The Wall Street Journal and Slavery

I’m quite surprised that an article in the Wall Street Journal about how to retire “cheap” to Bali hasn’t caused a bigger stir. The reason I’m shocked this hasn’t caused a stir – other than how completely pretentious it is and how the average retired couple couple actually afford this “cheap” retirement – is because of this section right here:

When it comes to cooking—and cleaning and all of those other daily time-consumers—we hire Balinese help. Our cook, who is paid $75 a month, shops in the market at 6:30 a.m. and prepares all of our meals from scratch. It’s very healthy. Sundays we are on our own, and that is our brunch and pizza day.

Now, since they’re “on their own” on Sundays, once we avreage out what they pay their cook it’s about $2.88 A DAY. Now, some might point out that Indonesia’s poverty-line is at $1 a day, so they’re paying the cook above the poverty-line. But such thinking ignores that Indonesia recently lowered their poverty line to the international poverty line (it would be like the United States lowering its poverty line to Mexico’s poverty line). Thus, the statistics are vastly skewed and in reality even $2 a day puts a person in the definition of poverty. To put this in perspective; in America, poverty means you struggle to pay your rent and get enough food without the aid of food stamps. In most of the world, however, poverty means you’re living in a shack or an overcrowded apartment and struggling to get to just 2,000 calories a day.

The “$1 a day” poverty line works for nations where there is no industry and the vast majority of the population is poor (mostly Sub-Saharan African). It doesn’t work for industrialized nations or nations that are becoming industrialized; $1 a day in England, France, the United States, Australia, or China would result in a person dying from starvation and being homeless. In Indonesia, which is a growing economy and competitive on the Southeast Asian stage, $1 a day simply will not feed a person. $2.88 a day doesn’t bring someone above the poverty line.

Thus, we have an article in the Wall Street Journal promoting using cheap/slave labor to achieve a cheap retirement. But this has always been the excuse for slavery. When we read the old justifications for slavery in Europe and the New World, it was always about how it made things cheaper, how if we didn’t have slaves then we couldn’t increase our goods. And to a certain extent, such calculations are right. If we didn’t have slave labor overseas today, just like if we didn’t have slaves picking cotton, the price of the goods would be too high for most people to afford the goods. If a cook who shopped and cooked for you in Indonesia was paid a fair wage, chances are this couple wouldn’t pay for him as it would’t be the bargain they’re getting right now. But an economy should never be driven by pragmatism, instead it should be driven by virtue.

The ultimate goal of any economy should be to grow, but it should be through ethical means. When it’s accomplished via unethical means, you ultimately create other problems that will eventually undermine society. Use slaves and eventually the slaves will rebel. Preach selfishness and eventually people will cheat and lie to gain more money, which eventually collapses the company, taking more from the economy than was ever put into it. Use low-labor as a foreigner and eventually the “natives” will get restless and kill you (it’s happened quite a bit in world history, shocking how we never learn). When you violate natural laws and natural orders there are natural consequences. If you jump off a building, the natural law of gravity will cause you to plummet to your death. If you stay under water without a breathing apparatus, do to the laws attached to your physiology you will die. But these natural laws extend to morality; if you live a life of vice, eventually there will be consequences for you or those who come after you. When you rob humans of their God-given dignity and freedom, eventually those humans will strike back and fight to regain their dignity and freedom.

Ultimately, we should treat humans beings with dignity because they’re human beings. We should pay a fair wage because it’s the right thing to do and we should want to do the right thing simply because it’s right. Now certainly you’re not going to pay a cook in Indonesia what you would pay a cook in the United States. With the difference in economies it will be cheaper to hire a cook in Indonesia. But it’s not difficult to still live cheap while also giving a fair wage to the cook. It doesn’t take a lot of compromise to treat people like people, but it certainly takes a lot of dignity.

The Failure of Cultural Relativism

The other day I happened upon a link to an article in “Foreign Policy” concerning the oppression of women  in the Middle East. In the article an Egyptian woman explains how she was abused by both government officials and protestors. She points out that in the Middle East women simply do not have rights. But then she makes a statement that flies on the face of the modern sentiment:

When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband “with good intentions” no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness…Call out the hate for what it is. Resist cultural relativism and know that even in countries undergoing revolutions and uprisings, women will remain the cheapest bargaining chips.

