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I have started reading the book by Nick Riggle called This Beauty A Philosophy of Being Alive. I don’t usually read philosophy books, not because I don’t like them, because there are so many books in the world and I cannot read them all, and I choose to focus on things that feel more practical. And philosophy books tend to boggle my mind!
But Todd Kashdan, author of the Art of Insubordination recommended this one! And I had to give it a try after watching their conversation on the FAN webinar last week.
Early in the book, Mr Riggle had me thinking deeply because he said we don’t ask to be here, we don’t consent. I found myself wondering “who says we did not consent to this life?” We may not remember our consent, we may not have thought about it in the same way we would as “a bounded conscious material thing”, but how can we be sure we did not, indeed, consent?
But as I continued reading - not very much farther - the real thought stopper hit me.
What are the consequences of living life today as though there IS no tomorrow?
On page 19 (yes, that early in the book!) Mr Riggle talks about the “Live life as if there is no tomorrow” mantra that is so popular in the West at least. We are all about “Seizing the day”, we have even made (good) movies about the idea...
But is it good for us?
For anxious people, it is all to easy to get hyper focused on tomorrow and the next day. We plot and scheme to prevent imagined, but often unlikely, disasters and try to anticipate every pitfall, every setback that could occur and then mitigate it (often by avoiding an experience altogether). There are books about that too (for example Homo Prospectus by Martin Seligman et al). I met Dr Martin Seligman in an underpass in Montreal once, and for a moment he made me feel better about anxiety because he said that people who are anxious were imaginative. That we think of things that no-one else would ever dream of!
(Later that night, when I was imagining my return flight crashing into a non-existent mountain, or picturing myself torn to shreds after falling off a moped that I had not ridden, I was not so sure that was a compliment!)
So, it may seem like a good idea to encourage a more in the moment mindset. Focus on the here and now because we cannot know what is coming. Focus on this moment, because in the end we are all "food for worms lads…”
I disagree. Strongly. Not with the food for worms part… but with the focus on the moment part.
I get that mindfulness has a place. But our mantra of living life as though there is no tomorrow may be part of what makes us short-sighted, selfish and even contributes to the ever-deteriorating state of our planet – and aspects of our society.
If we don’t have to worry about tomorrow, then we don’t have to think about waste, we don’t have to imagine swimming in the sea and encountering plastic bags, or worse, as we swim. As we use a cotton bud to clean our ears, we don’t have to picture the seahorse that may sadly cling to it later.
We don’t have to consider any kind of pollution, and as global warming is something that will reach disastrous proportions the day after tomorrow, or even the day after that, that is way too long term for most of us to ponder.
We don’t have to worry about the hurts we cause others, the long-term effects of the ways we set up our systems. We don't even have to worry about what happens AFTER we drive drunk, pull out a gun, or lose our temper just a little too much.
Our choices today will always be the problems for someone else tomorrow. Haven’t we been doing that long enough?
Let’s not be short-sighted. Let’s look to the future, picture it now and make choices now as though they will matter tomorrow.
As of today, I am adopting a new mantra.
Live today as if it IS tomorrow
10 questions to help me check my choices:
How will I feel about this choice tomorrow? (Scale 1-10, 1 = regretful, 10 = thrilled)
What will "tomorrow me" wish that "today me" had thought about?
Who will be affected by my choice today?
How will they feel about the affect my choice had on them? (Scale 1 = resentful, 10 = thrilled)
If I was going to make the choice that was best for all of us, what would it be?
What is potentially getting in the way of that "best choice"?
Is the obstacle really a good enough reason to make a sub-optimal choice?
What is the best that can happen if I make this choice? What is the worst that can happen if I make this choice?
How willing am I to risk the worst outcome for the possibility of the best outcome?
One last time, how will I feel about this choice tomorrow? (Scale 1-10, 1 = regretful, 10 = thrilled)
And having considered those impacts, will make choices that make tomorrow look as rosy as possible because today will be gone soon enough!
How about you?
 Riggle, N. (2022). This beauty: A philosophy of being alive. Basic Books.
 Avery Publishing. (2022). The art of insubordination: How to dissent & defy effectively.
 E., P. S. M., Railton, P., Baumeister, R. F., & Sripada, C. (2016). Homo prospectus. Oxford UP.