have thought the moment will be, that I too, in my unbelief, have entertained more faith than believers! Sometimes I even wished that this God existed for the sole reason of bearing the humiliation and sorrows that the belief in him has caused mankind.

But what if atheism is vindicated? What if the great discovery of today is that God did not die but has never existed? Until now, I have never been frightened by the prospect of being right! I have thought it over, mused over the nonsensicalness of religion, of faith in anything other than the physical; and truly, there is not a corner in which one’s reason might point and say, Look, here lies the God you have been looking for. In my search for this God I have become so thoroughly convinced of his inexistence that the only thing which frightens me is the discovery that he exists. How is it then, that faced with an unmistakable demonstration of his inexistence, my own glorious vindication, it seems that a chill courses within me? Is it perhaps out of sympathy for this God – the God whom I never knew, never believed in, never loved? It is in this phrenetic search for my soul’s expiation that it dawned on me, this truth:

In proving the inexistence of God, I shall have won an argument. I shall have toppled the belief of a thousand years, unwritten the history of many nations, undone in a lifetime what the whole generations of humanity have built. I shall have destroyed the base of the human society, torn the faith from earnest hearts, removed the hopes from aching minds. I shall have done these; but I shall also have given the world a truth long unknown: the nothingness of the one thing that controls their actions. I shall have liberated them, given them reason to live not for a God but for themselves. I shall have removed their hopes but I shall also have removed from them the fear of the supernatural that have driven men to despair. And above all, I shall have offered to the writer of Psalm 14 a last laugh: ‘You, brother, have been the fool all along. Your sacrifices, your forbearances, your hopes, your pleas for the help of the inexistent one – all are nihil.’ 

But in all of this, what shall be my satisfaction, I the discoverer of this great truth? Shall there be for me any recompense for my discovery other than the vanity of knowing that I have been proved right where the rest of mankind have been proved wrong? What then is this desire to be right? Is it not a vestige of belief, of faith, that somewhere in the cosmic order, a supernal being shall reward people for their actions? Ah, this my vindication shall be the giving of a cheque to a man lost in the desert: he may have the means to all the money in the world, but what are they to him in the company of sands? I know; I know; there may yet remain for me the tiny spurt of happiness that derives from self, the happiness that does not require the external other… 

And here comes the burden of truth: how shall man live, having discarded his God? How shall the man live whose evil inclinations are checked not by legislations but by the fear of the supernatural? Which man will do good who knows that he stands to profit more from doing evil? Who will leave the satisfaction of self for the satisfaction of another when he knows that no God will reward his goodness? Is he not a fool who, having the power to subdue another without consequences, refrains from so doing out of the goodness of his heart? Ah, such a one were a saint – of nothingness! His purity is excremental, his sacrifices a demonstration of foolishness. Is this the decadence that my revelation will bring on humanity?

Oh, perhaps I have over-expressed my fears. Perhaps mankind will live as it has always lived, and it would not have mattered that this truth is revealed to it; perhaps many there are who now live without knowing of God’s (in)existence. And yet, if humanity survives without a scare the terrible implication of God’s inexistence, how shall I who am always looking onward survive my inner battle? The inner battle – that beyond the few years of existence there is nothing in the gaping future; that any fame I shall have acquired shall come to nought? There is a tragic dignity in man’s mortality – but only when it comes from the belief in the supernatural. It is a mystic emptiness, with no wall and no space – this contemplation that this life is all there is. And yet this is what I have laboured to prove; this is the belief that I have held ever since I unshackled myself from the burdens of religion. I have lived hoping to be vindicated one day. But now, looking at the full implication of God’s inexistence, I desire the lie.

I desire the untruth of theism. I know; I am convinced, that there is no God. I have seen through the lies of spiritualism; I have seen through the charlatanism of religion; I have known all there in this mysterious desire for the supernatural and have seen all its hollow arguments, all its discordant premises – but what consolation is this knowledge to me now? Ah, that I who have sought to know should be frightened by my knowledge!

I envy those who believe. It may be a lie but there is comfort in it. The man who believes in God will live his life with hopes and desires, will give glory to God for his achievements and blame the devil for his maladies. He will do all things with reason: self-condemnation will not follow him when he does a secret good because he hopes in a supernatural recompense; he will refrain from injurious acts for fear of supernatural punishment. It does not matter that his faith is in nothingness: he shall have lived this life with purpose; he shall have suffered for a purpose; he shall have been a libertine fearing for his soul – whether for good or for bad, he shall have lived with a definiteness of the future in his mind. That chaos is what I dread. Let me live evil now and enjoy the fruit of evil, for I know there will be no punishment for me. But how shall I enjoy it when constantly all I see before me is this looming blankness, this incorporeal future beyond which all my achievements and knowledge and being shall perish? How better for the man who faces inexistence without knowing it!

Now do I know what the creator of God means when he says that the man is a fool who does not believe in God. There is no God, but the man is a fool who finds it out. He were better content with the lie that gives him hope, the lie that gives him purpose, the lie that clears the mists from the future and clothe it with corporeality. There is more comfort in his lie than in my truth. And what if my truth is a lie?

© 2016 Joshua Omenga