What is Human life?
Human life could be viewed in two senses. The first is life as given to man by God which makes him to become a living being and the second is the life led by man on earth. In this essay, we shall discuss the purpose of human life in relation to the life led as a living being. Essentially, without man, we cannot talk of either life or the purpose of human life. Therefore a discussion of that entity called man is very necessary.
Man is a creature of God who responds either positively or negatively to his creator. As far as the origin of man is concerned, there are different traditions which are either biblical or non-biblical. These traditions point to a common fact that God created man from existing and non-existing materials and that he is the most important of all the creatures of God. This is because he is superior to them and by his being endowed with reason, discrimination and language, he gives them names. The dignity of man over other creatures is affirmed in the statement that ‘he is made in the image and likeness of God” (Gen.1:26-27).
Naturally, man is the most difficult being to know and understand. This is partly because of the dichotomy of his composition and partly because of the inability to determine his behaviours in a given situation. This accounted for the various conceptions of the nature of man. For example, in the old testament, the psychological and physiological conceptions of the nature of man is very different from that of the Greeks. Man is not considered as an immortal soul temporarily inhabiting the temporal body but rather as a body – soul unity. It is only the Greeks that separate the body and the spirit on the assumption that matter is evil. According to ancient Hebrew belief, man is a product of the spirit  the principle of life, and the body that the spirit animates. The spirit is closely connected with blood and excessive loss of blood can lead to death. At death, man ceases to be in any real sense of personality, but a shade remains which is neither body nor soul. Thus either separated or not, man is composed of the body which is the physical and visible part and the invisible part called the spirit. It is through the body that man comes into contact with the material world and as such it is the part which gives him consciousness . Just as the condition of the body could be improved through nourishment and good care, the spiritual part could also be developed. Functionally, both complement each other and whatever affected one affected the other. Closely associated with the physical body is the shadow, the constant companion of the body during man’s life time.
Value of life
In view of the premium placed on human life by all notable religions of the world and particularly, the three major religions in Nigeria – Christianity, Islam and Nigerian Indigenous religion – no one is empowered to take human life. Instead, it should be preserved under every circumstance. According to Ototiti Nduka, “the whole tone of the philosophy of most African people is life affirming”! This is partly because everyone contributes in one way or the other to the unity and well being of the society and partly because life belongs to God, the creator. It is therefore totally forbidden to take another’s life. For instance, in the Genesis story of Cain and Abel, in spite of the fact that Cain killed his brother Abel, no one was authorized to kill him (Gen. 4:8 & 15). Anyone who took life has committed murder. This is a sin resulting from the violation of the sixth commandment. God is the custodian of human life in as much as he lived his course of life.
Course of a man’s life
The course of a man’s life is cyclically patterned and it is permeated by religion. This is evidenced in the events that marked the passage from one stage of the cycle to the other. The cycle is composed of Birth, Youthful stage, Adulthood and Death. With the exception of untimely death which may be caused by several factors, a man has to undergo each of the stages as he lives his life. Every stage is full of activities and functions that help in describing when a man has led a purposeful life or not.
The birth of a child is a process which begins long before the child is born and continues thereafter. The foundation for the birth of a child is laid by two opposite sexes – the male and the female. During pregnancy, the woman has to undergo certain rituals and observe certain precautions in order to ensure safe delivery. If a traditionalist, she wears protective amulets and observes certain taboos particularly relating to food. She even receives medical care from a herbalist and she is protected spiritually by the family god. As soon as the child is born, the navel is cut and buried ritually. The rites vary but there is the belief that if the navel is separated from where the child lives, he may grow up to become a tenant.
The eighth day after birth seems to be an acceptable day to almost all adherents of the various religions as the day of naming a child. This is done by putting certain things into consideration amidst merry making. The materials for naming vary from place to place and they are symbolically religious. With the passage of time, the child outgrows the youthful stage into the adulthood stage. Rites are performed to initiate the youth into this stage. The rites which vary from one locality to the other are meant to introduce him into a matured life. They now have the right to carry out certain actions which he could not perform formerly. Among others, he learns how to endure hardships, to be sociable and probably he taught the secrets of the society. (Readers are to find out what operates in their locality). Furthermore, the puberty rites could also be seen to have a great educational purpose because it marks the beginning of acquiring such knowledge which is otherwise not accessible to those who have not passed through the stage.
