Which is More Important in Life: Meaning or Experience? Living for the Present, or the Future…

‘Living in the Moment’ is the big mantra of our modern age—and it shows. Almost nothing is being left for the future, certainly not responsibility and sustainability. With all due respect to those visionaries of bygone times who honestly felt that we needed to loosen our butt-screws and learn to boogie, fretting our guitars rather than fretting over the future, I respectfully suggest that maybe that train of thought long ago left the station, and maybe needs to backtrack a bit…

I’d respect my hero Joseph Campbell less if he hadn’t himself backtracked on his own famous dictum to “follow your bliss,” which he later amended off-the-cuff to “blisters”—sounds less hedonistic. Still the die is cast. We are a nation and world society that follows its whims like no other before, all the while marching off the cliff of non-sustainability, the capitalist foundations of this society heavily based on oil and other fossil fuels that will one day run out, and destroy the planet, long before its people will give it up, most likely…

To put it bluntly, we’re committing societal suicide, or let’s call it “civilicide”. And that’s the global level. On a personal level we’re doing no better, sacrificing all for the moment, rather than plan for a future that may or may not come. Sounds like self-defeating prophecy to me. I think I realized this while myself writing an article for inclusion in a book about ‘following your passion.” But most of my friends—artists, musicians, writers and such—don’t need to follow their passions. They need jobs!  I don’t need 150 more countries; I need focus!  Nevertheless, in the course of that project I came up with a concept that I like even better–highest common denominators.  More on that later…

With Chapter by Hardie Karges

Coming out of the tight-assed Victorian Age, the almost-too-mechanical Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, a return to some live-for-the-moment bliss was no doubt a good idea. And we succeeded at it—wildly. Anybody who survived the 60’s knows that. But that was then; this is now. We didn’t get to the top of the historical heap by living like the birds in the sky or the fishes in the sea who “do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns;” no, that’s exactly what we did (as so do birds, truth be told).

Frankly I think that anyone spouting the mantras of “bliss” and “passion” in 2015 is in serious danger of missing the boat, the boat to the future. It’ll take all our wits to survive, and then some, and the humility to seek help wherever we can find it. Pride goes before a fall, just like the Vikings in Greenland who perished after hundreds of years, rather than adapt in the way of their northern Inuit neighbors. That just isn’t (racist) European. I guess death is?

Living in the moment” is very over-rated, too, in my humble opinion, and if carried to its logical conclusion, could be disastrous. Condom? Meh? Why bother? I’ve got even odds. Heroin? Sure, why not? Malaria zone? Meh. I’ve got window screens. On a more generalized level, what is the savings rate in the US these days? Social Security is the sole retirement plan for many, if not most, Americans. That would be hilarious, if it weren’t so tragic.  Bliss may be good Hinduism, but it’s not the Buddhist middle path, my path…

Bottom line: ‘living in the moment’ is a luxury and ultimately a little white lie, that somehow the refrigerator will always be at least half-empty, even if we’re pessimists, and more than that if we’re optimists; and it possibly even signals the inevitable decline of any given society: Rome before the fall, last cabaret in Berlin, etc.  There are plenty of people in this world who will not be able to feed their families if they don’t plan a day or two ahead, the more the better as a general rule.  Should they ‘live in the moment?’

And should we Americans and other Westerners flaunt our wealth by pretending that it’s so easy? I don’t think so. “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” I think I’ll keep my day job, just in case (frankly I think the present sux, anyway, cities and their people getting nastier by the day. I love nature, and I love the future, pure mathematical probability–or not). At least we can all agree that living in the past is no good…

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