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Vanity upon vanity


Noel Ihebuzor

Today’s readings from the Catholic liturgy remind us of the frailty and lack of wisdom in a life devoted to the pursuit of material things in this world. “Vanity upon vanity, all is vanity”. These are the eternal words of the wise man from the sacred book of the Christian faith. I am sure that words that radiate wisdom of such profundity and which call attention to the need for a balanced attitude to material things in this world exist in the sacred books of other religions.

As a child in commencing primary school in Makurdi in the sixties, I had to memorize these lines – “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul”? Phrases such as this one invite men and women to reflect with a view to leading them to a richer perspective on material acquisition. They are there for all to hear and heed but greed stands between men and women and the application of these words in their everyday lives. Greed has blunted our hearing and has led us and still leads us to make a flawed choice. That choice brings with it very severe consequences.

The unrestrained desire for more, greed, enslaves us and is the root cause of most other vices, especially that of corrupt enrichment. One of its fruits is the death of satiation. The others are envy, jealousy, untrustworthiness, falsehood, cheating, dishonesty and a debilitating sense of insecurity. We look for security in material things but cannot find it there. Our wealth fails to buy us real happiness, and we wrongly believe that with more wealth, the real happiness that eludes us can be eventually purchased. So we struggle to amass more wealth and the methods for amassing such is secondary, indeed, immaterial. This is the thinking of the mind that greed has invaded.

Greed invades and installs by slow accretion. But it needs you to open the door for its first entry.  We invite it in! We let it in! Greed is best likened to a virus which, once installed, progressively erodes all values, stifles decency, atrophies the conscience and corrodes the soul. It surreptitiously suffocates morality and eventually enslaves us to this cult of materialism which leads us to crave for more, the more we possess. This is what explains why someone who has enriched himself or herself by stealing from public or private coffers to the tune of millions and millions of naira can still steal more, grab more and grovel for more at the least opportunity. Our news media is replete with such mind-boggling accounts of “fantastic corruption”, a corruption that spares no section or segment of our societies. The corrupt person steals but cannot be filled. He or she eats but is forever hungry. In effect, the cult of materialism that greed shackles us to is an empty, hollow and hollowing one, one that breeds this infirmity that Owerri people call “Erima afo ejughi eju” – eating and consumption that know no satisfaction. Materialism warps our vision and deadens our souls and eventually leads us to death. God gave men and women dominion over the earth and the things in it. Materialism subverts that logic by granting material things dominion and control over the human mind and psyche. The readings for this Sunday forcefully brings these truths to us and invite us to take steps to turn from the enticing appeals and entrapment of these vices of greed and materialism. Our countries have suffered and still suffer their effects!

May God protect us from such debilitating affliction.  May He lead us to eternal and true values where life and living are measured by love, caring and sharing – in such a world, poverty would be history as there would be enough for all. Let us turn to the words of God, for in them are found true abundance and the path to the true food which can feed our bodies and our souls. Every other food that does not grow from the words of God is vanity upon vanity.

Happy Sunday.





Development and policy analyst with a strong interest in the arts and inclusive social change. Dabbles occasionally into poetry and literary criticism!

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