Every three years in the village of Toraja in South Sualwesi, in Indonesia they hold a very strange festival.
They exhume the bodies of their deceased relatives, clean them up, dress them in new clothes and put them on display.
While this might be grotesque, disgusting and not to everybody’s taste the Cleansing of the Corpses festival is held so that the spirit of the deceased can return to its place of origin, hence the dressing up and all that. While this might conflict with everyone’s view of life after death it highlights one important fact – when we die all that we leave behind in this world is just a shrivelled corpse. It doesn’t matter how rich, famous, beautiful, handsome, good or evil you are, when you die the only thing you leave behind is dried-up flesh on a skeleton.
I like to liken the human being to a car. It could be any car from a cheap Skoda to the top of the range Bugati. Without a human driver behind the wheel (or a human to program it as regards the new driverless cars) it’s nothing but a pile of fancy metal on wheels on wheels that will just sit there without moving. Likewise a human being is nothing but flesh and bones until you insert a soul to drive it.
Before we are born we sign a contract that when we come into this world, as a new born baby, we will come with nothing and when our earthly time is up we will leave with nothing, just leaving behind a shrivelled corpse to be buried or cremated(- and hopefully not exhumed and displayed as the Indonesians do!)
From the time we are born to the time we depart we live an Earthly life. Our souls are in a physical body that grows from that of a toddler to that of a fully grown adult. In between birth and death we learn and grow, contributing to this earthly world, good or bad, before we depart. We are like people who emigrate to live in foreign lands before one day returning home; the foreign land will never be your home and you can’t stay forever – you have to return to the source – and with nothing as promised before you came to life.
Shakespeare once said ‘All the Worlds a stage. And all men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances’. We are born to play a role or roles. What this role is depends on the individuals’ destiny. Some are born to be teachers, pastors or leaders. Others are born to be rich or poor, good or bad. Some might be builders, inventors or market porters. We all have a role to play in the upkeep and development of this word.
Whilst we are Masters of our own destiny (to a certain degree!) we are in the habit of changing our direction, from time to time, to worship the insatiable demands of our physical bodies and the material world around us. We want more money (at any cost!). We want bigger houses. We want more fame. Everything we want, want, want is just to satisfy the vessel we call a human being, which in many cases may not be in accordance to the ‘driving’ soul’s directive. When things are not done in accordance to the soul’s reason for being on Earth it upsets the balance of things. This is when people sin (- and there’s a long list of naughty things we do!) with their sins affecting the lives of others and even the physical world we inhabit – people start wars killing people, destroying property and habitats. We deprive others of what is rightly theirs and so on and so forth.
And all for what?
We do all these things because of our want for the material things of life. We have basic needs and things we don’t need or could do without – but still clamour to get – things you can’t take with you when you go.
The sixth richest man in the world turned up in Nigeria the other day and people marvelled at how simple he looked clad in T-shirt and jeans, no watch, no designer trainers, nothing.
It’s because people like him realize that life on this planet is an illusion. You’re probably here for a short period of time, probably not more than a hundred years. You might have money to fly in private planes, drink the most expensive champagne and eat caviar but when your time is up you’re not taking any of it with you. Which is why we probably have these new breed of billionaires who are giving their wealth away to those who need it.
The average Naija man will argue that if you have money its best to live like a glutton and live life to the full, sparing no expenses, because you only live once. Hence the reason why he’ll accumulate expensive cars, wives, houses and money – his or not. This might be true, from his point of view, but yet again he’s wrong. Your fleshy human body (like the ones exhumed in Indonesia) lives once and can enjoy all this but your soul – which never dies – carries on into the afterlife.
Now what happens to our souls in the afterlife which could be in Heaven or Hell or something else is for eternity. Is it worth risking the wrath of what might be out there through our misdeeds, selfishness and naughtiness, in this illusionary material world we call Earth?