Spoiler: this is a thought experiment arguing for the virtue of meditation.
This feels like an epic post that’s been brewing for a while. I think it was finally spurred by a friend turning 50; he posted some thoughts about where he’s been, where he is, and where he’s going. I could relate to much of it as we’ve both gone through a significant number of life-altering events. All of that was in the context of an “auspicious date”, as the traditional Chinese might say; an opportunity for reflection and consideration.
So, I’ve had the luxury of enjoying some amazing food in my life. I’ve been to 5-star restaurants, worked in one myself that was award-winning, and I’ve got a lot of friends who are amazing chefs. I live in a community that celebrates good food; fresh, flavorful, rich, healthy, decadent… you name it, you can probably find it. I know it gets better, especially in cosmopolitan cities like New York and San Francisco, let alone places like Paris or who knows where else.
A thought came to me, though, that there are limits to the indulgence of food. I imagine, if I had limitless resources, that I could thoroughly enjoy food for my entire lifetime, constantly seeking whatever I wanted, satisfying my every taste. If I lived long enough, I could repeat my indulgences until I got bored, tired of the same experience, ever moving onward. But setting aside the limits of time and resources, could I experience satisfaction and fulfillment forever, just from food? At some point, I think I might actually tired of the pleasures of food.
I could imagine the same for adrenaline, and I know this from personal experience. I used to be a speed junkie — ask anyone that’s known me for a while. I’ve owned more than a dozen motorcycles, tuned my own vehicles, I’ve even won trophies. To be sure, I still love going fast, but my taste of speed has become more sophisticated. I yearn to master the vehicle, to control my travel at speed. That, too, becomes an indulgence, in my self image as a skilled driver, the owner of a “cool car”, prestige, accolade, self-importance. At some point, given enough time, I might tire of that pursuit. Probably not in this lifetime, but as an experience that I seek for fulfillment, I think there’s an end, a limit.
My satisfaction as a father, oh boy… It’s a common thing to relate with other parents about, that insistence by our children to grow. They just keep getting older, more mature, more independent. As much as I beg, plead, cajole, and insist, my daughter keeps getting older. Thus, my time of fulfillment and pleasure with being a dad is limited. It will continue for as long as we both live, and my love will never end, of course. But as a source of fulfillment, parenting is limited.
I’ve gone through my mind, and tried on various other pleasures in life: toys, career, money, books, music, relations, sex… I can see them all as being fulfilling for a lifetime, but what about beyond? What would come next after all my personal wants, needs, and desires were completely fulfilled?
The answer that comes to me is to build, support, and develop; to provide for others. Yet, even that as a pursuit, as honorable as it is, could exhaust itself. So we achieve every wonder in our science-fiction universe, explore every star, colonize and build every corner of the universe… then what?
For me, it comes down to the act of meditation — achieving a sense of completeness, fulfillment, peace, bliss; nay, actually attaining the essence of being beyond all that, the Hindu Brahman, the state of Zen, a God-consciousness. This is the end that I see from this experiment.
But, I’ve got this lifetime that’s in progress. I do have a chance to enjoy every bite. I can indulge in speed, even on my feet. I am in the midst of my daughter’s childhood, and I’m loving every minute of it. I have rich, wondrous relations, a satisfying and challenging career. I even have chances to build, support, and develop; and every opportunity to do so brings deep joy and satisfaction.
I have a choice, though, to simply indulge in the physical pleasures, or to keep striving; to transcend this existence, or at least to try. Why would I do this? Mostly, because I can. It’s easy to include this as part of a lifestyle, a priority, a core value. I do it because it’s been shown to me by countless others as being a Good Thing. I do it because I’ve been in touch with it, and I can’t help but try to share it with anyone that will listen.
It’s like having a never-ending gift, and wanting to share it with everyone.
Since I’m not immortal, I strive to embody that state of Zen, and bring it into this life each day. In my experience, it adds a little something extra (actually, a lot!) to all those other pursuits. Carrying a sense of peace from all things, and a connection to all things… it helps to transform and transcend this human experience.
So, what do you value? Is it enough to simply pursue indulgences, luxuries, experiences and “stuff”? Is that enough for your lifetime? If you follow my thinking, why wouldn’t you value and honor meditation, the end-of-all pursuits? If you don’t agree, what would you strive for instead?