Wednesday 7 January 2009

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

For tomorrow we die.

One day, you will die.

It seems to me that certainty of this fact lies behind so many of our attempts to establish moral frameworks over time.
And I think we have allowed this to warp our thinking.

Some cultural anthropologists have suggested that the belief in an afterlife, or reincarnation stems from observations that plants die in winter and seemingly reborn in spring. I don't know. Perhaps.

Either way, the idea of life after death in some sense seems to have formed a comfort to our ancestors as it still provides comfort for many today.
And culturally, it provided a useful service. The idea that everything ultimately is rewarded or punished. Life might SEEM unfair, but only because we didn't see the whole thing. So the pirates who raided your village, slaughtered all the males, took all the women and left didn't get away with it. They would be punished.

And the nice guy who everyone loved who died painfully of some horrific wasting condition, well, he got nice things in another life.
Work hard, GIVE to your world, get it back in another life.
Be a taker all your life, get the bill when you get judged.

Or there's the other version. That every life is a test. Do it right, come back next time as a Prince. Do it wrong, come back as a dung beetle.

And obviously, there is something very powerful about the effect these beliefs have on people. Every culture that has survived and flourished to become a component of today's world, has peddled some belief of this type. It works. Societies that have believed things like this worked. Ones that didn't, were weaker and failed.

It's depressing to think that a culture can only work and get people to actually contribute in a positive way by telling them not to bother with this life, it's just a test. The real life is one that in fact, they'll never have.

And actually, in a sense we have to ask ourselves, is it even moral?

Because one of it's most sinister legacies has been the idea that to be really virtuous, you abstain from any pleasure at all. That enjoying any pleasure at all in this life, is somehow sinful.
And this seems ingrained further than we realise. How many of us believe things like 'If the medicine tastes nasty, it works'.


We actually seem to believe at a deep level, that if something is fun, it is probably bad. We are conditioned to feel guilt about pleasure. As if we will pay in the next life.

In so many ways we seem to think things are wrong, merely because we enjoy them. Regardless of whether they cause harm. We actually seem to think that pleasure should be rationed. A society enjoying itself, is a society that is sinning.

This is ludicrous! If you die and you haven't had as much fun in your life as you possibly could, you've cheated yourself. Because wake up call, this is the only life you're ever going to have.

It's obviously good to have a society which thinks good deeds are rewarded. That putting in, is rewarded. And this afterlife myth was useful until we reached a point where we're all educated enough to see the ACTUAL reward. Put in, you get back. IN THIS LIFE. And no, there's no point thinking you'll 'get away with it' if you're a bastard, not because of the all seeing judge who can stick a toasting fork up your arse, but because though the rest of us MAY not see you, then again, we may. And things have a habit of coming round again.

So yes, there are many times when it pays not to just go with your uncontrolled instincts, but to defer gratification, for a richer result long term. Do as you would be done by.

But deny yourself for the sake of denying?

Enjoy THIS life.

It's the only one you'll ever have.


Anonymous said...

Here are some quotes for you:

"One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down everything except, a good reputation" - Oscar Wilde

"To err is human, but it feels divine" - Mae West

I am with you on this one. Life is too short to get all tangled up in guilt imposed by other people who are too busy dying.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely we should enjoy this life. I don't, however, think this means run wild according to our hedonistic instincts. I believe in a deeper spirituality and connection to things that a constant reckless party state cannot sustain. I think the godawful word bandied around is "mindful living." Being blotto and blitzed out on a constant high misses half the meaning of life, which is the balance that helps define what is good and what us not. I don't relish negative experiences, but I do not think life is full without them.

Anonymous said...

Some say it is the Ego that forces us to believe in the life after. And it might well be. Who knows? But THIS life, is the one that should currently concern us.

That's what God told me only the other night when he called round for some tea and a chat. Nice man. Needs a haircut.