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Young people and challenge of purposeful existence

By George Ehusani
22 August 2022   |   2:42 am
A major paradox of human life is that we are constantly looking for the easy way out, even when we know that nothing good comes easy.

[FILES] Youths. Photo/facebook/IAOkowa

A major paradox of human life is that we are constantly looking for the easy way out, even when we know that nothing good comes easy.

We are constantly drawn to the glamorous path even when we recognise that not all that glitters is gold. We are continually looking for more and more comfortable; for more and more pleasure, for more and more wealth, and of course, for more and more power, prestige and popularity, even when we know that they don’t necessarily bring contentment and fulfilment. We put all our attention and all our energy into pursuing wealth, pleasure and power, seeking to find happiness thereby.

Yet, we know that these things do not in themselves bring ultimate happiness. This is precisely what St. Augustine meant when he noted that men and women pursue happiness even when they live in such a way as to make happiness impossible.

With all the distractions of our age, many people find it very difficult to reflect on the fundamental question of life’s ultimate purpose. We prefer to just live through each day, struggling for space, competing for power, and grabbing as many toys as we could lay our hands on along the way, rather than engage in the more philosophical question of the essence and the purpose of our existence. We often get so engrossed in the rat race to succeed in business, get to the top in politics, and become social celebrities, that we miss out on what truly matters in life and what really gives meaning to life.

Indeed, today, we are all under such intense pressure to live on the fast lane, to be like the Joneses, to consume more and more goods, indulge in more and more pleasures, and acquire more and more personal freedom, that we have little time left to ask ourselves what meaning there is in all our earthly preoccupations. The Greek Philosopher Socrates observes that a life that is not reflected upon is hardly worth living.

As human beings, we are created for a purpose. Our ultimate fulfilment and happiness lie in the realisation of that purpose. We are designed in such a way that we can neither find happiness nor attain fulfilment within ourselves – no matter how much we try. We are wired in such a way that ultimate happiness and fulfilment for each one of us lie beyond us.

No degree of academic or professional success, no amount of material wealth or pleasure, no aggregate of political power and security, and no level of popularity or celebrity status, can provide for us the joy, the peace, or the authentic happiness which is only available in God our Creator.

Indeed, the human heart hunger and thirsts after something beyond all that is available to acquire in the material world. The author of Ecclesiastes came to this realisation when he wrote that classic poem titled, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-15).

Yet, we are witnessing today what appears to be an epidemic of widespread thoughtlessness, as a result of which many people are leading very destructive, meaningless, empty and futile lives. We are witnessing a major crisis in marriage and family life, and an attendant crisis in the parenting enterprise, on account of which the lives of many of our young people are devoid of any strong moral foundation. We are witnessing in the generation of youths to which our graduating class belongs, what some of us perceive as heightened individualism, gross indiscipline, and crass materialism.

We are witnessing today the spread of a culture of instant gratification, the widespread glamorisation of pleasure and the senseless idolisation of the champions of the modern entertainment industry, including sports, music, movie and comedy celebrities.

Yes, we are witnessing in our day what has been described as Acute Celebrity Syndrome, by which popular TV and Social Media personalities, movie, music, and comedy celebrities, as well as beauty pageant competitors, are not only treated like objects of worship while they are performing on stage, but they have become the most powerful influencers of our young people’s behaviour.

Yes, celebrities of the entertainment industry and social media influencers are adored, glamorised, and deified by our young people, even when many of them are chronic alcoholics and pitiable drug addicts, terrible sexual deviants, and confused perverts, and such cognitively disoriented and socially dysfunctional persons that they should

But they have largely become the “moral influencers” of a good number of our often vulnerable and gullible young people, who have often not had the benefit of good parenting, and perhaps also have not had the good fortune of coming from powerful godly mentors among their teachers, in the course of their sojourn through school. These so-called social celebrities – who are largely champions of the 21st Century global hedonistic culture or agents of the rotten part of a dying Euro-American civilisation – are now dictating much of the conduct of our young people.

Yet, some of the most popular global and national celebrities are now and again reported to be suffering from chronic depression, to be going in and out of drug rehabilitation centres, dying of drug overdose, or committing suicide – from Whitney Houston to Bobby Brown her daughter, and from Michael Jackson to Cheslie Kryst (the 2019 Miss USA who jumped to her death from the window of a 23-storey New York building early this year)! Yes, the year 2022 alone has recorded a shockingly high number of celebrities who have taken their own lives, perhaps because in spite of their rich and comfortable lives of glamour; in spite of their celebrity status that makes them objects of envy; in spite of their being adored and deified by millions of fans across the world; perhaps in spite of their apparent success, they themselves have often found their lives to be empty, futile and meaningless.

Thus, as our young people glamorise and idolise the Naira Marleys, the Portables, the Bobriskys, as well as such Nollywood, Big Brother Naija and Instagram celebrities, who are sick enough to promote the smoking of marijuana on stage, to strip themselves naked in public, to record themselves in sex-videos and shamelessly post such disgusting videos on the internet for the whole world to watch, I am left with many questions: What has happened to the disciplined political legacies of Mrs Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Chief Michael Opara, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Alhaji Aminu Kano and Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim? Have the children of our generation not been told inspiring stories of these moral icons of our nation?

To be continued tomorrow
Rev. Fr. Ehusani, executive director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, delivered this as a commencement speech at the 2022 graduation ceremony of Loyola Jesuit College,
Gidan Mangoro, Abuja, recently.