Thursday, April 2, 2009


By : Mr. Daniel G. Foster, B.A., Formerly Married Man and High School Superintendent, East Rutherford High School; Deceased 1995

Everywhere you look these days, you see images that make you want to live. You see bronzed women laying on black sand beaches. You see youthful men drinking beer and smiling with their friends. And you see men, women and children grinning as they play an electronic gaming system or watch a huge flat-panel television. In short, it seems that everyone wants to live. After all, according to these images, there is so much to live for: You can go on vacation, you can drink beer, you can find beautiful bronzed women on beaches and you can play electronic gaming systems to your heart’s content. There is so much to do. And it is all so fun.

But these images are deceiving. Living is much more difficult than these images lead us to believe. We might fantasize about bronzed women on beaches or buying huge Hummer trucks with wheels that do not rotate when they turn. Yet how many of us really accomplish our dreams? Unlike the strapping youths in beer commercials, we may be obese, nerdy, unattractive or some combination of all three. There is no way we can make witty comments to bronzed women. These women will not come within 70 feet of us. We may dream about landing a high-paying job with excellent benefits and buying a luxurious home. Yet more often we compromise, work in retail, schlep to work every day in crowded commuter buses, go home, eat Chinese food, watch television on a small screen, look at internet porn, go to bed and repeat the process every subsequent day until our physical or mental health fails.

No one ever told us how hard life is before we started really living it. No one told us about jealously, betrayal, deceit, deception, lying, stealing, disappointment, mockery or dissatisfaction. We all thought we would date beautiful women and live in huge houses. Instead, we wind up having relationships with mildly overweight secretaries who steal from us and cheat on us. Meanwhile, we develop various physical ailments over the years that give us pain, discomfort, anxiety and despair. We might suffer from gout or kidney stones. We might develop kidney cancer or gall bladder infections. We might even suffer a tragic accident that paralyzes us from the waist down, rendering us impotent invalids for the rest of our lives.

And that is just physical pain. Often, too, we cultivate loving relationships with our families, friends and spouses, only to watch them suffer and die, leaving us alone and heartbroken. Pain comes in many forms. And life is full of it. From day to day, you never can know what card life will deal you. You may have a successful insurance career and a loving wife one day, then be bankrupt, alone and forgotten the next. It happens all the time. That’s life. This is not the life you see in beer commercials. It isn’t fun. It isn’t carefree. And by God, it hurts a lot.

Living is overrated. Take it from me—I died in 1995 and I have been doing great ever since. Well, I haven’t really been doing anything at all, but that’s better than being betrayed, hoodwinked, deceived, beaten, humiliated, hurt, injured, ridiculed, abandoned, or fired from a job. Dying solves many of life’s most difficult problems. When you get out of the race, the race can’t hurt you anymore. True, you lose the opportunity to live a sprightly, youthful existence like the young men in the beer commercials. True, you lose the opportunity to seduce bronzed women on beaches and to buy 100” home theater systems. True, you lose the opportunity to invent lawnmowing equipment and to get rich from patent and licensing royalties. But very few people ever achieve these things in life. And for the chance to win these rewards, you expose yourself to life’s whipping winds. More often than not, those winds will whip you much harder than you ever thought possible. And for what? The chance to seduce a bronzed woman? The chance to patent a new sliding door? The chance to buy a beachfront home in Florida? These are chances, not guarantees. Chances are, you will end up far from your dream. Ted Williams said he wanted to be the greatest hitter who ever lived. He achieved his dream. But you are not Ted Williams. And that is just a sappy myth intended to inspire children before their inevitable disappointments in life. Do yourself a favor: Do not expect so much from life. And do not be so afraid to die. It really is not all that bad.

