Wednesday, June 7, 2017

To what end?

In a recent episode of House of Cards (no spoilers, don't worry) we get to follow a group of Elites discussing their legacies. There are technological advances made through an app that logs facial expressions, records vocal nuances, and processes thought patterns suggesting that even after death it can recreate a version of the deceased. There's even mention of the classic Sci-Fi idea of cryogenic freezing for a potential future when we've conquered death and disease. I'm reminded of a Norm MacDonald bit where he talks about politicians who can't commit to abolishing death:
"That's why I can't get behind politicians, you know, because they're always like 'Our biggest problem today is unemployment!' And I'm like 'what about gettin' old and sick and dying???' And they usher me out the back way."
As of late I've been trying to watch my diet. That's an expression I'd have to explain to our beloved, "watch my diet." We have some friends who've adopted the Keto Diet, a high fat, low carb, low sugar diet, sort of a reincarnated version of Atkins with a slightly different focus. I heard from Gary Taubes on Waking Up with Sam Harris (I know, yes, another Waking Up reference) about how there is no true consensus in the science community about what exactly we should be eating, but through his investigative journalism he's found that sugar and carbs are arguably what has lead to the obesity epidemic in America and suggests avoiding excess of these. So, having put on a few more pounds since my metabolism finally slowed down and 'my legs are no longer hollow,' I'm watching my diet by cutting out some of these things, but to what end? To be some physically better version of myself? To feel better about the way I look? To feel like I might be staving off death a little longer?

I ask these because I'm often hit with waves of indifference about what role we serve as individuals here on the earth. I have friends who have a range of restrictions or expectations they put on themselves for varying reasons: Vegans, Straight-edgers, gym enthusiasts, power lifters, Paleo-dieters, runners, teetotalers, all to varying degrees of extremism. But if obesity, disease, mental illness, inclination toward addiction, or other such obvious obstacles are not already part of your biology, why abstain so severely? Why prepare so intensely? To what end? If death is completely unable to predict, why is it so crucial to live devoid of certain experiences? Why spend so much time working toward something so temporary as being in the 'best shape of my life?' Is this desire simply another form of brain chemistry satisfaction?

There are plenty of obvious answers as to why so many of us toil over how to treat our bodies. The first and most obvious is to maintain quality of life before death, oh, and also our innate need to flee the Reaper's sickle for as long as possible! (Hopefully you heard that in Norm's intonation.) Trust me, I know why. But I can't help but feel this is elementary logic. It's so integral to the way we treat our time here that questioning it seems futile. Of course there are plenty of other reasons not to partake in parts of our consumption-culture, most of them stem from beliefs. Beliefs have become more and more. . . complicated in my mind. Primarily because systems of belief force us to be at odds with those around us, especially if any sort of ideals slip into our belief systems. It's inescapable. One thing that therapy laid out pretty concretely for me is that I live in the world of 'should.' If everything taken in is filtered through a lens of what should be then experiences rarely measure up. So my goal is to aspire to be someone who takes everything at face value and allows the information received to be just that, new information. Should is an illusion. We can only champion what is, and maybe push what is to be slightly more compassionate today than it was yesterday. But there I go feeling inclined toward creating standards which may not be attainable.

We live our lives trying, like all others before us, to understand the world and our purpose here, influenced by innumerable stimuli, hoping to gain a little clarity into our nature and our nurture. Some of us damn near come out of the womb knowing what to do with ourselves, others of us live our entire lives devoid of that confidence. We live and die with our beliefs. Some of us will live long and prosperously with literally zero effort to do so. Others will die grueling deaths after toiling their entire lives to be free of this possibility. But since the end is nigh, I'm with Norm, we should get on solving that whole 'getting old and sick and dying' thing.

(Image stolen from here.)

(PS. ~ Other questions I can't escape: Is legacy only pondered by the power addicted or those who believe in an afterlife? What if we die and the only thing people have to say about us is that we believed in some things? What if our beliefs do nothing to create action? What if we believe we are to love our neighbor as ourselves but never learned how to love? Do beliefs become hollow if we're unable to create anything from them?)