Monday, July 24, 2006

Shifts in Popular Culture: "For Tomorrow We Die"

Here's another phrase that has received an unconscious editing by the culture-at-large in the current age. As schoolchildren, we learned in World History about the Epicureans, who lived by the motto "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." The Epicureans were renowned for this mindset because it marked them as a people who lived only for the moment. Yet their watchword reveals that while they lived only for now, they had an eye on later. They knew tomorrow was coming, and that it could well bring their end. They suffered from no delusion on this matter.

Not so with modern-day culture. I would propose that many of my generation live by this motto, yet with the apodosis, the second clause, missing entirely. In other words, the phrase as emended today now should read: "Eat, drink, and be merry." There are countless people among us who live Epicurean lives, reveling in pleasure, without any mind to the future. Such folk give no thought to death or the cessation of existence. They have no grim reminder of such things about them--or at least they try not to. Through plastic surgery we falsely prolong physical youthfulness. Through unchecked sexual expression we delay the onset of maturity. Through a life of self-gratification and amoral pleasure seeking we avoid emotional progression. My generation, in a sentence, is relentlessly working to stave off the advance of time. They do so because when you stave off time, you push back (you think) your mortality. It's all a ruse, though. It's all a sham.

Someone put the Epicureans on notice. Their phrase has been changed. We don't give any thought to death anymore. We don't party anymore with our mortality in mind. We party today as immortal gods and goddesses, servants to noone, tethered to nothing, especially our mortality. For much of today's generation, it's simply "Eat, drink, and be merry." Nothing less, nothing more.


Blogger Aedonis said...

Perhaps this is tied all too closely with a lack of the doctrine of hell. Without Hell, death, when thought of at all, is at best a transition into bliss or at worst an all-ending nothingness. Either way it represents not punishment or judgement, but merely cessation.

Additionally, I think death is cheapened by its familiarity in our lives. We see a Hollywood version of death on the silver screen; we hear stories of tradgedy right next to news about performing dogs. Death is like chewing gum on the ground: only truly considered when someone around us steps on or near it.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Aedonis said...

Update: Russell Moore takes up this topic today on his commentary at the Henry Institute.

10:52 AM  

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