Month: January 2018

You Are What You Eat

Fancy feast
Fancy feast

Ernest Becker, the quintessential optimist and sometimes life of the party had a thing about worms. It’s possible that he was also an avid fisherman or gardener, although there was no mention of that in his biography.

One of my favorite of his worm quotes is from a book he wrote that won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1974:

“What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God. What kind of deity would create such a complex and fancy worm food?”

Reflecting on this has got me through many hours at the lake when the trout weren’t biting. But I think David Gerrold said the same thing in a better way: “Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.”

Food for thought.

We Croak

R.I.P.
R.I.P.

Sunday I read an article in The New York Times called Outing Death. It’s about an app called WeCroak that sends you reminders that we are only immortal for a limited time.

From the WeCroak website: “Find happiness by contemplating your mortality with the WeCroak app. Each day, we’ll send you five invitations at randomized times to stop and think about death. It’s based on a Bhutanese folk saying that to be a happy person one must contemplate death five times daily.

The WeCroak invitations come at random times and at any moment just like death. When they come, you can open the app for a quote about death from a poet, philosopher, or notable thinker.” Yes all this and more for only 99 cents.

I’m also rereading Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death, a happy little book that won the Pulitzer Prize two months after the author’s own death. As Becker says: “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else.”

I hope the WeCroak invitations are a little less depressing. The example in the Times article is by W. H. Auden: “Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.”

Tip: if you hear the sound of distant thunder at your next picnic, ditch the potato salad and run for cover. Avoid plumbing including sinks, baths and faucets, stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches. Or just hope for the best, if the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will.

Thoughts on a cloudy day

Winter
Winter

“There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?” Dalai Lama

Dog Day Afternoon

Kurtz's Mill Covered Bridge
Kurtz’s Mill Covered Bridge

Charlotte Joko Beck from Everyday Zen: “My dog doesn’t worry about the meaning of life. She may worry if she doesn’t get her breakfast, but she doesn’t sit around worrying about whether she will get fulfilled or liberated or enlightened. As long as she gets some food and a little affection, her life is fine. But we human beings are not like dogs. We have self-centered minds which get us into plenty of trouble. If we do not come to understand the error in the way we think, our self-awareness, which is our greatest blessing, is also our downfall.”

In other words, handle every situation like a dog. If you can’t eat it or play with it, just pee on it and walk away.