People We Like
A Question of Profit and Loss
Kofi Takyi Asante
My name is so-and-so – John or Ama or Kweku or Ashaley or Iddrisu; in effect, I could be you! I entered the University years ago. What with that? Lectures, tutorials, libraries, discussions, seminars, fora, social events; I was all focused on what I wanted. Need I say, then, that I was a good student? With extra advantage though, for the ditty run:
I have the books
The ladies? They came left, right and centre. But me, No Sir! no time for such business now! Keep focused on your vision, man! (Good academic attitude, you’d say!)
I graduated with 1st Class Honours: Best Student of the Year, Most Accomplished Student; Best Student of this and that Department, etc… Upon my completion of National Service, over five scholarships awaited me, to study in any University of my choice, and the Universities, local and foreign, run over themselves chasing me. Excellence, more awards. Then PhD. Immediately I stepped out of the academic arena, a deluge of job appointments overwhelmed me.
And didn’t I distinguish myself at work! My colleagues (for I never call them subordinates), they praise me for my excellent interpersonal skills. I’ve gone on retirements and I’ve gone on retirements, but my services being so indispensable, I was always recalled. I’ve served on boards and panels, and chaired commissions. My profile is so vast it will fill a volume!
And to top it all, the joy of my heart, the prop of my life – my most beautiful wife. I never cease to admire her, to adore her, to idolise her. I won her love, and I count it as the greatest of my accomplishments. And isn’t she proud of me, her own illustrious husband! What unparalleled love we share! I always tell her it is an eternal love, that even death is not potent enough to part us. We have the most solid of marriages. I have two children by her – a boy and a girl – natures own reward for a marriage so perfect.
I’ve given my children the very best of childhood. My son and I have our hearts tied together in unsurpassed affection. In leisure times we go fishing on the Volta lake (not fisherman-style, no! we do it in my fine rowing boat with reels and rods; and only for the pleasure of it). And such times we’ve shared as we sailed serenely on the placid waters, under the azure sky; profound relationship between father and son! His response of love towards me is a natural flow.
When I went on my final retirement, at state banquet was hosted in my honour. The highest honour of the state was conferred on me. Men sang my appellations. To immortalise me, a statue of me stands in the national square.
Tonight, I lie on my bed, meditating. Mine has been a fulfilling life. My accomplishments are many and varied. The very words of my mouth are cherished and treasured. My birthday is a national holiday. Still lying, I continue savouring thoughts of my successes. I’ll live the rest of my life in peaceful bliss. I’m now eighty-two and my doctor (the best one that money and reputation could get me) had assured me just yesterday that I have enough years ahead of me to see my great-grandchildren.
And then, I feel a numbing cold steal over me, and I see looming before me Death, with a black hood over his head. He stares me in the eyes with deathly intensity. I stare back, hypnotised. But I seem to recover from my initial shock, for I feel an overpowering urge to ask Death out of my master bedroom! Maybe he’s not heard of me, the Living Legend. I took back to view once more with relish my accomplishments. I see nothing. Only darkness. I quickly turn back, and Death still stares me in the eye. Only now his features are faint, with blurred edges. I look around, but I see nothing. Death’s image is now almost completely gone, but what remains of his eyes still have the steel in them. I look around again. Nothing. Darkness now engulfs me. I’m alarmed! Am I blind? What’s happening?
We were both lying in bed. But no response from her. I call again.
No response. She, my wife, my mainstay; she who had always kept by my side; she, I say, at this moment of my need, is beyond my call. Then suddenly, like a flash of lightening, it dawns on me: I AM DEAD!
I stand in total darkness, yet capable of seeing anything that could be seen. I start having a faint perception, which increases gradually and steadily into a profound awareness of the Presence. I cannot point to where the Presence is; maybe everywhere. I consider myself, naked, disembodied, before this awesome Presence. His regard on me has a calmness which is terrible, and my alarm heightens. A second realisation dawns on me: I AM FACING JUDGMENT; yet somehow I seem to know that this is not the end of it.
Am I being questioned by the Presence? Yet it seems to spring from deep within me, rising and sweeping me over, until I am quaking: It is a command! I’m required to give account of the life I led. I feel puzzled, perplexed, then a sudden desperation seizes me and I could have burst out ferociously: ‘I did the best that I could, the very best that I could. Indeed, what most people never could have done; I was a legend even in my life-time!’
I turned back with a longing glance; will my works come back to reassure me? I am disappointed, devastated – I see only darkness; I see my only defense vanish before my eyes. The terror which seizes me is like nothing I ever have experienced or heard of.
Here I stand, with no support, no prop, nothing to stand upon or to lean against, my accomplishments now gone, all worthless! And in this condition to give account to my Maker, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and all that in them is, the ever-great I AM.
In the distance I can discern, quite distinctly, an ancient bloodstained cross. I had encountered the cross and its message during my lifetime. But I was too busy; and when I had time enough, I insisted I was not too bad to need grace. And now, in the vastness of eternity, when nothing else matters, when there is none to hold on to or to support, here it is, damning me.
Then a voice, a still small voice, rises in the distance. It floats, unhurried, undeterred; it floats towards me. It rings right through my ears. It says and I hear:
What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain
Kofi Takyi Asante
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