Many of us are familiar with Eze goes to school, the novel of Onuora Nzekwu and Michael Drowder. For those who may have lost memory touch with its plot, the novel is about the son of Okonkwo Adi, whose father wanted to acquire western education at a time it was most unpopular in their village community. Eze had the entire enabling environment to actualize his dream, since the father had the wherewithal to see him through and is committed to realizing this singular desire. But catastrophe struck when Okwonkwo Adi suddenly died.
Shortly before his death, he requested his wife to ensure that he continued to go to school. That should not have been much problem given the amount of wealth he left behind. Unfortunately, Okonkwo Adi’s relatives had another idea. Lending credence to the wealth of their brother, and his heroic death, they insisted that he must be given the funeral rite of a hero; not withstanding its financial implication for the family Adi left behind. On the long run, against the plea of the wife, his (Okonkwo’s ) barns had to be emptied and all his livestock slaughtered, to accord him a befitting burial for seven consecutive days. In effect, as the novel concluded in the fifth chapter, Okonkwo Adi had been given a proper funeral for a hero, to the detriment of his wife and children.
Similar instances are not strange to the society today. We are witnesses to many promising young men who have folded their business and moved from the city to the slums because they had to carry out the traditional rites for their parents or insisted on having a wedding ceremony with a touch of class. This is just to mention but a few.
The above analysis speaks volume to the fact that certain lifestyles lead to poverty as hard earned resources are unnecessarily lavished. Many young people have rendered themselves financially redundant due to reckless spending especially on communication gadgets and the guest for costly Brazilian hair style for women. It is bizarre to mention that such lifestyles are not uncommon among students who cannot boast of any meaningful textbook in their bookshelf, but regularly attend drinking joints.
I wish to express the clarification that this write-up is not condemning recreation, meaningful spending or entertainment. Rather it proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is of a clarion call to be serenely present to each reality, however, small it may be, for it opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfillment. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies that we avoid the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures.
Against this backdrop, we need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that “less is more.” It is not a lesser life or one lived with less intensity. On the contrary, it is a way of living life to the full. Living in little enables us to cultivate pleasures and find satisfaction in fraternal encounters, in service, in developing our gifts, in music and art, in contact with the beauty of nature, in prayer. Above all, happiness means knowing how to limit some needs which only diminish us, and being open to the many different possibilities which life can offer. May this period of Christmas offer us the insight to put smiles on the faces of the poor that we shall encounter rather than unnecessary spending that adds no value to our worth.