Musts and mays in man’s existence

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Akin ATOLUGBOKUN
The words must and may are auxiliary to the main verb of a sentence. Auxiliary in the sense that they give direction to the mode by which the deed in the main verb would be carried out. For example: in these sentences – 1. You must go and 2. You may go. Must and may are modal verbs giving the mode by which “go” would be carried out. “Must’ before go means you don’t have option than to go, it is necessarily compulsory to go, no compromise, no choice. On the other hand, ‘may’ before ‘go’ is suggesting choice, no compulsion, you either go or not. “Must” is rigid while “may” is flexible. Don’t think I want to teach grammar in this treatise – teaching is one of my areas of incompetence – rather I am drawing out the different implications in the usage of “must” and “may.” The import of such knowledge would manifest in the succeeding write-up.
If a question on the purpose of creating man on earth is asked, a lot of diverse answers would be offered depending on the mindset of the person proffering. A religiously inclined mind would say ‘man is created to worship the Almighty God on earth.’ A procreationist would say ‘man is created on earth to procreate, to multiply in number and flourish on the surface of the earth.’ An esoterist would say ‘man is on earth, reincarnated to either suffer the punishment for his wrong deeds in his former life or if he had been righteous in his earlier life, he is here to proceed on his journey back to his maker, the Supreme Being.’ People with this line of thought believe that man’s soul originated cleanly from the Supreme Being and cleanly must it return to its maker. In answer to the question under consideration, a moralist would say ‘man is on earth to propagate good behaviour.’ A moralist is not necessarily a religious person, he or she only believes in doing good and being benevolent to others. An evolutionist would posit that ‘man is on earth to continue the process of evolution;’ they maintain that the early man was apelike in posture. Who knows what man would look like in the next five thousand (5,000) years – probably with broader and more protruding forehead, deeply set eye balls with long narrow chin! Yet another school of thought would round it all up and summarily offer that man is on earth to mainly eat, grow and die! This is true of all living organisms; be it man, animal, bird, fish, insect or plant. They all MUST eat, MUST grow physically and MUST die! Please note the musts in these aspects. Every man has to eat, be he lazy or hardworking – only the lazy has to make do with whatever comes his way. All man’s “kirakita” is to put food on his table. The more affluent you are, the more the quality and quantity of food on your table. All the “kirakita” of man is just a way of finding easier ways of feeding! A lazy man would scavenge; a poor man would toil days and nights; a fraudulent person would go out swindling others; a prostitute would sell her body; haven’t you seen some people at social parties collecting left-over into poly bags? A wealthy man would however order for what his palate desires. The common factor in the categories is food – man must eat, forget about fasting, he cannot fast all the days of his life. So, must a man grow: from baby in the cradle to kindergarten, to teenager, to youth, to adult, and to old age. The rate by which a man grows depends on the quality and quantity of food he feeds on. Thereafter comes the grand finale – death. Every man must die. The way he dies or the place where he dies is not the concern of this treatise. This order of facts is true of all other living organisms. Food, growth and death are “musts” for man on this earth – he has no choice, no alternative, no compromise, no avoidance, he just must feed, grow and drop dead one day. Can it be then concluded that man’s purposes on earth are just to feed, grow and die?
All other proffered answers to the purposes of man on earth are subject to “MAY” in contrast to the three reasons just treated. Whereas man ought to worship God, (ought is another modal verb, that advises on what is reasonable to do), it is not under must. Man has a choice – either to worship God or not. The lord God Himself gives room for choice to be made as regards obeying and worshipping Him! In the Garden of Eden, God must have warned Adam and Eve: “this fruit you can eat, this one you cannot eat,” a sort of giving chance for choice. Unfortunately for mankind, the first couple chose to disobey God. God in His mercy would not leave man to suffer. So, He gave them laws vide Prophet Moses. The arc of the laws warned man not to worship other gods beside Him. That command indicates that there were other lesser gods from the list of which man can make a choice of worship. God again in His magnanimity gave His only begotten son “that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”. The statement did not say “that everyone must believe in Him in order to have everlasting life”. The word “whosoever” refers to only those who wish to believe Him – a sort of choice making! God did not make worshipping Him a matter of compulsion but He would be angry with those who do not do His will. The portion of the scripture where it is recorded that “God regretted creating mankind” always agitates my mind. The word ‘regret’ is used to describe the sadness one has after a step he had taken resulted into failure. He took the decision hoping for good to come out of it but unfortunately the result was bad. He/she would certainly say: ‘had I known, I wouldn’t have taken such step.’ God is not like man that can regret because He is omniscient; He knows everything before it exists, when it exists and when it ceases to exist. God knows everyman before getting to the womb, knows his/her ways in life and where he/she would end up hereafter. The Lord God is unfathomably beyond regretting. He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Perhaps the meaning of the original word used in the first manuscript has got lost due to series of translations from one language to another. No, God cannot regret His deeds. With love He created mankind and intently gave them liberty to worship Him or not. On a lighter mood, if God had not given room for worshipping Him, the Kingdom of Heaven would be over-populated with nobody to occupy the hell! So, let everyone choose where he/she wants to spend his/her eternity. Look at the world now; how many people are truly worshipping the Almighty?
It is also mentioned that man is on earth to procreate. This too is not under must; there is no compulsion about it. Some are naturally barren, some are barren through self infliction, some have decided not to have anything doing with child bearing and rearing, poor health prevents some to procreate, some prefer to celibate because of their religious belief etc. Man is at liberty to choose between having offspring or not. The Lord God is not bothered.
For man to do good or bad on earth is also subject to “may.” One may choose to be benevolent or wicked to another. One’s choice is leading him/her to the inevitable Karmic Law of cause and effect. If you are of the opinion that man is on this earth to sweat it out before he/she can feed, it may not be enough reason. Look out there to find so many who make wealth while lounging in their sitting rooms vide global network services. Haven’t you heard of baboons that are laboring days and nights for mischievous monkeys to feed upon? Even if man is on this earth to evolve or on transit, as evolutionists and esoterists have proffered, what has been the deeds of man while he sojourns on this terrestrial.
The above oracle is divining for mankind that they would not be judged by their deeds that are subject to ‘must’, man would not be judged by the quality or quantity of food by which he fed himself; neither would he be judged by his rate of physical growth or by how long or short he lived before his demise. He would rather be judged by his deeds under “may”. All what he chose to do would witness for or against him “ni ojo agbende alikiama”. What good things you may do or ought to do but you did not do, what bad things you may not do or ought not do but you chose to do – all these would be the parameter by which you would be judged. Even if you are the type who do not believe in “alikiama” or life hereafter, your deeds are subject to “mays” and “oughts” and would live after you: they won’t be interred with you and they would have effects, either positive or negative on your descendants forever.
At Christian wake-keep or Firdau prayer ceremonies, people tend to talk good of the dead, avoiding their bad sides while giving testimonies based on the belief that it is not good to talk bad about somebody who had died. However the world is rapidly changing; the social media is affording the chance to hammer nails on the head of a dead person – negatively or positively. When such postings truly reveal the bad side of the deceased, it is natural for his/her close relatives and friends to defend their late person by describing the true bad deeds as character assassination! The defence is natural even though these relatives know quite well that the comments are true of their late ones; after all, all fathers are the only father in a million on Fathers’ Day irrespective of whether he is of a wicked or callous mind, a rogue, an embezzler, a pathogenic liar, a fraudster, a murderer, a rapist etc. In the same vein, on Mother’s Day, all mothers are “sweet mothers” be she a treacherous Jezebel, a prostitute, a cheat, an adulterer, a witch, a nagging mother, a tale bearer, busy body or what have you.

Food for thought: A pastor received a gift of a new car for a successful hearts surgery performed on charity by a medical doctor! I beg, who dey work? Who dey chop?

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