When I was alive, my first wife bickered with me constantly. She blamed me for losing money on the stock market and she blamed me for my erectile dysfunction. Then she divorced me and took half my savings. You have no idea how horrible that was. But after I died in 1995, I could care less about my first wife. When I was alive, I used to work at a steel wholesalers’ warehouse. My boss told me if I worked hard, I could be a shareholder in the company and own a stake in the business. I worked hard for 14 years, then a new owner bought the warehouse and fired me. Then I started working in a public school. It was dreadful and it dashed my dreams. But after I died in 1995, I felt neither disappointment nor regret. I felt nothing at all, and that was a lot better than opening myself up to further insults. When I was alive, I suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, skin cancer and intestinal inflammation. I used to fear going to the doctor and hearing what he would say about my health. I underwent numerous surgeries and argued with my health insurer about coverage. They said I had intestines before I developed intestinal inflammation, so that meant I could not claim full benefits on pre-existing organs. Ultimately I spent about $75,000 on surgery, wiping out my savings account. After I died in 1995, I stopped worrying about my health and my money. It was simply revolutionary.

Looking back on my living days, I do not know why I approached things with such anxiety. To some extent, I always thought life would get better and that I would be rich, famous, have a beautiful wife and raise a family. Along the way, I went to work, saved money, and met friends. As time went on, it became clear that I would not be rich, I would not be famous and I did not have a beautiful wife. Yet in the back of my mind, I felt that I had failed. Every time I took a test or started a new job, I felt that my life was on the line: Either I did well or I would not reach my dreams. But that was all unnecessary. I should have just enjoyed myself that whole time rather than struggling to attain the unattainable. I would have spared myself so much anxiety and uncertainty. Well, now I know. I'm dead, but at least I know.

I say to you: Death is not all that bad. Of course, the beer commercials do not want you to think this. They want you to believe that being young and having fun is the most important thing in life. No one wants to be dead because when you are dead you cannot buy things or experience pleasure. Yet these are all transient goals. No one tells you that you often experience extremely negative emotions and events as you strive to buy things and experience pleasure. Take it from me: We rarely experience more pleasure in life than pain, and when we try to obtain property, we face insuperable obstacles from those who already have it. In life, people fight for everything. Fights are not fun. They cause anxiety and disappointment. Only the winners feel good, and even then they only feel good until the next fight comes along. Life is an endless race for illusory happiness. To participate in the race, you must expose yourself to pain, suffering, disillusionment, betrayal, discomfort, humiliation, shame, failure and fatigue. Why? For the chance to seduce bronzed women and live in a large house? Ultimately your body will decay and you will die. What good will your success do you then?

Since dying, I have not gotten into a single argument. I have not felt disappointed when a date does not show up, nor have I lost a single dollar on the stock market. I do not feel anxiety before exams. In fact, I do not take exams at all anymore because I am dead. I do not feel bad when people scold me or give me negative performance reviews. Nor do I pay taxes or feel bitter when I receive a bill larger than the one I expected. After all, the dead owe nothing. It is a great feeling to know that you do not owe anything anymore. I make only one concession for my great feelings these days: I no longer have the opportunity to experience pleasure. The bottom line is that dead people do not have living nerves to experience pleasurable sensations. On the other hand, they also do not have nerves to experience all the terrible things that the world flings their way. If that is the only price for my tranquility, I am more than prepared to pay it.

I am dead. I cannot be disappointed, humiliated, taxed, injured, punished or insulted. I cannot seduce bronzed women, but neither can most living people. On the whole, then, I am ahead of the game. See you on the other side. You’ll be happy you’re here. And you’ll kick yourself when you think how much energy you wasted on things that meant nothing at all when you were alive.


SteveW said...

"Yet more often we compromise, work in retail, schlep to work every day in crowded commuter buses, go home, eat Chinese food, watch television on a small screen, look at internet porn, go to bed and repeat the process every subsequent day until our physical or mental health fails."

And I thought you were going to denigrate living as overrated in this post.

Balthazar Oesterhoudt said...

Steve, that was the funniest thing I've read all morning! Your comments are always a great addition to my posts.