Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fatalism, or Believing in Life as Its Own Justification and (Hopefully) Reward

No, I have not posted in a while. Because (1) I don't get paid for this and (2) no one reads this shit anyway. That said, a number of things here recently have gotten me thinking about life, death, and the usual. And, as I often do when I get to thinking about stuff like that, I went to one of my favorite passages from the bible, Ecclesiastes 9. I find it a remarkable expression of carpe diem from a book more usually concerned with eternity, heaven, and all that business. In some ways it is incredibly fatalistic ("a living dog is better than a dead lion"), but I find comfort in the fact that these sort of "what is all about" questions have haunted humans since the dawn of time, and ultimately the honest answer is, basically, "it's just life, dude." Life is its own justification. For the lucky ones, life is its own reward. And whatever happens after we die, we need to live this life like it's all we've got. This is more intuitively correct to me than some bullshit about how "God really wants us all to be happy, but we are not all happy because of free will, see, and there is like this inevitable by-product of free will, which is what we think of as evil, and we need to keep our eyes on Heaven, where it will all work out, and God could have made this world pain-free like Heaven but He did not because....well.... now that I think about it if He is all powerful and all good, it sure seems like He would have done it that way, and why the hell did He not?" On the other hand, "It's just life, dude" avoids the entire Problem of Evil altogether. Anyway, here it is:

Ecclesiastes 9

All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.

This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.

Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.


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