The mind’s con­struc­tion in the face

Sunday Trust - - SERMON - By Cor­nelius Afebu Omonokhua Fr. Cor­nelius Omonokhua is the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the Nige­ria In­ter-Re­li­gious Coun­cil (NIREC) ([email protected]; www.

In Act 1, Scene 4 of Wil­liam Shake­speare Mac­beth, King Dun­can while en­quir­ing about the ex­e­cu­tion of the in­cum­bent Thane of Cow­dor told Len­nox, Malcolm, Don­al­bain and the at­ten­dants that “there’s no art to find the mind’s con­struc­tion in the face.” Dun­can em­braced and praised Mac­beth know­ing not that he was ac­tu­ally em­brac­ing the per­son who would kill him. He did not know that Mac­beth had an in­or­di­nate am­bi­tion for his royal crown. The face of Mac­beth ra­di­ated love to­wards Dun­can whereas his mind was full of venom for the in­no­cent king. This re­minds me of the Et­sako ex­pres­sion: “He smiles as if he loves me whereas his mind is full of hate for me”. The over am­bi­tion for power was planted in the mind of Mac­beth when one of the three witches told him that he would be king. Be­fore his en­counter with the three witches, Mac­beth was con­tent with his po­si­tion hence he told the witches not to dress him with bor­rowed robes. His wife, Lady Mac­beth who de­sired des­per­ately to be the first Lady ma­nip­u­lated his mind to fi­nally de­cide to kill his own king who loved him so much. This shows that in pol­i­tics, there are no per­ma­nent friends and no per­ma­nent en­e­mies but com­mon in­ter­est. Power is a game of the sur­vival for the fittest.

The strug­gle for power is the essence of Nic­colò di Bernardo dei Machi­avelli’s book, the Prince. Machi­avelli de­scribed im­moral be­hav­iour, such as dis­hon­esty and the killing of in­no­cents, as be­ing nor­mal and ef­fec­tive in pol­i­tics (Gio­vanni Giorgini, “Five Hun­dred Years of Ital­ian Schol­ar­ship on Machi­avelli’s Prince,” Re­view of Pol­i­tics (2013) 75#4 pp. 625-40). The book is widely used by tyrants and dic­ta­tors who want to re­main in power by all means. Tyrants en­joy syco­phancy hence they keep de­ceit­ful peo­ple who ma­nip­u­late their minds to be­lieve that they are in con­trol. Un­healthy re­la­tion­ships cor­rupt good manners. The book of psalms warns against bad coun­sel. The truly happy per­son doesn’t fol­low wicked ad­vice, doesn’t stand on the way of sin­ners, and doesn’t sit with those who do not want the progress of oth­ers. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the coun­sel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1). Be­cause “in his riches man lacks wis­dom” (Psalm 49(48):1-13), he does any­thing in­clud­ing tak­ing hu­man life to get wealth through power. The wel­fare of in­no­cent peo­ple is al­ways at risk in the hands of those who cover their ha­tred for oth­ers with pseudo smiles as if all is well. This is why some peo­ple be­lieve that the devil you know is bet­ter than the an­gel you do not know. Some­times we in­no­cently tell those who are hid­ing our trea­sure to help us look for it. Prophet Jeremiah must have felt be­trayed when he said, “cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5).

