Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: Why live long when you can live forever? (YNaija FrontPage)

As someone who has been close to death and dying more than I really should, I don’t believe this culture  of sweeping death under the all-encompassing rug of euphemism is very helpful to us.

“Leave a mark they can’t erase, neither space nor time

So when the director yells cut, I’ll be fine”

–          Jay-Z (Forever Young)

Sunday, June 3rd was one of those days where one was reminded of how much more mortal being Nigerian makes you. We should really be forgiven for thinking that amidst all our reverence of the heavenlies, death would kindly spare us. Then incidents like that rudely remind us that Nigerians are road kill for someone’s grand undefined experiment in rudderless leadership.

Now, I’m not here to berate the government or the standards that led us to this disaster. I’m honestly too weak and tired for that. Let’s just accept that between bombs, striking doctors and planes dropping from the sky, Nigerians deserve their nasty, brutish and short lives.

However, given the obvious fact that the average Nigerian is more likely to die young, I am honestly surprised by how shallow and hackneyed our conversations about death tend to be. I may be wrong but in my general experience, Nigeria don’t talk about death, the dying and the dead deeply or nearly enough. On the few occasions we do, we tend to talk about it in overtly fatalistic terms by depicting death as “the will of God” or paint a deceptively pretty picture of it depicting death as some more peaceful “ great beyond”. Most unfortunately, we never take time to discuss frankly and objectively the legacy of the deceased, preferring to “speak no ill of the dead”.

As someone who has been close to death and dying more than I really should, I don’t believe this culture  of sweeping death under the all-encompassing rug of euphemism is very helpful to us. Our attitude to death not only dismisses the reality of its tragic eventuality, it lets us off lightly off the critical questions of what is truly important about life. As the late Steve Jobs, once said in a famous speech, “death is very likely the single best invention of life”. To be fair, I can understand our people’s fear of talking about death. Between, government and death, two destructive monsters you can’t control, it might just be safer to ignore it all. It’s not like either of them need more advertising than their corrosive influence already garners them. In Nigeria, we find happiness where ever we can. From owambes and colourful aso ebis. From God’s mercies in saving us from our own foolishness. From long awaited fruits of the womb. From soccer.  From the silly bants on Nigerian twitter. From Big Brother. From safe flights that end in applause. Nigerians fight so hard and well for their happiness that they are the happiest people on earth. Why allow morbid talk about something as familiar as death destroy this hard earned bubble of happiness?

I like to think a little differently in this respect.

You see, I think about death a lot. In fact, I’ve thought about it every day since December 10, 2005. I have a way I’d like to die. Some dude (whose name I cannot for the life of me remember or find on Google) beat me to the perfect poem for it and chucked it into my literature syllabus so that I memorized it.

This is the way I’d like to go

If you should know

I’ld like to go while I’m still young

While the dew is still wet on the grass

In a plane burning bright

Like a shining star in the night[1]

The only thing I would add is that it has to be a single sitter plane I fly myself so no innocent souls go down with me.

The funny thing is that despite how much I think about death, like you, I don’t want to die – not even in old age. My plan is actually want to live forever. The surprising thing is that thinking about death helps me do that. Rather than make me sad and suicidal, constantly thinking of death reminds me that my time is limited. It motivates me to aspire to earthly immortality in the belief that by the way I lived and the things I achieve, I can exist in the memory of people who never even knew me personally.

These days, it is not enough to live in the hearts of those you love when you can live in every heart. Why live long when you can live forever?

[1] I apologize for errors. It was written entirely from unreliable memory


Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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