What struck me as odd was the person who left the link said, “I don’t post this to ignore how women are treated in America…” The comments he received were along the lines that we need to stop worrying about what other cultures do, that it is simply how other cultures act. To try to tell these cultures that they’re wrong is an attempt to dominate and that is somehow wrong.

Cultural relativism is a very convenient belief at cocktail parties and cultural studies classrooms, but it has serious ramifications when it hits the real world. To put it concisely, cultural relativism cannot survive as a legitimate belief because it doesn’t accurately describe the world. There is no correspondence between its central teaching (that morals are subjective to the cultural mores) and the reality we live within.

Ignoring all the logical inconsistencies with cultural relativism, we must realize that it does two things: (1) it prohibits cultural diversity and (2) creates an arbitrary standard of morality.

First, cultural relativism arose out of a desire for multiculturalism, or the belief that all cultures are equal and should be judged on their own merits, not by other cultures. But this inherently ruins diversity because it has no approach to nations with different cultures. The United States stands as a prime example of the failure of cultural relativism. In a nation with multiple cultures at some point a law has to be passed that will implement one culture’s (or cultures’) view(s) over the other culture(s). In America, all the recent battles over the right of homosexuals to marry, or abortion, or other “cultural war” items has shown the failure of cultural relativism; at some point, one culture must win out.

Secondly, cultural relativism creates an arbitrary standard of morality. It is arbitrary because how can one really dictate what a “culture” is? Is a culture artificially determined by a nation’s borders, or is it more organic to people in a specific area? It is difficult to define exactly what a culture is, so how can one tolerate a culture? If the majority of people in a southern state declare they don’t want homosexuals to marry, can we really say they are wrong? How is that being tolerant of their culture? If certain tribes in Afghanistan or Pakistan want to kill women for “honor,” then who are we to judge such actions?

If cultural relativism is true then saying, “honor killings are wrong” is no different than saying “I don’t like frog legs.” Your cultural preference is different, but it holds no real moral weight; just as you would’t judge the French for liking odd foods, you shouldn’t judge some cultures for having an odd way of treating women. Such a sentiment, however, flies in the face of human nature.

We want to say that some actions are wrong irrespective of culture, we want to say that some things are simply always right and some things are simply always wrong. We want to say these things because universal moral laws do exist. Just like the laws of nature are universal, just like math is universal, so too are some moral codes universal. That we must debate over them, that some can deny them, and so on says more about our psychological state than they do about the codes themselves. If a man said he could defy gravity and he meant it, we would question his psychological state; we’d never question whether or not gravity exists. If a man said that 2+2=0 and meant it, we would question his intelligence; we would never question whether or not he was right. If a man says that all morality is subjective and relative to the culture, we should question his psychological state; we shouldn’t question whether or not universal morals exist. They do. The debate is over what is universal and over what is not universal.

To Murder God is to Murder Society as We Know It

A few years ago The Daily Mail ran an op-ed concerning how the world is better off without autistic children and people with disabilities. The reasoning isn’t because such people lower the utility of a society or dilute the gene pool – both of which are horrendous arguments to begin with – but rather because they just make life tough on the parents and caretakers. And that’s the entirety of the reasoning right there; “They hurt me, so I should kill them.” The focus is on the individual and value simply isn’t extended beyond the individual.

Of course, with modern arguments for infanticide, it’s no stretch to believe that toddlers who are discovered to have autism or some other handicap could easily be murdered. What if a child is born healthy, but due to an accident or disease, is left crippled? Well, then the child becomes a burden on the parents, so we should kill him. The child can’t walk? Kill him. Your 17 year old son is in a car accident and placed in a coma? You should kill him, because there’s no promise that he’ll come out of it functioning normally. After all, why should you suffer through the burden of helping someone else?

Sadly, Hitler was far nobler than these people. Hitler’s argument wasn’t about the individual, but rather for society; in order to better society, Hitler argued that those who were disabled and undesirable simply had to be killed. As sick as Hitler was in what he did, at least his goal was better than what we are arguing for now! And that’s not to defend Hitler; what he did was disgusting and we rightfully revile him for it. Rather, I’m saying the people who argue for killing the disabled simply because the disabled are an “inconvenience” are worse than Hitler, they’re more evil than him, they are more twisted than he is.

