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Loborare et Orare: Coping, hoping, doping and gropig

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Femi Osofisan


In those bygone days of Latin mottoes, there was a depth of sorts to mission statements. Oyemekun Grammar School had “pro deo et patria” meaning for God and our fatherland. Kings College had “floreat collegium” which seems quite self-explanatory. And University of Ibadan had “recte sapere fons,” which being interpreted means right thinking is the fount (of knowledge). It could also mean for knowledge and sound judgment.

And there is Amoye Grammar School in Ikere Ekiti, which has “in domino confidimus” meaning in the Lord we trust. Gravitas was the demand of the day and Latin provided it. No wonder the demonstrators in Femi Osofisan’s Kolera Kolej carried placards proclaiming:
To Keep The Campus Calm?

Latin Is The Balm!
So, we get back to the title of this column this Sunday “Laborare et Orare,” which means work and pray. Faced with a country and a people who keep on praying (because their previous prayers are not answered) there is need to call attention to the first part of the instruction, that being the injunction that says: WORK!

On Sunday the 8th of October, the whole of Akure was thrown into immobility because of the three-day praying marathon of one of the churches in town. All transportation means coming into town had been commandeered and waited on the praying people. Those who were not part of the marathon players who had other places to go could not go because there was no means of getting out of Akure.

Mimiko garage on Ondo road, packed with passengers waiting for vehicles. Ilesa road stop point empty except for minibuses going to Ilesa and Osogbo. FUTA gate nko? No vehicles going to Ibadan and Lagos. Someone suggested going to the Catholic Cathedral at Sacred Heart School. Sometimes Sienna vehicles come to Akure and go back to Lagos. And that was how my guest found his way back to his city by the lagoon.

The experience was sobering. It also seemed to represent the subsistent nature of our hand to mouth culture, best described as stomach infrastructure. What this nature culture infrastructure spells is stasis, like Baba Sala’s: ko pass, ko fail, ko kuro ni kilasi kan! (she has not progressed, not regressed, just stuck in the mud of immobility!) As a country and as a people we are stuck in the mud of inaction. For work, for action, for creative interaction with our environment we substitute prayers. Prayer mountains, prayer valleys, prayer fires, prayer waters, prayer possibilities, prayer miracles and prayer international! All sorts and manner of prayers. But prayer alone is not enough, is never enough.

Re-interpretation of the Bible message has always been part and parcel of human growth since Adam and Eve. And the idea that Adam and Eve were not the beginning of the human history of the world is also permitted. They were the father and mother of the Jews while every people have their own mothers and fathers. But God does not change. His or Her angels and messengers have ethnic specificities, God is One. Re-interpretations allow for a more successful Christian life with success here on earth rather than success being abeyance, waiting for life after death.

South Korea is one of the centres of the happy-crappy churches since the 1950s. South Korea is one of the most hard working countries on earth. It is also a hard praying country. Work and pray. Think of the variety of gadgets and vehicles that South Korea has given to the world – Samsung, Kia, LG – just to mention a few.

Our own African Yoruba wisdom advises us to the fact that – leave me not behind o Lord – is not a prayer you say on your knees. This is because you cannot keep pace with the Lord while you are kneeling down. We need to live by our wisdom.

Praying is not a ritual. It is not a conjuring short process. Praying is an on-going engagement with our hopes and aspirations tied to our abilities and capabilities. The realisation of our greatest desires, our dreams is not a sudden occurrence. This is so because we need to recognise who we are when our prayers are answered. What we are after is a better us, an improved us and an us that keeps getting better and improving.

There is an unforgettable sequence in The Jero Plays in which Brother Jero mauls the question whether to allow Brother Chume to beat his wife. You see, Brother Chume has been praying to Brother Jero to let him beat his wife. Chume considers his wife such a difficult cross to bear. He concludes that a beating would solve all his problems. Not so, thinks calculating Brother Jero. Should Jero grant Chume’s wish, Chume would no longer need Brother Jero. He might even go and set up his own church, God forbid bad thing!

What if this is the prayer-granting argument of all powers? If I grant his wish, give her what she wants, she will no longer bother about me. After all we are made in the image of God and we endow God with our greatest attributes and wishes. Whatever the logic of granting prayers and wishes, it is obvious that those who combine prayers with work usually have their prayers being answered. Like the man who said: the harder I work, the luckier I get! Those who do, do better. As a corollary, those who don’t, do not get anywhere.

If you ask why Latin was stopped as a school subject, you will have to follow with why History was stopped as a school subject. And why Yoruba is not taught in our schools any more. English, French, Spanish and Portuguese are heavily dependent on Latin. An understanding of Latin helps your knowledge and use of these languages. More specifically, short sharp statements are the norm in Latin. Memorable sayings, deep thoughts captured in beautiful language is also the domain of Latin. By willing Latin out of our lives are we also forgetting what it says to us? By taking History out our classes do we forget the lessons of History? By not teaching Yoruba is our schools do we obliterate from our minds the lessons of working and praying, pursuing our Lord on our feet and not on our knees. Work and pray.


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Loborare et Orare

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