Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Eat, drink, and be merry (because tomorrow's kind of iffy)


Every once in a while I remember how improbable our existence is in this cold, dead universe. I suppose that mathematically, there has to be life somewhere else too, but who knows what it looks like or how far it's advanced. Not just that I exist, but that I'm alive now, and not at any point in the previous 200,000 years when we were clubbing each other with rocks and lived a short, nightmarish existence of insecurity, disease, and discomfort. Obviously, my unique combination of (mostly faulty) genes couldn't have existed at any point previous to this one, so it's a moot point, but these are the kind of things I think about when I have too much time on my hands.

I'm currently reading a history of the Punic Wars that I picked up at random in the local library while waiting for my wife. It's amazing that we know the names and stories of these people who lived more than two thousand years ago, but it can be depressing. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died fighting for a country that wasn't even theirs and was, in any case, doomed to be destroyed. What's the point for any of us? We're trapped on a rock that's fated to be reabsorbed into the sun and ultimately have its atoms strewn across the universe.

That sucks. The fact that I will die sooner rather than later sucks. Some people think that when you stop believing in God, you lose all inhibitions and decency, because there is no final reckoning looming over you. I disagree. I find that losing my faith in God has made me want to be happier and help others more, precisely because there is no balancing of the scales afterward, there is no divine justice.

You can't fight annihilation, because it's coming for all of us. The only thing we can do is make this improbable miracle of existence less painful and more enjoyable for everyone in the meantime. No trace of my existence will remain in a hundred years or so, but at least I had a chance to live.

10 comments:

NFlanders said...

So in other words, no, nothing happened at work today.

Ann said...

Dude, you need to read something light and fun. Anything by Garrison Keillor will do.

Anonymous said...

like Dean Martin said "My philosophy of life is 'Everybody should have fun'"

NFlanders said...

Ann- I know. I've got to stop listening to Depeche Mode on the way home from work. That and the full moon totally got me all depressed. (But I hate GK--with a burning passion.)

Anon-- Deano was on to something, I agree. Except for the alcoholism.

WendyP said...

Haha...I get all angsty and existential too. And then I eat chocolate and try to forget. I'm lucky I never developed a taste for alcohol.

Ann said...

Do you have any Flaming Lips you can listen to? I heard a couple of their songs the other day for the first time, and what great stuff! Fun and upbeat and good music.

Of course, there's always Bruce.

Hellmut said...

Hamilkar Barkas, now there is a cool name.

Life is still nasty. Death is still inevitable. Nonetheless, things are a lot better today than they were during the Punic.

I think a lot of Hannibal's southern Italian allies, like the Neapolitans, whose families were sold into slavery when Rome prevailed.

However imperfect, we had Nuremberg, which established the precedence that rulers might be held accountable for the way they conduct wars. We need to do a lot better but even as imperfect as it is, the consequences are already huge. Put it in historical perspective and it might become clear what I mean.

Life will remain nasty but there is a lot we can do at the margins.

As long as we remember that life is inevitably nasty, we won't fall victim to the utopia of some self-proclaimed philosopher king.

I wish I had remembered that before I went on a mission. I actually knew about the nastiness of the human condition but strangely I had exempted Mormon leaders from that rule.

In a sense, human limitations are the foundation of equality and freedom. So nasty isn't all that bad, especially when we embrace it and love each other anyways.

NFlanders said...

Wendy-- Considering how much chocolate I've eaten in the last month, it's probably a good thing that I haven't developed a taste for alcohol either. God help me if I ever get my hands on chocolate schnapps.

Ann-- I'm trying to think of something upbeat I have on my iPod. Ummmm. I apparently only have two tastes in music: morose and angry.

Hellmut-- Hamilcar, Hannibal, Himilco, Hasdrubal: these are all cool names. But I doubt I'll be able to convince Maude of that. Hasdrubal Flanders does have a nice ring to it.

I still can't get over how the Carthaginians crucified their own generals and regularly practiced infant sacrifice.

Anyway, I think you make some excellent points, especially about "human limitations are the foundation of equality and freedom." Putting people in positions of absolute power is always going to end badly.

cew-smoke said...

Wow, nihilism is making a big comeback. Who knew? ;)

I guess my belief in God is why I can look straight into the awful nothingness and never be swallowed by it.

I hate the concept that people sometimes apply to me that I try hard because I am afraid of the reckoning. I try hard because I know I will see the people around me again and I love them now and I'll love them when I embrace them warmly at our next meeting.

I hope it is alright that a believer left a comment. I'm not familiar with your blog and so I'm not sure who usually participates.

BTW, I promise to look you up in the next life and we'll grab a cold drink and then have a really good laugh about this whole crazy thing we call life.

NFlanders said...

Thanks for your comment, cew-smoke.

I welcome all points of view. You make a good point about not being motivated by fear of judgment but rather just kindness. (It's hard to remember, sometimes, what's it's like on the other side.) I think the only thing we disagree on is when the final whistle is.