That’s not an emotional outburst either, it’s objectively true. Hitler killed the disabled and sterilized them, things that we rightfully condemn today. Yet, here we have people making the exact same case, only for a much darker purpose; rather than trying to help society, they just care about themselves and say you should too.

The Western-World is becoming more and more “post-Christian,” which is really nothing more than the world was when it was “pre-Christian;” a place where tyranny reigned freely and the oppressed had no hope beyond death. The ancient Spartans had no qualms about killing infants they deemed unworthy. The Romans thought nothing of leaving children in the wilderness to die if the child was viewed as potentially weak. They also had no problem killing slaves or those deemed as inhuman.

While many in the Western-World continue to dance on God’s grave, the one that Nietzsche made, they blissfully ignorant of Nietzsche’s proclamation. “God is dead” they say with glee, yet they forget what comes with that. Nietzsche writes in the parable of the madman (found in The Gay Science):

“Whither is God” he [the madman] cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now?Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as though an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves? What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever will be born after us – for the sake of this deed he will be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.” (from Walter Kaufmann’s translation)

Nietzsche points out that if we are truly going to kill God, we must live with the fact that we cannot act as though He is alive. Thus, the idea of humans having rights, having innate value, of not killing someone just because they annoy us, and the like have absolutely no meaning in light of God’s death. Nietzsche saw this and any atheist who is honest with himself recognizes this as well. It’s not that atheism lacks an ethos (it can develop one quite well enough), but simply that it cannot piggy-back on Christian morality.

So we approach this issue of murdering children because they become a burden to us. We look at the original article and the reasoning given is, “Autistic children are difficult to deal with, so why let them live?” The same question could be asked of any two-year-old. A child draws on the wall and keeps doing so, after not being told. To the gas chamber with her! But we find this deplorable, but why? If God’s funeral is over and spoken of how natural He looked in repose, we must fling ourselves away from this Christian morality. In doing so, we end up with the arguments from egoism, stating that I should look out for myself first. We end up with arbitrary lines on what is and isn’t human.

Within Christianity, however, all humans are equal for all humans are made in the image of God. The more I must sacrifice for a child, the more I must show I love him. Why do I sacrifice? Because in Christianity, to show love one must sacrifice. The less likely someone is to pay me back for my kind deed, the more sacrifice I have made; the less likely I am to be repaid, the more I have loved.

Thus, in comparison we have the world sans God and the world with God. Post-God’s dead, we have no way to really give value to humans beyond, “We give value to humans.” Humans become nothing more than currency; a piece of cloth with a dead president on it only means something because we say it means something. If we drop $1 million in $100 bills to a culture who knows nothing about the US, the paper will be kindle for a fire. It has no value. In a world without God, man becomes the currency. We only have value because we say we have value and should a majority of us determine that this type of man has no value, then we can rob him of value. In the world with God, however, man has value because he is made in the image of God. To kill him is to commit a crime against God.

Thus, one must realize that to say “God is dead” (that is, God doesn’t exist) is to reject the Judeo-Christian ethic. One simply can’t embrace it because one has rejected its foundation. How absurd to request a mushroom sauce, but demand the cook remove the mushrooms because you find them so distasteful. How absurd to request a Christian ethic, but demand the ethicist remove God because you find Him so distasteful. Therefore, if you be bold enough, abandon Judeo-Christian morality if you’re going to abandon God. However, if you find that you cannot live in such a world, then from an existential perspective, perhaps you should begin to realize that God is very much alive, regardless of your objections.

Theanthropic Ethics in the Zombie Apocalypse: Why the Disposition of Your Heart Could Save Your Brain (and Soul)

A fair warning to all who read this article: If you aren’t up to date on AMC’s The Walking Dead, then be forewarned that there are spoilers in this article. In fact, the entire article is one giant spoiler for Season 2 (up to this point at least).

