Friday, April 11, 2008

POSTERITY

Discussing posterity is like embarking on a journey that will never come to an end. Before this generation came to be, our forebearers had constantly been moralized on the virtue of bequeathing a noble legacy for posterity. This appeal conjectures a homo sapiens personification. The call extends beyond the present generation and will continue through generations yet unborn. Posterity therefore, seems like a persona non grata hence the abject neglect or nonchalant attitude towards it. The truth is that posterity is to human existence what tweedledee is to tweedledum. It could be called a two-edged sword sort of phenomenon. We could also liken it to the chicken-egg relationship. It does not matter which is first. What is important is that both depend on one another for propagation of their generations.
It is hard to say whether posterity is there because of anterior generations or successive ones. Whichever it may be, posterity is there to serve both interests. To the one side of the divide, it is like a motivating factor against insensitiveness, greed, self-centredness and reckless living. Were it not for the sake of posterity, people would perchance bother less about toiling beyond putting some meal on the family lunch table or having just enough clothes to cover the body, until they breathe their last. Civilisation and technological advancement would have been adversely undermined but for posterity. Morality would have been thrown to the dogs because people would care less about the consequences of any irrational behaviour. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” would have assumed centre stage.
To the other side of the equilateral demarcation, posterity, assuming a human face and staring humanity eyeball to eyeball says, “See what I have done for your sake. What do you intend to do about improving on it?”
While whipping up emotions of gratitude, it serves to motivate or challenge humanity towards greater endeavour. This leaves a trail of unbroken chain of cause and effect, action and reaction. It is not in all circumstances, though, that posterity posits itself in the past and point to the future. The very fact that this journal is being put together is for posterity. Wise people will glean through the pages and decipher something that will have some impact on their lives. Generations yet unborn will read and thank goodness for ancient wisdom. Posterity exists in the immediate.
Posterity in itself is an embodiment of virtue, but the misinterpretation of it has led to so many negative tendencies. Otherwise, what would make a man seek to perpetuate himself in political office as purported president of a country whereas he is only trying to amass wealth for a micro unit of posterity – his immediate family to the disadvantage of the greater human factor – the nation at large?
If man had the option of choosing to live beyond the prescribed age of one hundred and twenty years (see Genesis chapter 3 verse 6), it would make sense to see why people build reinforced concrete mansions with state of the art gadgets. Or why a nation would want to plant a piece of flag on the surface of the moon or under the sea bed to colonize a territory. This is not to suggest that interterrestrial explorations are not necessary. But when it goes beyond serving the overall interest of humanity, it becomes an obsession.
There are three major factors that impel humans towards doing things for posterity. One, some religious fanatics believe that the revelation of John in the Book of Apocalypse has numbered them among those that will inherit the “new earth.” (ibid. 11:10; 20:4; 21:21-27). Every attempt made by these set of believers towards discovering the earth is to preserve their dream home. I am not to judge the rightness of that Biblical interpretation or otherwise, but when we cast our mind back to the Guyana tragedy of recent memory which was based on an erroneous interpretation of the Scriptures, we can clearly see where these could lead us to. The Guyana sect was a bunch of greedy people who did not want to leave anything for posterity. They would rather embark on wanton destruction of their possessions and finally taking their own lives, their offspring’s, everything. But they inadvertently left a history for posterity to learn from and be wiser.
The second reason has to do with tradition which behoves us to “let our children enjoy better opportunities than we have.” This is like a moral obligation which one is not bound to uphold except to the extent of ones understanding and moral rectitude. Let me quickly say that morality to me is the Eldorado of the Golden Rule which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Every facet of moral ethics is hinged on this premise. Society would brand a person who lives on inheritance and fails to contribute to the advancement of humanity as a lazy gold digger; which remark is in itself derogatory. Therefore, even some fortunate ones who happen to have benefited directly from the benevolence of posterity or the goodwill of their ancestors, almost always strive to maintain a status quo to ensure that the baton does not stop changing hands by their own ineptitude, because of the saying that to whom much is given, much is expected.
The third factor that has served to foster posterity can be linked to economic prosperity. When people have more than a lifetime’s sufficiency, the tendency is to invest and reinvest. Even when some sum is stalked away in security vaults, it still benefits the overall interest of the populace through the law of multiplier effect in Economics. This situation can best be likened to the legendary dog that follows an overfed person in the hope that if he doesn’t defecate, he would vomit. Either way, there will be food for the dog.
It has often been said of na├»ve persons that “posterity will demand explanation.” This statement which again gives posterity a human face has its beneficial value. It has been a constant reminder against incredulity.
Some sceptics would ask, “Where is posterity?” Let such a sadist look around him and see suffering humanity scavenging rubbish dumps for food to eat. Look at the carnage on our roads resulting from neglected or badly finished road networks. Go to the hospices, prisons yards and orphanages and see suffering humanity most of who are in conditions not of their own making. Look around the countryside and see the absence of essential facilities and infrastructures. It is not unusual to see a family that is despised and isolated by other members of society because some despicable legacy had been bequeathed by some unscrupulous forebearer. There are abounding instances of abandoned mansions which nobody would want to live in because of the belief that it is being haunted by some mysterious forces. There are cases of girls born to some families who could hardly find a suitor except some gluttonous stranger because they stand accursed and consequently would spell doom to any one who dares to associate with them. There are communities that suffer underdevelopment on account of unfulfilled pledges by their ancestors to some serious moral obligations that have spiritual implications. In their minds, this unfortunate lot is asking the endless question, “Where is God in all these? What has happened to the promise of a good life? What have I done to deserve suffering in this manner? What unseen hand could be responsible for my plight? And a myriad of unvoiced lamentations keep reverberating into space. In Christiandom, this endless agony is referred to as witnessing against evil, and it doesn't go forth without attracting severe penalties on the evil-doer. One does not need to look far for evidences of posterity demanding explanation. Because they would not come to look us in the face and point accusing fingers is no reason to believe that perpetrators of evil can go unpunished. In her literary work, Science & Health with key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, “Thoughts unspoken are not unknown to the divine Mind” (Page 1 line 10).
Look at the contrasting picture of another group who has not considered it a virtue to live for the sake of others, no matter in what insignificant measure. It is to them that posterity is directing the unspoken question. I can hear someone repeat the Abel response, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9(b).
When it comes to time of reckoning, posterity will certainly demand of us what footprint we have left on the sands of time. If we happen not to find ourselves on the two extremes, we should expect to hear our Lord saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things. I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Mathew 25:21).

2 comments:

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Avanish said...

Splendid! To start with, I'm mesmerised by your eloquence. Thank you for your thoughts.

Regarding posterity: As you mentioned, one must appreciate what one has been blessed with, and remember that we are all here, not to twiddle thumbs, but to extend this blessing forward into the future.