On Only Living Once

When the believer argues with the atheist his fiercest weapon – soft though it remains – sprouts from defying innate morality. How will we know right from wrong without the non-negotiable directorship of the divine? There are some important – and brilliantly swift – answers to this.

But! Not a lot swells the arrogance of the scriptural literalist more than the impenetrable wave of hedonism that many of us seem to enjoy justifying. I am of course talking about “YOLO”.

It’s something of a necessary staple of secular humanism that we only live once. No after-life. Nothing. As Hitchens romanticised limping through stage-four esophageal cancer:

The offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way, is an offer of something not worth having. I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet; that I haven’t understood enough; that I can’t know enough; that I’m always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And here it is: carpe diem. Filled with the immediacy of mortality the individual is revitalised. He becomes a skydiver without a security of a parachute, dropping, falling; his death getting bigger and bigger until – splat.

Urgency should electrify the individual into progress, not trip him – in both literal and metaphorical senses. It’s not good. What YOLO legitimises for its frivolity it abandons in scope. Yeah, I know: hedonism can be useful. But without a hangover the only result is moral decay.

The hypocritical irony, of course, is that I’m slumped over a laptop with a tab open for BBC Four programme on ruins. Seizing the fucking day.

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11 Comments on “On Only Living Once”

  1. Hedonism is more oft misunderstood than enjoyed. There are no absolutes and to say something trite like YOLO is a way of life or ideology is to say that picking up dog shite in your yard is meditation. It is at best an excuse for doing something most others will call stupid.

    • Mark says:

      Yeah, I agree – great simile there haha. The trouble is that by throwing away thought for the long-term it effectively guarantees that we will regret it later on…

      • But you assume that all forget tomorrow. One does not need forget the morrow to enjoy the now. Tomorrow is just another now that has not yet happened. If in the now we take care and be good but still enjoy then hedonism is not the evil that people imagine.

      • Mark says:

        Oh, true, I don’t dispute that. In fact I often think it’s necessary to see what we can get out of the extremes that life has to offer – but it shouldn’t be allowed to dominate us.

  2. Your originality is roguish and greatly endearing. “whiskey and tea” was one of the first blogs I discovered when joining WordPress, and one I always look forward to reading. Cheers.

  3. saigonsays says:

    Any excuse to stop work for 2 mins and 27 secs to listen to the great Hitch is a welcome one in my particular world…keep them coming…

  4. Mikel says:

    “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” only makes sense as a life strategy if you are planning to die tomorrow. We can enjoy the present responsibly and not squander our futures. Whether or not there is an afterlife is not relevant.


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