For those who aren’t familiar with the premise of The Walking Dead (WD), it’s a show on AMC that deals with how society would handle the zombie apocalypse. As you can imagine, society doesn’t handle it very well. What differentiates the show from normal zombie flicks, however, is that it’s more focused on the human response to the apocalypse rather than millions of zombies running around in shopping malls attempting to devour whatever is in their path (except for each other, which leads to one of the great mysteries of the universe: Why don’t zombies eat each other?).  The show focuses on the human interaction during a time of great crisis when the future is entirely uncertain; while WD has its fair share of monsters (or, “walkers” as they’re called in the show), in many ways the show demonstrates both the greatness of humanity and how, in our own way, we too can be monstrous even without being zombies.

Season 2 demonstrates the above brilliantly, specifically in the last few episodes. Earlier in the season, one of the characters – a boy named Carl – was accidentally shot by a stranger named Otis. Otis was shooting at a deer for food and the bullet passed through the deer and into Carl. As it happens, Otis lives on a farm with a family where the patriarch is a veterinarian (yet somehow knows how to operate on humans – the MacGyver of veterinarians). Problem is, he lacks the necessary equipment to operate on Carl. Thus Shane (another character in the show, not the boy’s father) and Otis embark on a quest to bring back the equipment. The good news is the equipment is easily found a few miles away at an abandoned FEMA shelter. The bad news is the FEMA shelter is abandoned because there’s a bunch of zombies wandering around it. Why they chose to stay there rather than wandering off, who knows.

Shane and Otis break in, get the equipment, but are noticed by the zombies. Rather than letting bygones be bygones, the mindless horde of flesh-eaters decides that Shane and Otis look quite tasty. The two men, objecting to the advances of the zombies, decide to make a run for it. In the process, Shane hurts his leg and hops along. As he and Otis slowly move towards their truck it becomes obvious that the zombie horde will catch up with the two men. Shane tells Otis to take the equipment and get it back to the farm to save the boy. Otis rejects the offer and chooses to continue to help Shane. Shane, realizing a sacrifice needs to be made, pulls out his gun and shoots Otis in the leg, leaving Otis as zombie bait while Shane makes his escape. Shane gets the equipment to the farm and in turn saves Carl’s life.

The show presents the act as disgusting and Shane is obviously the villain in the act and to most people Shane certainly is a villain; leave it to a philosopher to question common sense. The moment I saw what Shane did I was appalled, and then I realized that what he did is entirely ethical under most modern ethical theories. So I did what any sensible Christian philosopher would do, I asked what Thomas Aquinas would do. If Thomas Aquinas lived during the zombie apocalypse, what would his response be on how we who are living should act against the (un)living?

Sadly, Aquinas was a rather large man, so chances are if the zombie apocalypse broke out he wouldn’t last. After all, being large we know he wouldn’t be able to run for long distances or very fast. But in the brief time period of his survival from the zombie horde it would be safe to say that Aquinas would roundly reject Shane’s actions; in fact, under Thomistic ethics there is simply no way to justify killing an innocent in order to save the life of another innocent. Yet, I’m not sure that Aquinas goes far enough. Is virtue enough to stop Shane from killing Otis?

I argue that only through theanthropic ethics (theanthropic = God-man, or a human life lived in the Divine) could one look at Shane’s actions and find a justification for moral repulsion. Ultimately, Shane’s actions are selfish and not sacrificial; theanthropic ethics relies on love as the foundation and Shane’s actions simply weren’t loving. Continue reading

The Government, Tax Hikes, and Public Virtue (Part 2)

In our economic collapse, we must find a solution that gets us on the right track. This stands true for economies around the world and not just the American economy. Yet, in many ways, we are responsible for our own state of being; in our support and promotion of hedonistic ethics, or “do whatever feels right,” we’ve created a climate that produces the kind of government corruption that we see. In short, no economic system will work until we have a consistent, virtue-based ethical system; ethics comes before economics, ethics dictates economics.

Consider the corruption within the government. During any sex scandal for a politician, someone generally raises the point that what a politician does behind closed doors doesn’t matter. So long as a politician does a good job in office, who cares what he does in the bedroom? But such a sentiment ignores several things.