When Julius Cae­sar was per­suaded not to go to the Cap­i­tal be­cause he would be as­sas­si­nated, he told his wife Calpu­nia that Bru­tus would be there. He trusted in the pro­tec­tion of Bru­tus. When he was be­ing stabbed, he ran to­wards Bru­tus. When Bru­tus stabbed him, Cae­sar cried: “You too Bru­tus” and he gave up the strug­gle and died. While the other con­spir­a­tors act out of envy and ri­valry, only Bru­tus truly be­lieves that Cae­sar’s death will ben­e­fit Rome. Julius Cae­sar was a great Ro­man gen­eral and se­na­tor. While his good friend Bru­tus wor­ries that Cae­sar may as­pire to dic­ta­tor­ship over the Ro­man repub­lic, Cae­sar seems to show no such in­cli­na­tion, de­clin­ing the crown sev­eral times. Cae­sar was un­able to sep­a­rate his pub­lic life from his pri­vate life hence he ig­nores ill omens and threats against his life. He re­mained con­stant like the North­ern Star (https://www.spar­ shake­speare/julius­cae­sar/char­ac­ters). late at the dusk of life given that no one lives on earth for­ever. Only the “truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The world could be a par­adise if ev­ery hu­man be­ing op­er­ates within the con­text of truth. What a world of peace and love hu­man be­ings would en­joy if our yes is yes and our no is no. But this is not often the case un­for­tu­nately. Jeremy C. Bradley, in “De­mand Me­dia” states that the ac­tions of po­lit­i­cal par­ties, lob­by­ists and other gov­ern­ment play­ers such as leg­is­la­tors and state gover­nors is most ef­fec­tively stud­ied by look­ing at the “in­puts” and “out­puts” of the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. Judg­ing from the out­puts of politi­cians, the the­ory dis­cov­ers that the truth in­side the po­lit­i­cal man­i­festo is not per­cep­ti­ble to a per­son who is not a “po­lit­i­cal in­sider”. Most po­lit­i­cal rulers op­er­ate on “cover-up” and show the gov­erned only the shad­ows. The true na­ture of po­lit­i­cal sys­tems can be known only by open­ing or ex­pos­ing the po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity through the en­light­en­ment of the pub­lic. This is why po­lit­i­cal de­bates are nec­es­sary be­fore any elec­tion even though there is no art to find the minds con­struc­tion on the face. But this could elicit some trust and love in the gov­erned.

Martin Luther King once said, “Hate is too great a bur­den to bear”. What do we do with the hate com­mu­ni­ca­tions in our world to­day? How can we avoid con­flict and sur­vive in an en­vi­ron­ment where most peo­ple care only for their pock­ets to the detri­ment of the poor? How do we sur­vive the des­per­a­tion of many who want to rule by mak­ing empty prom­ises as if we have lost all sense of his­tory? Frankly, what is the way out of this mess of de­ceit where truth in gov­er­nance is be­com­ing an ex­pen­sive mi­rage? There must be a way for­ward. Maybe, that is why so many peo­ple are form­ing non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGO) in the place of al­ready ex­ist­ing gov­ern­men­tal and re­li­gious struc­tures to pro­mote peace through dia­logue. But to what ex­tent can we trust the in­ten­tions of these non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions? What then hap­pens to the or­ga­ni­za­tions that are put in place by Chris­tian and Mus­lim in­sti­tu­tions with the sup­port of gov­ern­ment? When Chris­tians and Mus­lims form a coun­cil with the in­ten­tion of pro­mot­ing peace­ful co-ex­is­tence, the ex­pected re­sult in the na­tion must be a se­ri­ous in­di­ca­tor that there is hope. If the del­e­gates and lead­ers of or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­mote peace­ful co-ex­is­tence are com­mit­ted to the aims and ob­jec­tives of the or­ga­ni­za­tions, then the world will turn a pos­i­tive look on the na­tion.

Those who should be the voice of the voice­less must not op­er­ate like a med­i­cal ex­pert who runs a pri­vate hos­pi­tal to the detri­ment of the gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tal where he is a consultant? It would be a se­ri­ous tragedy if a per­son who calls him­self a prophet be­gin to “cre­ate God in his own im­age” by form­ing pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions and min­istries only to make more money by de­ceiv­ing the peo­ple. The core value of religion is truth hence re­li­gious lead­ers and all ad­her­ents must take this mis­sion above ev­ery ma­te­rial gains. What­ever is in the dark would be brought to light even though the real in­ten­tions of hu­man op­er­a­tions are not writ­ten in the face. Nige­ria is like a mirror through which the ex­ter­nal world ac­cess the whole of Africa. The out­side world is say­ing a lot of neg­a­tive things about Nige­ria. We can­not al­low this to con­tinue hence the Chris­tians and Mus­lims must come to­gether to present to the world a Nige­ria that is dif­fer­ent from their neg­a­tive minds. This can hap­pen if only we can prac­tise the virtues of hon­esty, sin­cer­ity, frank­ness and trans­parency as en­shrined in the Holy Bi­ble and the Holy Qur’an. Religion could serve as a mirror that should re­flect the true re­al­ity of a na­tion. If Chris­tians and Mus­lims work to­gether in truth and sin­cer­ity to pro­mote peace, the name of God would be glo­ri­fied on earth. May we all be­come the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:14). May God use us to ad­dress the dis­tress in a world where no one is sure of to­mor­row be­cause of the daily threat to hu­man life.

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