The Adulthood State
This stage is full of events of importance in the life of a man. A noticeable event for the continuity of life is marriage. This is a socially religious affair rather than private because it seeks to unite families as well as individuals. It is a divine institution into which certain activities have been introduced in order to have a firm grip. It involves introduction, engagement and the wedding ceremony proper Both legal and religious elements are involved in marriage.  The marriage is between two families who may be of different or similar cultures and religion. The success of such a union depends to a large extent on tolerance, understanding and above all love. If any marriage is based on genuine love which the Greek version of the New Testament termed agape (Eph. 5:5), the possibility of the couple being separated for any reason at all is very remote While in support of the above assertion, Slater and Woodside further suggested that for any marriage to survive, other factors namely child – procreation, sexual satisfaction and companionship must be associated with it Towards the end of the adulthood stage is an inescapable, universal and unpredictable event called Death. It is part of the cycle of a man’s life. The ideal thing is for a man to die at a ripe old age. But there had been occasions when young people die prematurely. Such deaths are described by their nature and are often attributed to occult causes and forces of man’s excesses
The description of human life could he identified by the type of life led within the span of his life. Such descriptions are always in line with the purpose for which a man is created and what he desires for his well-being There are both biblical and non-biblical traditions which mention the purpose of human life From the biblical point of view, the statement in Genesis I verse 28 clearly sets out the purposes of human life.
The text reads –
Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.
This divine blessing upon man at creation shows the functions to be performed. These are procreation and the exercise of the power of dominion over creatures. While the former ensures continuity of life, the latter guarantees proper administration in terms of relationship. A good human relationship is one of the things which give meaning and satisfaction to life.
As far as the non biblical tradition is concerned, the purpose of the life of a man or what he comes to the world to do or accomplish has been assigned to him. This is why Akin Omoyaajomo has said that man is not the master of his own fate? The success or failure of a man in life depends  on the personality – soul and its quality as derived from the creator. A close examination of all the traditions show that the Supreme Being determines a man’s life in the world before he is born. This is a pre-determined life tied up with the concept of destiny. It is based on the principle – what had been written had been written. As different individuals, there are variations in the lives of men. An empirical -survey of the lives of man reveal that while some are prosperous, comfortable and live long, others are poor, uncomfortable and live long as well. Since we all desire to live a good and purposeful life, those in the latter category will not hesitate to ask whether that is the purpose of life for them or whether theirs is a good life?.
The good life
Aristotle, a philosopher accepts the general definition that the good life is that of happiness and well-being. In this connection, happiness means many things Ia different people. Some take it for pleasure, some take it for honour and some others regard it as wealth while intellectuals and philosophers would say that happiness is the life of contemplation. It seems as if what constitutes happiness is relative. Basically and from religious point of view, happiness which everybody aims at should be something that cannot be taken away from us. Therefore good life or the purposeful life must possess two important things.
(a) the finite, that is, it must be an end in itself;
(b) it must be self sufficient, This is something which by itself makes
life worthy of being chosen.
If these things are accepted, then the purposes of human life, namely happiness and well-being, which are good in themselves, satisfy the above requirements. Any failure to achieve them due to one reason or the other often leads to complaints, frustration and consequently an untimely death. At this point the application and exhibition of faith and hope as enjoined by religion will be very appropriate. Here religion can he seen as a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggle with the ultimate problems of human life; the refusal to capitulate to death; to give up in the face of frustration and to allow hostility to tear apart one’s human association. This definition is based on the heuristic device of functionalism by which religion is conceived to mean the adjective mechanism for dealing with the frustrating and disappointing situations in the life of human beings.

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