For one, if a politician is willing to break a vow with his spouse, a covenant with the one that he loves, how more likely is he to break his vow to his constituents? After all, his spouse is the one he’s come to love, the one he’s been intimate with (in more than a physical way), the one he’s spent quite a bit of his life with, and so on. If he is willing to cast her aside for something a bit better, then why would he remain faithful to his constituency, who are nothing more to him than a voting base? In other words, not only should we pay attention to what a public leader does in the bedroom, we should care quite a bit that he’s upholding vows in his private life so we have some assurance he will uphold the vows in his public life.

Or we can consider a multi-million dollar CEO and how he only gives a tiny fraction of his income to the poor. He is simply doing what feels right, or following his own ethic. If we each decide what is true for us, then he has decided what is true for him and there is nothing anyone can do about it, at least not without upholding some absolute moral standard. Yet, we’ve been told for so long that absolute morality is passé, out of date, oppressive, tyrannical, and so on. Yet, when it comes to the rich exploiting the poor, we quickly want to create an absolute standard!

If we truly want to save our government from corruption and save our economy from the elite (whether that elite be in our government via socialism or in the private sector via an oligarchic capitalism), then we must begin to promote an ethical way of life for all, and then shame public officials who consistently refuse to live up to that ethical standard.

Whether we like it or not, the only solution to our woes is to embrace an absolute ethic, something that all humans at all times in all places can follow. The solution isn’t smaller government, more regulation, bigger government, a freer market, or so on; in all of these instances, if we have men who love vice setting the rules, then the rules will ultimately be subverted. If we have men who love virtue setting the rules, however, then at some point there is no need for rules, because they wouldn’t dare shame themselves by showing themselves to love vice.

When people aren’t interested in doing the right thing, or are only interested in what’s good for them, then a society cannot last. When elected officials put regulations on businesses in order to secure a vote, then they don’t really intent to stick by those regulations, especially if it’ll cost them campaign donations. Rather, the regulations become lip-service. Or, worse, what if the government officials do exert their power and regulate a business, but they exert the power in order to demonstrate their authority? Then we have traded in one form of tyranny (an oligarchy) for another (an authoritarian government). In both, powerful and rich individuals do what makes them feel right and do what is in their own interests.

We must move back to some form of moral absolutism, to some moral standard where the rich and powerful realize they have an obligation to others. We must move to a place where men are valued not by what they own or by their vocations, but by what they do in virtue. If we cannot reform our ethics, then we will never reform our economics.


Nietzsche and a Pastor: The Will to Power

This is part two of a new series–to read the introduction click here.

“What is good? — All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man.
What is bad? — All that proceeds from weakness.
What is happiness? — The feeling that power increases — that a resistance is overcome.
Not contentment, but more power; not peace at all, but war; not virtue, but proficiency (virtue in the Renaissance style, virtu, virtue free of moralic acid).
The weak and ill-constituted shall perish:  first principle of our philanthropy.  And one shall help them to do so.
What is more harmful than any vice? — Active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak — Christianity . . .”

It’s important to remember that any definition of the good or of happiness proceeding from a naturalistic framework, such as Nietzsche’s, is completely arbitrary and, if I dare say, totally farcical — that is to say, it is a rather deceptive act in which moralistic language is ascribed to fundamentally neutral, amoral, categories.  So, when Nietzsche speaks about the good as being, “the will to power, power itself in man,” it’s important to remember that he is not outlining a system of morality; rather, he is simply describing a brute process of nature using moralistic terminology.

Any student of Biology can tell you that life is a power struggle — those organisms with the strongest will to survive and the power to do so will inevitably outlast other organisms with a weaker constitution.  In evolutionary terms, this is commonly described as the survival of the fittest.  Consequentially, a brute physical process, such as this, can hardly be described as “the good” in any objective moral sense on naturalism.  For this would imply teleology within nature — which is precisely the thing that a naturalistic view of reality denies.  Hence, to assign the, “feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man,” or, “all that proceeds from weakness,” the terms “good” or “bad” says absolutely nothing about the true goodness or badness of such things — it is merely to state a brute fact about reality.

