Living for later

If I don’t really know what to do now, I’d better do as much as I can. Will one day it all make sense? If I can’t seem to find my place, at least I’ll leave my mark. I hope I figure it out before it’s too late. 

If you are about to complete four decades of life, you are probably old enough to know how to do something. Professionally, I mean. You are over that phase of crunching numbers in cumbersome spreadsheets, and chances are that you have become smart enough as to lead your work duties with some level of autonomy. Having a tutoring boss does not make sense anymore.

However, unless you are a musical prodigy, a sportsperson or a model, you are still young to be a respected authority in any field. But you still have the energy to get there. And time. This next decade seems crucial. If you do not take full advantage of it, will you ever be able to make up for the lost time? You’d better keep moving full steam ahead. Will I make it to 50 with the same motivation? To 60? I hope so. Don’t know, though. Were it certainly motivation, would I be wondering about it all? Shall I take the risk?

Until I can decide, I devote myself as much as I can to whatever I’m doing now. I invest my time. I save whatever money I make and then in the future I see what to do. I work hard now so one day I have time. I’ll hit the gas now in order to use the breaks eventually. Perhaps the zenith of this feeling of “doing for later” is lived when we need to counterbalance it with the hope of leaving some form of legacy. I don’t really know what I want for me. Therefore, I dedicate my life to work so that the future becomes a better place. Noble?

Almost divine. However, what I have learned from “The Wisdom of the Myths”, by Luc Ferry, is that a good chunk of the Greek mythology serves to remind us that we are only humans, not gods. And any mortal that tries to be something else commits hubris. A “sin” that goes beyond what Christianity condemns as pride, as it also comprises a threat to cosmic balance. That balance in which life and death alternate, avoiding both the continual boredom of the eternal and the total chaos of the ephemeral.

Until I can decide, I devote myself as much as I can to whatever I’m doing now. I invest my time. I save whatever money I make and then in the future I see what to do. I work hard now so one day I have time.

Midas longed for a kind of power that would, in his eyes, make him infinitely wealthy. However, the capacity he eventually acquired created a problem way worse than his prosaic impossibility of feeding himself or relating to other people. Potentially, the king might put an end to life as we know it, as much as he would have time to transform into inanimate gold what would otherwise still breathe. Analogously, whoever tries to be as eternal as a god wants, in a way, to put death to an end – and, again, meddles with the cosmic balance. This person must thus be exemplary punished, so that no one ever forgets the importance of staying in their due place and accept the finitude of life. After his dying, Sisyphus kidnapped Thanatos, death itself, and hoodwinked Hades to be back to life and ended up as the archetype of an eternally meaningless life.

Sisyphus kidnapped Thanatos, death itself, and hoodwinked Hades to be back to life. Was it worth it?

Of course, punishments are devised only for those actions that are tempting in the absence of reprehension. The willingness for doing something and be recognized for such is human. Nevertheless, can we consider divine the yearning for immortality through work? It depends. If the human life is sacrificed for that, the answer should be yes. It would be inhuman, at least. Giving up finding your place in the world, where you live, in the words of Ferry himself, dense moments, for the sake of a future heritage? The punishment comes regardless of gods, metaphysics or the hereafter. It comes during life: anxiety, that discomfort that grows proportionally to the distance one takes from oneself.

But what about the heroes in the Greek mythology? Aren’t they mortals that earn eternity after becoming a myth? Yes. Nevertheless, the hero has not lived to become immortal; he is immortal because he knew how to live. That is the case of Ulysses: as Ferry emphasizes, his heroism did not stem particularly from the performance at the Trojan war. Instead, Ulysses is a hero mainly for his resistance to the temptations that might prevent him from returning to his homeland, Ithaca. Temptations that comprised eternal life, pure and simple: this is what Ulysses would get from Calypso had he decided to stay with her. Ulysses becomes immortal for having resisted the temptation of becoming immortal. That is the opposite of trying to obtain the eternal life for not knowing what to do with this current one we own now. It is the opposite of living for later.

But then again, why does anyone want to be immortal?

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