As I lay here trying to sleep, the images of the plane crash wreckage in Lagos earlier today refuse to leave the shadows of my closed eyes.
We go to bed everyday with almost one hundred percent confidence of waking up the next day. We go through each day with concrete plans (articulated or not) for the next minute, hour, day, week, month, year, even decade – like we have a guarantee that we would live to see those times. Rarely do we stop to think how fragile our lives actually are. And in a country like Nigeria, the fragility of our lives is amplified maybe tenfold. You go to church to worship, you are likely to be killed by a terrorist bomb; you travel by road, you’re robbed and killed or you die in a car crash; you travel by air, you crash in a plane that had faults with its landing gear just two weeks ago; you sit at home, a plane with a faulty landing gear comes crashing into your house.
I believe we cannot find satisfaction in hoping for longer lives. After all, the length of our lives is largely out of our control. We should focus more on the quality of our lives. That is something we can control. And it doesn’t mean material wealth or financial affluence.
It is the intangible things in life that give it meaning. Love, friendship, understanding, knowledge, wisdom, philanthropy, etc. These are the things that can make a even a short-lived life a successful one. Keep positive relationships. Smile genuinely, talk to the old, aid the sick, advice a child, forgive easily, apologize quickly and sincerely, love unconditionally, be abundantly patient with the tentative, plant a tree, grow a garden, keep a pet, read good books, write, communicate with friends and family, etc. In the end, these are the things that can give you a smile when your time is up. Fortunately, we do not have to live to be ninety to achieve all these. They are things you do continuously every day and they give you fulfilment.
In the end, it is not how long you live but how well you live that matters to you and others – which is a direct consequence of the quality of our relationships with other human beings and with nature. This, I believe, is the meaning of life.