What would you do if you could live a day without consequences?
As a teen of the 80s, sitting beside a fire ring enjoying a cigar while listing to 80s tunes, my first thoughts go to the 80s — all of the things I was too scared or too naive or too idealistic to let myself try. Things as obvious as kissing certain girls or at least making passes at them to things as profound as believing in myself and the visions and dreams that I held so close and never shared, never dared.
In college, at a certain state university that rated number one on Playboy’s party college list while I was attending, I might have partied a little more. Tried some dangerous things (like hang gliding, not drugs). Maybe, if it was the day of my worst date ever, maybe I would have moved on my date’s friend who.. well, alternate futures being what they are.
I find it self-revealing that my thoughts on this theme go back… dealing with regrets or at least missed opportunities. Today, though… this week? This month, this year? My first thought then is, one day would not be enough. There are too many things I’d want to do. I’m a promethean. I don’t really live in the moment; I live somewhere in the future. Somewhere “out there”. I’d need months warning that the day was coming up so I could prioritize and make plans to optimize my day.
And then my inner Admiral Akbar kicks in: this question is a trap!
Why would I want to do anything without some kind of consequence? Even Bill Murray’s character became a better man in Ground Hog Day! The whole reason for doing something is the consequence. Sneaking kisses is only meaningful for the memory of the event: consequence. I’m a better person for taking risks that turn out well: consequence.
Most of what I want to do, any time, are things that benefit others. I work in customer service, and I stay at it despite the low pay because I enjoy knowing I’ve helped someone, even if its just ringing up their bottled water. I’ve opened a business in this Rural Town which I hope makes money, but the reason I opened it is to help the community. I’ve started a trails association for the purpose of making mountain bike opportunities better for all.
It is probably safe to say that everyone does what they do for the consequences. The rush from the risk. Feeling better from eating better. That notion of self-importance, self-worth, that comes from robbing someone of something of value, be it their wallet or their dignity or their life. The consequences are the why of what we do.
Consequences affect us in positive or negative ways, but I think its also safe to say that some consequences are inherently good and some inherently bad, in a moral distinction. Some apparent benefits are also moral traps: I boost my sense of self-worth when I cause someone else to fail: that’s a consequence. But I also erode my soul when I do so, a consequence I choose to ignore when planning that short-term high. Likewise, acts of generosity are now being proven to provide a neurochemical boost, leaving us and our brains in a better state, despite the apparent negative consequence of having less of something after giving it away.
I want my actions to have consequences. I want my actions to build up – improve – myself and the others around me. In the end, I honestly can’t imagine a day without consequences, or why I’d want to have one. That said, I may have experienced several days without consequence already, and so may have you…
…If there were no consequences, who would know or remember?