Did you hear the one about how, if you live your whole life absolutely convinced that the world's going to hell because of gay marriage and the terrifying "homosexual lifestyle," that you'll die approximately 2.5 years sooner than you would if you were, you know, not a homophobic jerk your whole life?
True. There's a study. That sort of draws a correlation. Between the stress of intense bigotry and dying ugly. Which is a really fun thing to tweet and make easy jokes about, but also which, alas, actually misses the biggest, juiciest point there is about love and sex and age and death.
Do you know what it is? I bet you do.
But wait, before we get to that: Isn't it odd how lifespan gets so much attention? Every few weeks a new study emerges declaring that this or that questionable behavior, food addiction or awful choice in footwear will, if you continue doing it, surely shave years off your precious life.
Do you smoke? Binge drink? Tanning booth? Four Diet Cokes and a carton of Hot Pockets every day while watching Fox News? Live in West Virginia or Kentucky or Mississippi? You will die many years earlier than someone who's not, you know, a thrumming naif.
Do you work 97 hours a week? Fear God and enjoy porn, simultaneously? Stockpile ammo and shallow dread because Obama is surely coming to take away all your guns and canned ravioli? Are you Bill O'Reilly? Better get that casket now. You might already be dead.
Is this idea not a little bit strange? As if the promise of living longer is some sort of motivator. As if that's really what's most important. As if the world's homophobes are reading that study -- which they most certainly are not -- and will suddenly realize it's time to warm their frozen hearts not because it's the right thing to do, but because they might make it to 80 and not, say, 77.5.
Make no mistake: longevity matters. Everyone knows men die younger than women, largely due to the high-anxiety male roles of breadwinner, heavy lifter, office drone and Grand Repressor of All Emotion, the sum-total stress of which wears us down to an early grave. You have but to stroll the halls of any retirement home in America to witness the huge numbers of sighing widows, many surely wishing their late husbands hadn't worked so damn hard. Or hated gays so much.
(Of course, this traditional imbalance will surely correct itself now that women have entered the workforce en masse and are taking over many of the stressful, heart-lethal jobs men once endured. Welcome to the workforce, ladies. Now we can all die together).
But here is your far more pertinent question: Who, when they're 30, 40, 50 years old, really cares about living to 90, particularly when you can't really do much with those latter years except slow strolls in the park and bourbon at bedtime, hoping you remember where you left the grandkids?
Isn't what you really want sort of the exact opposite? To be living wildly better and right now, vibrating with all flavors of radiant immediacy and health? Isn't the reason you quit smoking not so you'll live longer, but so you don't smell like a cancerous tailpipe and can climb stairs without collapsing? Is it not far better to move through life unburdened by the karmic detritus caused by ignorance of love, of God, of the body, of sex and death, convinced the world is a miserable hellhole ruled by thieves and snakes? It's like the Buddha said: Wake up now, oh endlessly whiny one. It will make getting to 90 so much more fascinating.
But wait. There's another angle, even better, even deeper, more cosmically aligned and true. It's the idea that, if you do, in fact, live your whole life as a raging homophobe, if you die still poisoned by any sort of misshapen, bigoted belief, not only will you expire sooner, but you will surely come back.
To do it all over again. To try and get it right. Another life. Another body. Another soul. Over and over again, maybe a million times, until you finally learn a whole pile of karmic lessons you apparently haven't quite gleaned just yet. Until you, in other words, lighten the hell up.
Do you believe in this idea at all? The cycle of unfinished souls? Don't take my word for it. Look around; it's easy enough to notice all the clenched, low-vibrating humans wandering the world, dead behind the eyes, hunched and lost, many of whom seem to feel compelled to perform some sort of gloomy, pre-set role because they have no idea there's another way.
Do you know anyone like this? Beings who...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate, and the creator of the Mark Morford's Apothecary iOS app. He's also a well-known ERYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...