According to naturalism, values are completely dependent upon the observer and therefore totally subjective.  In other words, they have very little to do with reality and everything to do with one’s personal opinions or feelings.  What we are left with, under this  scheme, are merely objects and events.  How we interpret the objects and events we find in nature is purely a matter of personal taste.  This mindset explains  why we often hear the term “meaning-making” used to describe values.  What this heart warming little term is actually communicating is that nature, in and of itself, has no intrinsic meaning; you, the observer, must make meaning.

The reason I’ve gone through great pains to express the above point is that many, these days, mistakenly believe it is possible to have objective morality within the naturalistic framework.  This belief, however, is entirely incompatible with the naturalistic worldview.  For there is nothing, objective, to ground values in under this framework–and this is something that Nietzsche understood all too well.  This is precisely why he speaks of the desire for power and the will to power–because this is, essentially, what life boils down to in a world without God and without objective  moral standards or purpose.  So, do not be confused by Nietzsche’s use of the terms “good” or “bad” and suppose that he is speaking of morality; on the contrary, what he is proposing is the complete antithesis of morality.  He is proposing that those who believe God to be dead embrace the implications of this belief and recognize what life truly is:  a cold, and fundamentally meaningless, struggle for power; the brutal battle for survival.

It is no wonder that Nietzsche viewed Christianity with such contempt; for Christianity stands in complete contrast to this view of reality.  It teaches that there is an overarching meaning and purpose to reality and that values are grounded in the source of existence Himself.  It asserts that man is made in the very image and likeness of the source of his existence and is, therefore, intrinsically valuable and important.  It further insists that, as creatures made in the image of their Creator, man is accountable to Him and obligated to care for all the things which He has made–even the lowly.  Hence, Psalm 41 implores us to, “consider the poor,” and Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).

As  you can see, the Christians attitude towards the “ill-constituted and weak” and his mindset that our existence is rooted in notions like love, service, and self-sacrifice, stands in total contrast to the naturalistic worldview which explains human existence in terms of a desire for and will to power.  Under the naturalistic view such care for the weak is truly absurd: for, “the weak and ill-constituted shall perish:  first principle of our philanthropy.  And one shall help them to do so.”  This is simply a brute fact about reality that one must accept, or else, continue to live in a delusional state and be subject to the control and power of those few human beings who do accept it.

Now, you must ask yourself, at this moment, what view of reality you are prepared to accept.  If you truly believe that “God is dead” and that the physical world is all there is then you must be willing to embrace Nietzsche’s assertions with all of your being–for this is the only honest position to take.  However, if Nietzsche makes you uncomfortable, if you sense that love must somehow enter the picture, that the acquisition of power is somehow shallow and ultimately meaningless, that there is intrinsic value to all human beings–and, in fact, in every organism–that somehow morality must be objective and grounded in something, and that somehow you were made for a purpose, then you must come to terms with the fact that God may not be as dead as you had originally thought.

Mystic Mondays: Is there Something More?

Today  I’d like to share a passage from The Wisdom of Solomon which vividly portrays the ethical consequences of the naturalistic view of reality.  I ask you to meditate on these words and to wrestle with the implications of a world in which God does not exist, in which there is no objective purpose or reason for anything, and in which there is no life after death.  Do not simply engage this topic with your mind but examine it with your heart as well. Ask yourself these questions:  What is the purpose of my life?  Is there an objective purpose to my life if God does not exist? If there is no life after death then why should I live a moral life?  Is sensual pleasure what defines me?  If there is no God, why should I care about the weak?  Why should I be moral at all?  Is there something more?

“For they [the ungodly or atheists] reasoned unsoundly saying to themselves, ‘Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end, and no one has been known to return from Hades [i.e. death].  Because we were born by mere chance, and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been; because the breath in our nostrils is smoke, and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts.  When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes, and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.  Our name will be forgotten in time, and no one will remember our works; our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud, and be scattered like mist that is chased by the rays of the sun and overcome by its heat.  For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow, and there is no return from our death, because it is sealed up and no one turns back.

‘Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.  Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no flower of spring pass by us.  Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.  Let none of us fail to share in our revelry, everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment, because this is our portion, and this is our lot.  Let us oppress the righteous poor man; let us not spare the widow nor regard the gray hairs of the aged.  But let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless.” – Wisdom of Solomon 2:1-11