When we talk about life’s vicissitudes we are referring to the various difficulties we all face at different stages of our lives from the crib to the casket. Vicissitudes are changes in the circumstances and fortunes of life typically such that are not welcome and we wish we could avoid. They are the ups and downs of life. A failed business, a crashed marriage, a loss of election or a loved one, a building collapse, a betrayal by a trusted friend, a heartbreak, sickness, are just a few examples.
You cannot swim in a river without tasting its water whether fresh or brackish. You cannot traverse this earthly space and not experience the variety of its terrain. No human is born of a woman without water and blood. All of these are allegorical: The fresh and brackish water represent the sweet and sour sides of life respectively, the variety of the earth’s terrain symbolizes the ups and downs of life while the blood and water at birth signify the rough and fair weather ahead of us.
Vicissitudes come in different magnitude and dimensions and have varying impacts on the lives of people. Some come not in single spies but in double and they devastate their victims, become their Achilles heel making them vulnerable to lesser problems which finally bring their lives to near ruination. Some. Others come in the style of one offs giving their victims enough time to revive even if they have to come back in a different texture.
Vicissitudes are not indicative of a person’s character that is the good or evil he has done, they are just matters of fate. They are also necessary punctuation marks in the story of life and must be inserted when they must be inserted otherwise the story may become boring and uninspiring. If anyone alive tells you he has not experienced any vicissitudes tell him he has not been living but watching others live.
Some people have more or greater vicissitudes than others, some in quantity or magnitude and others in frequency or dimensions.
The biblical Job, for example, suffered losses of wealth, health and children in rapid succession and was greatly traumatized to the extent that his wife, out of exasperation, told him to curse God and die but Job, with a good measure of spirituality, understood the inescapability of life’s vicissitudes. However he was in error to have said both good and evil come from God, the truth is all the good we receive comes from God while all the evil comes from the devil. In the book of Job 2:10, “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips”.
In the face of vicissitudes our attitude should be like Job’s, we should receive them with equanimity without losing our integrity.
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 of the Holy Bible takes vicissitudes to another dimension. It sees them as immutable having been ordained with times and seasons of life at creation. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”. Can we break free from the vicissitudes of life? Yes, we can. Firstly we have to accept their reality and the fact that they must surely come and secondly we should receive them with patience and courage with the determination to subdue them and come out strong. Yes, strong is the word, we have to be strong to be able to break free.
Abraham Lincoln known today as one of the greatest presidents in the history of America trod a pathway strewn with diverse devastating vicissitudes to the White House. He was born into poverty, he was faced with serial defeats throughout his life. He lost eight different elections, he failed in business twice and suffered a nervous breakdown. But regardless of all these, with perseverance, doggedness and tenacity of purpose, he triumphed and broke free.
JK Rowling, the author of the most popular book franchise in history, the Harry Potter series, is another example of a person whose life was beset by series of nerve shattering vicissitudes and who never quit but rather, persevered until she turned her many misfortunes to a massive fortune. She lost her mother early, lost her job, her marriage collapsed too soon and she became a single mother. The first series of her book, her only hope of survival, was rejected by a dozen different publishers. At a time she even contemplated suicide, feeling like an epic failure at every level. But at the end of it all, with persistence, she broke free when she ultimately got her book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, published by Bloomsbury in June 1997.
The Harry Potter series has broken all available records after selling 450 million copies in 78 languages worldwide with eight blockbuster film adaptations which has brought her stupendous wealth. Vicissitudes are a part of life there is no escaping them and we are not meant to be vanquished by them, on the contrary, they are meant to be subdued and taken out of our way to success.
I have had my own fair share of life’s vicissitudes some of which have been daunting but through providence and perseverance I have been able to stay afloat sound, serene, safe and sane.
Written By: Pa Oluade Akinfemiwa