By Adedayo Adesugba
It’s a month since the Nigerian Government declared a total lockdown of the City of Lagos the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Ogun State in the South West of the Country, due to the apocalyptic pandemic known as covid-19.
Covid-19 is the killer virus that causes the disease known as corona virus. It was said to have originated from a City in China known as Wuhan, in the Hubei Province. The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on the 31st of December 2019, reported a cluster of 27 pneumonia cases (including seven severe cases) of unknown aetiology, with a common reported link to Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a wholesale fish and live animal market.
This totally unknown virus was reported to cause acute respiratory syndrome in Wuhan City. The disease is now referred to as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the causative virus is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.
This disease is an agent of death, a very devastating one. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases infection can cause pneumonia, sever acute respiratory syndrome, and even death. The period which the symptoms would appear is 2-14 days.
Within a period of less than 4 months, the world has recorded *3,128,692* of corona virus infected, while *217,082*, had lost their lives to the virus, with 950,878 surviving the infection. In the United States, the number of known cases is doubling about everyone week. _(Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering).
As we proceed through the early stages of the pandemic – note that until a vaccine is discovered, the spread can only be contained through social distancing and lockdowns – I begin to ponder just like everyone else, what is the true source and final outcome of such a devasting intrusion on the normal day to day activities of mankind.
With the availability of the World Wide Web, It’s not surprising that humans will stay true to their natural affinities. It’s natural to pander to the informal channels. We live by rumor. Despite the dangers inherent in living by a lie, it aligns with how we’re configured so it’s more reassuring and easier to build a mindset from an illusive and fabricated medium or narrative. It’s a make-believe world we live in.
Digging deeper into this thought, a post-truth world is evidenced by the fact that mankind lives in the shadows. The sinister image of a Jack the Ripper beckon’s much more on our morbid nature than the image and motherly gait of Mother Theresa striding through the corridors of hospices filled with the beggarly and the sick, in a quest to bring succor to many sufferers while fulfilling her commission in a crisis ridden world. A good case in point are many Americans that feed on the absurdities and figment of a man’s imagination, since the lies fit into their morbid desires to propagate and further their self-interest to the detriment of the common good.
A shadow is the companion of death. The shadow comes first before death. The Book of Psalms in Chapter 23 speaks of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Life itself is that shadow that carries death in its wake. Man has become the host of death. Shakespeare was a master in unveiling the physiology of the mysterious element shrouded in its shadow. I remember studying Macbeth in my High School days. In poetry he noted life being stalked by a shadow that ends in the inevitable and its deathly definition as a _“walking shadow”_ – _“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”_
To throw a little light on death, let’s look at the meaning from a dictionary perspective – the action or fact of dying or being killed; the end of the life of a person or organism: • the state of being dead: • the permanent ending of vital processes in a cell or tissue. • (Death) the personification of the power that destroys life, often represented in art and literature as a skeleton or an old man holding a scythe. • the destruction or permanent end of something: • a damaging or destructive state of affairs:
(Death) the personification of the power that destroys life – This definition brings the subject into proper perspective.
Death destroys life, but life is synonymous with death. The good book says _“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” – Hebrews 9:27._ Suffice it to say that every human has a one-time appointment with death.
Since death arrives with the intent to destroy, man will always be averse to it and its power which usually carries with it an inevitability of morbidity and end. Death is described in the good book as the last enemy – _1 Corinthians 15:26: “The last enemy that is to be overthrown is Death”_
The fight against this formidable foe has been from time immemorial. The battles it wins over the human specie can be empty and purposeless if it is well understood. Firstly, death is a concept that activates a continuum. Without death life ceases to exit. Death recedes into nothingness and darkness recedes into light. Death is not designed or conceptualized to overpower life, but life is designed to overpower death. A life filled with light, will not end in darkness but in light. Concepts of light are synonymous with life.
