Charlie's Blog: The Best Things in Life


The Best Things in Life

You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.

My wife has this term. This term is the "finger." Imagine you are having a good time, and there is a stern faced Puritan wagging his finger at you for enjoying life. The finger is the condemnation of that happiness. Implied in the finger is the notion that all pleasure is sinful and bad. The Puritans probably thought this, but I don't. What I do believe is that not all pleasures are equal with some being sublime while others are debased. So, in refutation of the charge that I am a Puritan retaining the residue from an earlier period of Calvinism in my life, here is a list of what I consider to be the best things in life.

1. Religion.

When you have God, everything in life is made better. As someone who spent a decade as an atheist, I experienced those years as "flat" like defizzed Coke. When you reduce everything in life to just mere accidents and chaos and nothingness, your enthusiasm for life and your experience is greatly diminished.

Atheists crave religious experience which is why so many of them still end up pursuing some kind of spirituality with practices like meditation or attending atheist "churches" which I find bizarre. They expend a great deal of effort scratching an itch they deny having.

There is pleasure in religion. Whether you attend Mass or pray alone in a room, you have genuine experiences that make you happy to be alive and to exist.

The Catholic religion is the good religion. All other religions are variations of bad religion. Right now, Protestant megachurches do the praise band thing, but this is manufactured religion. They are substituting an aesthetic and emotional experience for God. With Catholicism, you actually commune with God when you take the Eucharist. Even adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in silence is superior to a hundred Protestant praise bands.

2. Family and friends.

Next to God, you have the people in your life. There are good people and bad people. I have learned to keep good people in my life and push bad people out of my life. It will amaze you how few good people there are in the world. Fortunately for me, I married someone awesome.

3. Good books.

I love to read, and good books have a way of elevating your spirit and mind. Because books take time to read, I don't waste that time on bad books. Books have been my friends for many years.

4. Classical music.

I have always liked music, but I have not always liked good music. This is because I listened to a lot of beat driven noise masquerading as music. I have listened to rock, rap, country, electronica, jazz, disco, and on and on. This music is fun at first like eating candy, but you feel polluted later. Upon the recommendation of a priest in a homily on music, I turned to classical music, The result has been an elevation in my soul and mind. I always feel better listening to Bach instead of Metallica.

5. Vegan food.

I have eaten a lot of bad food that tasted good in my life. I have suffered for this. So, I went vegan, and I love plant-based eating. The best part is eating and not feeling the G-I upset I used to get from eating crap. Fresh fruit, salads, pasta, rice, and beans taste good and are good for you.

6. Great art.

I love art, and I follow various Tumblr accounts featuring classical artistry. This is the good stuff. I visited the National Gallery to see some modern art which amounted to crap put together by mental defectives. I was there on the advice of an "expert." Meanwhile, just a minute away was a rare piece from Leonardo. I was wasting my visit there looking at some plywood thing with dryer lint fuzz nailed to it. Fortunately, I had 15 minutes to look at real art instead of crap. That was 15 minutes well spent. As for that other "art," they should have displayed it in the dumpsters out back.

7. Nature.

I call the outdoors "nature's cathedral." People turn to nature and can't help feeling a certain elevation in their spirits. This is because nature reflects God. When you believe in God, your enjoyment of nature is increased. It is really awesome when combined with physical exercise.

8. Physical exercise.

Exercise makes you feel good. I enjoy a good walk or doing calisthenics. If you could take the benefits of exercise and put them in a pill, it would be acclaimed as the greatest wonder drug of all time. I don't know why I don't do it more. I think it is because I am too engrossed in cerebral pleasures to indulge the physical pleasures.

9. Work.

No one thinks of work as pleasurable, but it feels awesome to do productive things. Most of that pleasure is diminished by corporate management who care only for money and not the creation of value or serving customers. Fortunately for me, I only care about the work itself. Management learns to get out of my way and let me do awesome things.

10. Writing.

Writing is a form of work and a creative endeavor. I know I take pleasure in it because I do it compulsively like an addiction. People who paint or play musical instruments know this same elation that creativity brings.

11. Coffee.

When it comes to substances, the only one I abuse is coffee. I have looked at all of the research and virtually none of it indicates that coffee is harmful for you. Obviously, we can't say the same for tobacco and alcohol. So, I drink lots of java without fear or regret. Coffee is 100% pure win and is a catalyst for all of my other pleasures.

12. Sleep.

Some people feel guilty about sleeping, but I don't. Some people do Zen meditation while others do yoga to try and relieve stress and relax. None of these things is as good as just taking a nap. I don't go out of my way to create a sleep environment. I just let exhaustion do the trick for me. If you've earned that sleep, it will be awesome.

My life is relatively boring in comparison to the raucous lifestyle and hedonistic excess of a rock star binging on loud music, hookers, whiskey, and cocaine. As for the reduced hedonism of the pint and the pipe, I don't even go for that as they are not good for you. I have Catholic friends who love their cigars, their steaks, their wine, and their craft beer. They take their cues from G.K. Chesterton who abused his body with such things. The man was definitely no Puritan, but he was no ascetic either.

I prefer the pleasures that make you better not worse. And I think this is why I get accused of being "the finger." But I am the way I am for two reasons. The first is that I am Catholic now, and this has informed my outlook on things. The second is that I have had my share of the regular pleasures, and those pleasures have not been kind to me. The one I regret the most is eating all that crappy food for practically my entire life before becoming vegan. I was never a smoker, and my drinking of alcohol essentially ended at age 35. I drank some beers since that time because I wanted to shed the Puritan label after becoming Catholic, but I don't care now. I am a teetotaller who would rather go to a coffeehouse than a smoke filled bar.

The bottom line is that you have positive pleasures and negative pleasures. Positive pleasures leave you better off. Negative pleasures leave you worse off. I have eliminated the negative pleasures from my life while cultivating the positive pleasures. Am I better off for this? I am. And I am not going to apologize for this.

As for people who prefer negative pleasures, I say to each his own. But am I a better person than they are? I'm not into the comparison thing. People may feel "the finger" when I am around, but this effect is largely a product of their own minds. I don't care to be the scold on these matters. The way I see it is very simple. You enjoy the nicotine in your cigarette. I enjoy breathing fresh air.  I am willing to concede to the smoker that there are real benefits to smoking, and I think the Surgeon General's warning on the pack lets me off the moral hook for warning people about the dangers of smoking. What do I say to a smoker? Light up! Just do it outside somewhere.

The bottom line is that I know two things. The first is that precious few if any are going to follow my path, and I am fine with this. The second is that most people are going to hate me for taking the path that I am on, and I can't help this. I'm not going to hurt myself or destroy myself to make you feel better about destroying yourself. You can swim with me or drown alone. But I am not drowning with you.