Be careful. This post may make you ponder, and may make you sad. So, if you are the hide-your-head-in-the-sand, wish-all-troubles-would-just-go-away, happy-go-lucky type, this might upset you. So you might as well click away from here and move on to other matters. No hard feelings at all from me.
Otherwise, let’s have a mental and emotional roller coaster ride together! Hooray!
Why do we even bother?
Everybody will die one day. Right? The president, the pauper, the pope, the peasant, the fit, the unfit, the slim and sleek, the obese and flabby, the young, the old, the sick, the healthy, the rich, the poor, the hardworking, the lazy, the landlord, the tenant, the terrorist, the terrorized, the wise the foolish…you can keep the list going.
So, why then do we even bother? Why do we care? As in, what’s the point in your efforts, struggles, sacrifices, diligence, so on? The billionaire might live in a hundred million dollar mansion, fly his private jet, and soar on his yatch, yet perish at a mere 60 years of age; while the broke, busted, and disgusted single dad that barely manages to eck out a living from his factory work lives to a ‘ripe’ old age of 95. Who got the better deal? A brief but fun-filled adventurous life? Or a long and sun scorched existence? And does it really matter at the end of the day when both are nothing but dust-destined rotting carcasses, 6 feet below the earth’s surface?
Look at the sixty some year old man running, jogging, swinging, twisting, fasting, fruiting, supplementing, face-lifting, weight lifting, yoga-ing, meditating, and so on…What for? 30 to 40 years more and it’s all over; so what’s the point? Why all the pain, stress, agony, and striving? At the end of the day, your body will meet the same rotten end as that of the obese and disease laden guy. Add it up, and you begin to ask, where’s the real gain?
Yes, where’s the real gain?
Are there any advantages (not as far as we are concerned; but rather as far as both of them are concerned;) in being a Mahatma Ghandhi — you know, a so-called great man — over being just another head in the ocean of humanity? And why should I care? Both of them are dead, and their bodies completely turned to ashes by the forces of decay and rottenness. If it was just a matter of their flesh and bones, and as such no consciousness beyond the grave, then I don’t see how one ultimately differs from the other. In this sense, both are nothing but mere dust.
I mean, since everyone is still going to die after all, what does an individual ultimately gain from giving up comfort, pleasures and life? Think about this: some guy right now is sacrificing himself and benefits, because he wants to leave a legacy. Really? Who cares? I mean, you’re gone; so how in the world would you know whether or not anyone remembers you? And even so, what does it matter; what’s the benefit of that ‘legacy’ to you after you are gone? I don’t know about you, but I’m very much interested in what I stand to gain from my sacrifices and denials in this life. And I know I’m in Good company:
“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel?”
~ David trying to cut a great deal with Saul, before slaying Goliath in 1 Samuel, 17:26-27
“We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
~ Peter, speaking up for Jesus’ disciples in Matthew 19:27
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
~ Paul in Philippians 3:14
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going…FOR he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God.”
~ Regarding Abraham in Hebrews 11:8-10
“He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, BECAUSE he was looking ahead to his reward.”
~ Regarding Moses in Hebrews 11:24-26
And, finally, my Ultimate Model Himself:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
~ Regarding Jesus Christ in Hebrews 12:2.
[Nothing bad at all with enduring the cross, and scorning its shame, if I ultimately get to sit down at the right hand of the throne of God, possessing the name above all names! Not a bad deal at all.]
God doesn’t cut bad deals; and wise men don’t fight unprofitable battles. So, if you are so selfless, and don’t care whether or not there is anything in it for you, good for you, saint. As for me, I want to know what’s in it for me! Otherwise, what’s the point?
Here or hereafter?
Life is such a matter of efforts, learning, striving, diligence, running, sacrifices, and the likes; and I ask, if everyone ultimately ends up as an insignificant heap of dust in some grave, why deny yourself all the fun and happiness you could have here and now? Why bother at all?
Why not at least gorge myself daily with mountains of chocolate, muffin, meat and wine, and whatever appeals to my taste. Call me a glutton if you like, but what do I lose? After all, wouldn’t my flesh still end up in the same rotten grave pit as the most austere and astringent raw vegan yoga practitioner?
What am saying is this, if it all ends in the grave, why not have all the fun here, while you can, and get it all over with?
Who am I to judge?
Now, if you think in terms of the value of the lives of those who are already gone, to those who are still here, then, of course, Mahatma Ghandi’s efforts and sacrifices become more relevant and valuable to the Indian nation, than the life of my maternal grandfather’s second wife. In that case, Albert Einsteins personal discipline, and commitments matter more to the modern global society, than that of some fowler that lived 250 years ago in a remote Amazon jungle.
Maybe, in terms of a freer, more convenient physical environment , some people’s sacrifices and denials do matter more to the living, than that of others.
So they lived for us then? Is that it?
And does it then mean that, ultimately, my life matters more to others who come after me, than it does to me? Like, I’m supposed to strive to leave this world better than I found it, for some only-God-knows-who that is probably yet to be born? For others who are to come behind; probably, at least for my descendants?
And why should I care? What’s in it ultimately for me then? So some lifeless gigantic effigy of my form — that people most probably are too busy to even look at — could be mounted in some traffic roundabout for the amusement of idle tourists?
For all I care, I might as well ‘eat and drink for tomorrow I die.’ And the way things appear to me, this might as well be the philosophy of many here today that look quite happy; making the most of each day; knowing that it all ends in the grave. This is a choice; and, who am I to judge them? To these, I urge on in their merriment: eat and drink, “for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” ~ Ecclesiastes 9:10
But then, what of those who irrationally and inexplicably care for present and future others? What of those who are not able to think that it’s all about them? These ‘fools’; these ‘stupid ones’ that only suffer for nothing; these ‘idiots’ who could have had a better life, but throw it all away for wretched and ungrateful others? What if this too is their choice? What if it’s just who they are? What if they just can’t help it? What if it gives them some sort of joy, and fulfillment; some sort of meaning to their lives? Maybe, I shouldn’t call them foolish. Maybe I should stop judging them , respect their choices, and accept them.
And in that case, shouldn’t these later ones also accept the former group, and not try to vilify them for their choices? Shouldn’t they refrain from trying to impose their choices and preferences on the others, through guilt, fear, and manipulations?
Two sides of the same coin?
Now I ask, probably my most important question here: to which group do I belong?
Maybe , the first group. Do I really care for anything or anyone other than myself? Do I really care for any time other than now?
But then, I wonder: How do we care for others except through caring for ourselves? And how do we care for ourselves except through caring for others? What if the first and second groups are just the same, only that they are two sides of the same coin, and definitely not so conscious of it?
Could it be that the man who only cares for his own happiness and pursues it, makes the world a happier place without knowing nor intending it? That the man who is only driven to amass wealth and be happy, ends up creating wealth that is shared by all, including his enemies; creates jobs for others, and advances civilization through commercial products, without intending to? Thus, by only caring for himself, he cares and provides for all?
And conversely, could it be that the one that consciously and piously sacrifices her pleasures to put a smile on the face of others, finds something she never intended: inner joy, happiness, meaning, and fulfillment? That at the end of the day, she purifies herself, and discovers herself? And thus, by caring for others, she cares and eternally provides for herself?
So, what’s the difference between the two? And does it really matter at the end of the day? Maybe, only the One that set it all up knows what is really going on, and what this is all about. Seems to me that in the end, it all boils down to how you think, how you believe, what you believe, and what you choose. Who knows?
A lot of questions, huh?
Have a blissful week.