Light brings forth energy, an element that adds immense value to life; it brings forth food, that nourishes life, through a phenomenon that’s called photosynthesis which is also the primary catalyst that produces oxygen which without it, life ceases. Nonetheless, death goes forth before life. The good book reflects on this mystery by revealed truth; _“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop.” John 12:24. _ The word _*apothnēskō*_ in the Greek language of the New Testament literally means to _“die off”_. In other words, this conveys that understanding of the cessation of life; _a permanent cessation of all vital functions: the end of life (Marriam Webster Dictionary_)
On the other hand, life which is an outcome of death is described as the principle of life in the spirit and soul. From a natural standpoint, death must be the precursor of life. So, why must mankind fear death, if without death there will be absence of life? Why would mankind fear death if life and death intertwined, brings forth life as a continuum – _“life to death to life”._ Just like darkness precedes light, shadows recede in the face of light. Shadows fall where light dictates.
Men will usually fear what they do not understand. The fear of the unknown Is said to be man’s greatest fear. Isabel Allende in her book, _“The House of the Spirits”_, said that _“Just as when we come into the world, when we die we are afraid of the unknown. But the fear is something from within us that has nothing to do with reality. Dying is like being born: just a change”_
A deeper and magnified look into death reveals that what man truly fears, is not death itself, but the fear of change into what has very little verified first-hand information but much speculation. Raheel Farooq, who wrote the book _“Zaar”_ said _“The greatest fear in life is not of death, but unsolicited change.”_ Simply put, man fears death because they can’t unravel it, it’s a mystery.
Moreover, the thought of departing from loved ones, loved habits, loved environments and hope for a better _“next day”_, brings a foreboding fear of perpetual demise.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage mankind, why must the streets empty out in trepidation of death lurking the vast expanse of the earthly divide? What is that which fuels this shadow that is hid from the naked eyes? The sense of loss produces fear and brings immense sorrow amongst humans. No man in his right senses would like to lose a loved one. After death comes sorrow. I’ve seen people loose quite very old family members and the response is sorrow, even when the departed had become a huge burden on the living towards the end of death.
In the true sense, for the deeply thoughtful, death is a reality that beckons and must be prepared for. The preparation is to ensure the state of the continuum as a constant. In other words, the nature and circumstances of an individual’s life does not change after death. A life enshrouded with darkness on finding death, continues in darkness. A life enshrouded with light, on finding death overcomes the dark shadow of death, by dispensing of it through intense light that characterized that life while here in the physical realm. To this death, life is a choice while death is also a choice.
Christ the harbinger and Master of Truth and Grace on His sojourn here on planet earth, described light that shines in darkness _“…light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:5 (Holman’s Christian Study Bible). Another translation reads it this way; “The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out”. (The Message)._
Covid-19 is a merchant of death. Mankind has retreated into his shell in fear of it. It’s changing how life interacts with life, yet, it’s obvious that what has woken up this agent of death has not changed in form or substance. Mankind despite the lockdown, has found a means through technology to continue business as usual. Death is yet to be overcome.
Governments would naturally prefer economies failing to preserve life, since this is politically correct. On the other hand, amongst men are men who serve as the agent of death and life who understand that life must be given for life to proliferate. What if it is understood that life is a phenomenon that’s birthed by death and that life continues as the skin of a Snake and the beak of an Eagle falls off to usher in new life? It is just natural for man to fight death without much thought for its significance.
To conclude, death will be the last enemy. The good book captures it this way; _“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet._ *The last enemy to be abolished is death.”* – _1 Corinthians 15:21-26._
As we desperately search for a vaccine to beat back the spirit of death called Covid-19, death may recede but will seek other means to perpetrate its primary assignment, and that is to kill until it finally completes its assignment and its destruction comes. So, since it is destined for man to die, it is also within the grasp of man to determine whether death will be a transition into life in the light or will remain as darkness in death.
_In a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place:_ *Death has been swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!*
_1 Corinthians 15:52-57_
Adedayo Adesugba, Senior Elder, Daniel Centre, Lagos, Nigeria
29 April 2020.