If you are dead set on living a life devoted to the philosophy of, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die,” there is nothing I can do to help you. Feel free to stop reading now. If you are suffering from the consequences of overeating, a hangover, and are feeling nauseous from being too merry on the merry-go-round of life, keep reading, we might have something for you to consider. If you are not one of the people described, you might want to consider continuing to read for some moral support.
Throughout my life, people have been made available when I have been ready to learn. They have also been made available to laugh and scorn when I needed my butt-kicked and to provide remedial behavioral therapy when I have gotten way off the beaten track. For which I am eternally grateful! One of the first of these people, who made a significant impact in my development for the good, I might add, was Miss Murphy. A school principal, who left the nunnery to help save children, she did a phenomenal job. She also gave me the worst chewing out I ever got, the most brutal punishment I have ever had to take, the best compliment I had gotten to that date, and made me feel like a million dollars, all at the same time. I left her office thoroughly convinced I was never going to do, whatever I did, again.
Years later, when I heard the comment, “Decisions Do Determine Destiny,” I knew exactly what the speaker was talking about, for I had experienced this phenomenon. This is the first principle in need of understanding. If we live in the here and now, every behavior has an excuse, and depravity, abuse, murder, everything abhorrent can be excused for tomorrow we die—what a terrible way to live. When our choices do not have consequences, and those consequences do not have long-term effects, we, as vapid human beings, lose an eternal spark of goodness, a willingness to strive, and a desire for achievement.
Consider with me a common theme since the early 1960s, it is a theme I am thoroughly sick to death of hearing, but it is a pernicious and invasive theme, “Free Love,” “Love is Sex,” “Love is All You Need,” “Just Love.” By perverting love, the morals of society broke, chains of modesty were sundered, social decency was abolished, and curbs of compassion and care were thwarted. Worse, it opened, for everyone to see, the windows of perversion that lurk inside some very troubled souls. Today, it is considered normal to have statistics from the CDC regarding the number of live births to single, unwed children ages 10-14, decisions determined destiny, and the consequences are dire indeed!
Consider for a moment the following from President Jefferson:
“A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.”
Hence, one can deduce a person is taught morals from their society and then is personally responsible for the continuation of that society by living the morals as taught. What are your morals? Who taught them? What are you teaching as morals? What morals do you live in public that you refuse to live privately, and do you see a disconnect in this moral behavior?
In asking these questions, I am not holding myself up as a moral authority, the moral police, or the enforcer of the moral squad. I am just as prone to moral stupidity as the next guy, and I am often worse, as my wife continually reminds me. I suffer for my mistakes and faux pas, just like everyone else. So, please do not think I am making any judgments here. As socially wired creatures, humans adopt and adapt to the social norms in our surroundings minute-by-minute, day-by-day, and we make a life by adapting to the environments when we cannot change the environments.
For example, when humans can control the weather inside a building, we change the environment to make it hotter or cooler based on our desires. We do not alter our behaviors to fit the environments unless we cannot change the environments. For example, being outdoors, we cannot change the weather, so we pack extra clothes for cold conditions, waterproof clothes for wet conditions, and make do in hot conditions by changing behavior and drinking water. Does this make sense? When we can change the environment, we prefer to change the environment than our behavior, even if it means we suffer consequences. For example, dressing in revealing clothing to satisfy a trendy designer and packing a heater because the office is always “frigid.”
Unfortunately, taking a longer view is not inherently natural in human beings; we are not born with a desire for delayed gratification. Hence, we must choose, do we want a marshmallow right now or six marshmallows in 15-minutes? Neither, we want the first marshmallow right now and the rest of the bag while we watch TV over the next 60-minutes, and we will accept the painful stomach ache, nausea, gas, possible vomiting, and the other discomforts because we got our marshmallows.
In our family lore, there is a story told of my older brother and a large bag of salt-water taffy. It is near Halloween, and a large order of orange jack-o-lantern salt-water taffy Halloween candies have been procured. The flavor is orange and anise, like a cross between black licorice and orange, and the amount is somewhere between 5 and 10 pounds. My older brother gets caught stealing some candy, and my mother claims he will be forced to eat all the candy by himself in her infinite wisdom. After much vomiting, a lot of whining, crying, and my father’s helping hand, the entire bag is eventually emptied. But, the lesson that was supposed to be taught to stop stealing was not the lesson learned. What happened, my older brother got better at getting the younger brothers in trouble, and he kept right on being a petty thief. Why was the lesson learned not the one desired? My brother made a choice, that choice had consequences, and he liked the consequences, even though the consequences made him sicker than Irving, the drunk dog on M*A*S*H.
Taking us back to the longer view and consequences. We can have a short view, live for today, and die tomorrow. Lots of people in the history of the Earth have taken this road. But, what was their satisfaction? What was their heritage? A friend of mine related a story of a person with a short view and ended the story with, “He was an enjoyable idiot. “Fun to have around during leisure time, a pest during work time, and a scallywag who could not be trusted to walk a dog.” If that is the heritage you want to leave, be my guest; I promise not to try and stop or interfere.
For the rest of us, let’s consider what these morals are teaching in society. Do we really want American society, a society built upon hard work, personal discipline, and individual effort, to be wasted for instant gratification and immediate death? Do we want the American experiment to end with one bourbon, one shot, and one beer, where the rent is never paid, the job never worked, and the lifestyle unlived?
All I ask is that you take a minute, think about what you want people to say about you after you leave a room, and then live the way you want to be remembered. I worked with a man who lived his principles, and I salute his willingness to live his principles. He was going to die at age 40, with a fifth of Jack Daniels empty by his head, an empty six-pack of Mountain Dew scattered around his bed and empty bags of Lay’s Dill Pickle potato chips on his blankets. He worked very hard to meet his end as he wanted while I knew him, and I have no doubts that he met his fate as desired—good guy, great worker, but not an example I would ever choose.
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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