Firmly grounded in the…

As other more astute and accomplished individuals have pointed out on their blogs, it seems that religious scenes and groups are more frequently populated by middle-aged and elderly folks. Sure — why not, right?

In angsty youth (and in angsty adulthood too, sometimes), many deride the religious for being fearful of the afterlife. But I think what is equally true is that people become fearful of the past as they age, athiests or not. If, supposing there is nothing after death, our life is all we did, why wouldn’t we want to reflect on living the best life possible? Errors are inevitable, but not necessary. If this life is all there is, well then what is the point of living a miserable nihilistic one? (Not to mention, only young people have the consistent energy to resist and deny feelings of remorse, regret, or guilt: denial leads to mental illness in older folks!)

The interesting thing is that this kind of thinking, where one questions the point of cruelty or despair when it has no purpose or punishment, actually leads toward a sense of compassionate martyrdom — later Greek philosophy and eventually Christianity.

However, basic ignorance does pervade all of this, for all concerned. The power of denial is undeniably strong with too many of us. And it’s a very fine line to cross at certain times in our lives between becoming total subconsciously self-loathing scumbags and people of integrity. Often it’s because we’re afraid of what we might lose: our family, our friends or social acceptance, our money or property, our rights, our anonymity, and so forth.

Compassionate acts are interesting, because in the wrong hands they easily become catalysts to vain behavior. I’ve had friends who did not believe in selfless charity (nor have I, at times in my life). In the early 20th century, after both World War I and World War II had ended, there were serious debates in the United States media and art communities over how best to honor fallen servicemen in the war effort. The big stand-off was between “Traditional Memorials” and “Living Memorials”. Traditional ones are like plaques and art pieces; living ones are like parks and dedicated buildings or facilities. The big debate commonly came down to which one better left a stoic message that all would respect and remember.

But who cares about that? A person who is proud of their legacy shouldn’t care about their personal data. Who cares if you are worshiped forever? None of this leads to anyone’s happiness or satisfaction. It is far better to leave something that improves the world (how exactly, I have no idea whatsoever). This is the preachy message Kurosawa’s film Ikiru is hammering into the viewer’s brain over it’s insanely long runtime.

Since everything fades from memory, and memory is such a transient and unreliable device (history is forgotten or unknown by most of the public, anyway), what does a concrete, identifiable legacy matter? That’s why I like the idea of gods of compassion, or virtuous people, or totally enlightened Buddhas and their badass retinues — everything such an individual would do would be selfless compassion. Not giving oneself up to others, but giving up the notion of one-self, individualism altogether — compassionate activity with no regard as to individuals whatsoever. A total generator of compassion.

Such generators do exist, but I suspect they are beyond identification and not worth discussing much more. And there are similar generators for every possible cosmic experience. So I don’t know if any particular experience “wins” or whatever, but if it’s a matter of looking back on one’s life in the future and being satisfied with how you lived it, it’s worth considering.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: