“Life is good when we lead good lives,” or so said St. Augustine, that most quotable of all the saints. And I’m torn by this for a few reasons.
Firstly, I totally agree. If there has ever been a maxim I’ve seen proven in my life, it’s this one. I think the Greek playwrights were on about something similar when they dosed their heroes with tragic quantities of hubris. But then, one of the reasons I wanted out of a faith based on a set of punishments and rewards was because I deeply believe in the human capacity for doing good and avoiding evil, even in the absence of consequence. And Augustine’s concept – if it is indeed as true as I’ve alleged it is – negates even the potential! Because as soon as we buy into the idea, we accept that there is, therefore, a reward for our good works in the day-to-day, even before the great beyond.
Except that this isn’t always the case. (see: victims of famine, war, mindless violent crime, etc)
And human beings are deeply motivated by exceptions. Otherwise casinos wouldn’t work. So the fact that not everyone who smokes dies a horrible death of cancer, or that not every indiscretion is found out by the potentially offended party…somehow that’s motivation enough to keep on testing out the naughtier route in life.
Thing is, I’ve been trying pretty damn hard for the past year or so to lead a good life…and life has continued to be an interesting mix of ups and downs…but…this is the important bit: I don’t feel responsible when shit hits the fan. Karmically or effectively, if I’ve been “leading a good life,” I’m off the hook when it all goes to pot!
And while that won’t make for a perfect life, I think Augustine was right – it sure helps make it good.