This too shall pass!

These days, thinking about Nigeria and the enormity of the challenges facing the country can make a passionate person go crazy. Many things around us just don’t make sense. In the traditional media, stories of horror and unimaginable inhumanity rend the air. The social media is worse as everyone is ranting and fuming about something. It is a bedlam, a cacophony of “sounds and fury, signifying nothing.”

I belong to a WhatsApp group where a supposedly educated man complains, laments and criticises everyone and everything. I often wonder how he manages to sleep at night with all the bitterness and venom he pours into virtually everything under the sun in Nigeria. I always pity his lack of inner peace as he is at war with his world, which unfortunately he can’t change on WhatsApp.

But the truth of the matter is that education is meaningless if one does not apply oneself to wisdom. What is the essence of ranting, fuming, complaining, condemning, cursing and expressing negativity all the time? How do we attain inner peace even if the outer peace is elusive?

We invest a lot of negative energy both offline and online. Yet, what have we been able to harvest? Let’s give positive energy a trial and see the outcome, even if it will be at our individual levels. Worry and anxiety actually don’t give anything in return. They rather rob one of many other things.

An Indian guru once emphasised the need to analyse every situation that confronts us. There are always two issues involved in anything: we either can or cannot do something about it. If the situation is what we can do something about or change, the question is: why worry? Even if we cannot do anything about the situation, the question still remains the same: why worry? It is pointless worrying about things we can change and things we can’t change!

The worries of those who lived 100 or 200 years ago have paled into insignificance in our world. Our worries of today will also be buried with us when we die. It is therefore better to do the best we can without losing our inner peace to enjoy the short time we have in this life. For whether we like it or not, this, whatever it is, too shall pass. And it certainly will!

“This too shall pass” is rooted in the classical works of Persian poets, especially Attar of Nishapur. The poet recalled the story of a powerful king who assembled all the wise men in his kingdom so that they could create a ring that would be appropriate in all situations for him, with emphasis on making him happy whenever he felt sad.

After a lot of brainstorming, they gave him a ring on which “this too shall pass” was inscribed. This had the desired effect. However, even when he was happy, it was also a curse as it reminded him that his happiness too was temporary.

The profundity of this short story has made it to be retold by Edward Fitzgerald in 1852 where he narrated how a sultan requested a sentence that would ring true in good and bad times from King Solomon. Abraham Lincoln also recalled it in September 1859 telling us how an “Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to ever be in view…” Abraham Lincoln then added of the sentence, “this too shall pass”: “How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

Nigeria is “in the depths of affliction” on several frontiers. We thought hunger and armed robbery were the worst cases but we are all witnesses to how terrorism, ritual killing, kidnapping, suicide and others have all joined our woes. No one feels secure on our roads any longer.

While the security agencies are being charged to be more effective and efficient in securing life and property in Nigeria, it is only desirable for our mental health to wear the ring and be positive: “this too shall pass.”

As we struggle to keep hope alive that all shall be well, the ten practical actions offered by Barrie Davenport to find inner peace in a society like ours are helpful: a) have nothing unresolved; b) surrender and accept what is; c) take full responsibility for how you react to others; d) become aware and sensitive to feelings rather than ignoring them; e) tell the entire truth; f) know your higher self; g) unhinge from adrenalin; h) know what rattles your cage; i) step over nothing, even the small stuff; and j) prioritize peace ahead of performance.

This too shall pass.