Monday, July 30, 2012

It's Later Than You Think

I finally got around to watching the last episode of House the other day. It wasn’t too bad. I won’t spoil the ending, but it finishes with a version of the song ‘It’s Later Than You Think’. You can see a good version of the song (not the House scene that uses it) here starting at about 1:50.

It has the following memorable chorus:
‘Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself
It’s later than you think.’
I found myself in two minds about this.

The last line is a great one, and the song itself is catchy.

But the first two ring hollow. Sure, the verses dress it up in good advice (don’t spend all your time working), but I found it hard to not find myself thinking, a la William Shatner in the song ‘You’ll Have Time’ – “Is this all there is? Why did I bother?”

The problem of mortality and the human condition is vast and intimidating, but the answer is just… ‘enjoy yourself’?? And it’s not like we’ve got anything like the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to make the eloquent and reasoned argument for the same ultimate proposition, it’s just tossed out there as if ‘enjoy yourself’ is the completely obvious response to mortality.

Still, I found that I kept humming it – folly or half-truth set to music has a much better chance of being repeated than truth written down in a book.

But fortunately I recently came across an infinitely superior version that gives an equally appealing version of the second half of the chorus, but with a much more satisfying set of first half advice on what to do in response.

From the Saṃyutta Nikāya, 3:25, recounting the following conversation between the Buddha and King Pasenadi of Kosala.
“What do you think, great king? Suppose a man would come to you from the east, one who is trustworthy and reliable, and would tell you: ‘For sure, great king, you should know this: I am coming from the east, and there I saw a great mountain high as the clouds coming this way, crushing all living beings. Do whatever you think should be done, great king.’ Then a second man would come to you from the west … a third man from the north … and a fourth man from the south, one who is trustworthy and reliable, and would tell you: ‘For sure, great king, you should know this: I am coming from the eat, and there I saw a great mountain high as the clouds coming this way, crushing all living beings. Do whatever you think should be done, great king.’ If, great king, such a great peril should arise, such a terrible destruction of human life, the human state being so difficult to obtain, what should be done?”
“If, venerable sir, such a great peril should arise, such a terrible destruction of human life, the human state being so difficult to obtain, what else should be done but to live by the truth (Dhamma), to live righteously, and to do wholesome and meritorious deeds?”
“I inform you, great king, I announce to you, great king: aging and death are rolling in on you. When aging and death are rolling in on you, great king, what should be done?”
“As aging and death are rolling in on me, venerable sir, what else should be done but to live by the truth (Dhamma), to live righteously, and to do wholesome and meritorious deeds?”
“Venerable sire, kings intoxicated with the intoxication of sovereignty, obsessed by greed for sensual pleasures, who have attained stable control in their country and rule over a great sphere of territory, conquer by means of elephant battles, cavalry battles, chariot battles, and infantry battles; but there is no hope of victory when aging and death are rolling in. In this royal court, venerable sir, there are counselors who, when the enemies arrive, are capable of dividing them by subterfuge; but there is no hope of victory by subterfuge, no chance of success, when aging and death are rolling in. In this royal court, there exists abundant bullion and gold stored in vaults, and with such wealth we are capable of mollifying the enemies when they come; but there is no hope of victory by wealth, no chance of success, when aging and death are rolling in. As aging and death are rolling in on me, venerable sir, what else should I do but live by the truth (Dhamma), live righteously, and do wholesome and meritorious deeds?”
“So it is, great king! So it is, great king! As aging and death are rolling in on you, what else should you do but live by the truth (Dhamma), live righteously, and do wholesome and meritorious deeds?”
Just so.

Live by the truth (Dhamma), live righteously, and do wholesome and meritorious deeds. It's later than you think.

1 comment:

  1. Most excellent quotation from the Awakened One. Great sages from all lands would agree. We live in the "late time" of the "dark epoch" as Avatar Adi Da has said. We should understand that Cooperation + Tolerance = Peace.

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