Hypocritical? Sure. A bird-flip not just to Buettner’s longevity work but also what I write about, preach, and live by? Absolutely. But honestly, it felt great. In an awful way, of course — as processed foods and booze are wont to do.
In our era of hyperactive wellness, it’s healthy to let yourself off the hook occasionally. A private vice (or two) can be just what you need to better understand what’s right for you.
Breaking (Down) Bad
What does it mean to be “bad,” anyway? I’m not talking about in a Walter White way; just garden variety transgressions that harm nobody except perhaps yourself. As psychologist Jamieson Webster has found, most of her patients grapple with it in their attempts to be the perfect spouse/friend/parent/citizen.
I see patients grow fearful when they can’t tell if what they desire is compulsive — just another rote, maybe addictive, behavior, or a real attempt to test the boundaries they live under. How do you locate free will in a world this compulsory?
Freud theorized that recognizing the “individuality and multiplicity of desires” would lead society to collectively make better decisions. In our internet-driven age that’s created the so-called “shame-industrial complex,” it can be trickier to allow your desires to surface, but as Jamieson argues, it’s just as crucial. Experimenting with what you consider taboo helps you clarify your boundaries and make more authentic choices about living your life.
A Little Vice Advice
As a meditation teacher, I’ve studied the Vedic worldview, and the story of how humans came to be is a favorite. In the beginning, consciousness was all there was: perfect, whole, pure, and complete. But that became a bit boring, so one day, consciousness broke itself in half and gave one side the gift of forgetting.
The part that split off was we humans, freeing us up to explore all aspects of life in the journey to rediscover that original bliss. And so, nature encouraged us to dance with the imperfect parts of ourselves and, when needed, embrace self-forgiveness.
If you’ve learned nothing from our recently departed patron saint of laid-back decadence, Jimmy Buffett, it’s that we all get to pick our poisons. While wasting away in Margaritaville’s hot sun got him in the end, his lifestyle was his choice. And not just his, but millions of Parrot Heads and others who supported him in amassing a billion-dollar fortune built on the desire to believe it’s always five o’clock somewhere.
So, if a cheeseburger is your paradise, go for it. Sure, you might be reincarnated as a cow; but to some, they’re sacred animals. In other words, one person’s virtue is another’s vice.
I Don’t Need to Be a ‘Good Person.’ Neither Do You. (New York Times – gift article)