THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE is pretty much what human existence for most people is all about. People like nice homes, classy cars, fine food and drink. They like interesting travels, beautiful landscapes and, especially (seemingly), endless diversionary, mindless entertainment of one kind or another.
At a deeper level, however, life is really more about discovering why we exist and attempting to find a way to deal with, or get around, that great bugaboo, death.
Here’s a weird notion to consider, however: Maybe death becomes us.
On the surface of life it certainly appears that way. Many of the most popular books, films and video games that so entrance us in this day and age have a certain common denominator; namely, that they revolve around violence and death.
Check out all of the murder mysteries on the bookstore racks, all of the thrillers there and the killer/slasher movies at the cinema or available online. Check out all of the mad murderous rampages that go on with the countless interactive video games that people – including very young people – can buy and play.
It boggles the mind.
That’s not all, of course. One can also listen to “death metal” music and to violent rapper tunes that give us “blood on the tracks” in a way that even Dylan never imagined.
Then there is the “skull and cross bones” motifs to be seen on T-shirts, jackets and designer jewelry, and as tattoos – permanent etchings of the image on the skin.
Why does the skull and cross bones image so entrance us? Why do so many find it so compelling?
Could it be that “death becomes us”?
We live in a time when the world can seem totally topsy-turvy. “Bad” can be good. “Wicked” can be cool. “Killer” can be beyond cool.
Our heroes are, more often than not these days, drawn from the ranks of the antiheroes. They include not only the bad-ass rock ‘n’ rollers and rap artists, but also the sports stars who get up to all kinds of mischief off the field of play, not to mention over-the-top figures such as professional wrestlers and cage fighters who seemingly wouldn’t wince at delivering up a death blow in the course of their careers. Add to this list the volunteer warrior-soldiers who populate the intelligence agencies, the military and the paramilitary forces of the planet and the number of “bad-asses” on the planet goes shockingly astronomical.
Then there are the vigilante crusaders who murder in the name of religion and the radical extremists who wage “holy war”, not only on those not of their faith, but sometimes on those who are not of their particular sect, as well.
Back in the ancient times, people were sacrificed in an effort to appease the gods. The Romans were known to stage public spectacles that included gladiators fighting each other to the death or chosen victims getting mauled to death by vicious beasts. Why the Romans did this seems to have been for purposes of both entertainment and for giving its citizens an extremely clear picture of what might happen to them if they chose to defy the reigning Caesar and his henchmen.
Multiple cultures throughout history have publicly stoned people to death or staged public beheadings for alleged transgressions and some still do. Why? To keep the masses in line.
Death becomes us.
Death fascinates and mesmerizes us. It captivates us so thoroughly that millions upon millions of people voluntarily participate in the wars and battles that spring up from one end of the globe to the other. Along the way, many of those warriors and soldiers, willingly and mercilessly, torture the perceived enemy, happily administering the most excruciatingly horrendous and painful executions that they can dream up.
Likewise, tens of thousands of highly intelligent mechanical engineers will, and do, spend their work days dreaming up ever more lethal weaponry and proudly selling it on to any ragtag band of guerrilla fighters with barely enough brains to learn how to use that weaponry.
Why? Because death becomes us.
Is this psycho? Insane? Has the Devil gotten into us?
In my humble opinion, there’s no blaming anyone but ourselves for the state of things in this world. The question that I ask is, How can we change it?
Personally, I do not know what to do beyond speaking up and pleading for every individual to think twice and do the enlightened thing.
There’s a saying: Crazy is as crazy does. Or to rephrase it: Deluded is as deluded does.
The same applies, however, to those at the other end of the spectrum: Enlightened is as enlightened does.
There’s nothing tricky about doing the enlightened thing. It only refers to doing the kind thing, the respectful thing, and to offering up a genuine act of compassion when we can.
Death can only become us if we choose to let it become us. It can only get into our minds if we are enthralled with some version of the dark arts, if we are taken with macho warriors who bark and bite, with cage fighters and boxers who are out to win every fight at whatever cost. It can only dominate our souls if we are equally enthralled with the corporate hotshots who score the big deal, no matter who gets financially destroyed in the process, and with the cunning politician who is out to win the debate regardless of how crude, rude and denigrating the effort is to others.
Death becomes us maybe because we humans crave excitement. We get bored with the ho-hum, mundane workaday routine. As a result, we seem to need the screeching of cars and the blasting of bullets… We need the scent of blood and the smell of the fallen corpse. We need the thunder of the warplanes and the bombs bursting in air, the gangland shakedown and the daring swagger of the bootlegger or the unscrupulous drug dealer.
Pleasure comes in many forms. The darker the thrill, the deeper the pleasure maybe?
We should remember this, though: one person’s nectar can be another person’s poison and that the day always comes when one must pay the piper.
When all is said and done, to whom will we humans ultimately answer if not to ourselves?