It comes down to this: Every second we live is a second closer to death. Most of us prefer to not think about it since it doesn’t seem healthy to dwell on our approaching demise. There are a few rare (thankfully) individuals who focus on death, sometimes to the extreme of choosing to commit murder or suicide or both. But most of us live our lives in the now. No one knows when they’re going to die, which allows us to make some terrible choices since we think we’re going to survive the consequences of our foolishness. Youth makes us immortal, we erroneously think.
All religions focus on death, or really the afterlife. It seems inconceivable to us that we won’t survive in some fashion, be it Heaven, Nirvana, or merging with the Cosmic Flow. To think of the earth as a staging area or a practice arena for what comes next helps many of us to find meaning in our lives. Other people choose to hedonistically live for the pleasure now. “You only get one life; live it to the fullest.” A slogan that seems to be particularly popular for selling beer and sport cars.
Time overwhelms us. If you think about all those nameless people who went before us and all those who will follow us, you can feel lost in the multitudes. Few of us will achieve the fame to be remembered 100 years from now – not that such remembrance could factor into our lives now because we won’t know if we will be remembered or what we will be remembered for. The vast majority of us will not be remembered here.
You have to shy away from such knowledge, you know. You can’t live your life with eternity peering over your shoulder. The responsibility of living for the future can drain away your joy now. There is a balance we should seek between now and eternity, between pleasure and responsibility, and between us and other people. “Moderation in all things,” to quote a very wise man.
Balance. There’s the rub. How to gain it. How to keep it. How to be an adult in a world that celebrates bad behavior. We’re not a society that appreciates good behavior. Bad behavior will get you on a so-called reality show. Bad behavior will get your name in the tabloids. People will know you if you have more money than sense, cheat on your lover, steal money from friends, curse to shame a sailor, and perform other egregious actions. It helps if you can blame your actions on a substance abuse problem. That way you can go into detox, and the stories you’ll tell and will be told about you! You won’t be happy, but you’ll be busy with yourself, and isn’t that what life is all about? If you kill yourself later on, well, that’s sad, but you might even get songs written about you and at least one made-for-TV movie on one of the thousands of cable channels.
But we’re made for so much more. We can be a light to our friends. We can be kind to our enemies. We can leave the world a better place than we found it. We can be adult and reasonable and sane and right. Not because there will be a reward for it down here – because there probably won’t be – but because it’s the right thing to do. When we humans finally do the right thing because it’s right and not because we’re rewarded for such, then we will have finally at long last grown up.
I hope it’s soon. Don't you?
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