Your “Imperishable Things” Need the Perishable Ones

For millennia, philosophers and religious leaders (hereafter referred to as “wise guys”) – one after another – have reminded people like you to go after the things that last.

Muscles? Bodily health? Beauty? Sex? Wealth? Ask many Christians, Stoics, Buddhists, or other practicing wise guys and you can expect to be told that “these [perishable] things will all pass away”. That temporariness of good looks, well-functioning biceps, or a comfortable bank account is a big negative for the “things of the flesh.”

There is a strict dichotomy in these wisdom traditions between the pursuit of these “perishable things” and the pursuit of imperishable ones like love, truth, enlightenment, or other virtues.

But what if the wise guys have got it all wrong?

I don’t dispute the value in what Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

There is raw truth here. But I do question if you can begin to store up treasures in heaven if you have no capital goods here on earth.

Let’s talk about physical strength especially.

Many ascetic, spiritual people use this logic: “I’ll get old and die one day, so why bother taking care of my body?” “Ah, those muscle-bound dudes will one day be weak old men – that’ll show them how worthless bodybuilding is.” Etc.

I used to use these excuses, too, despite being neither very spiritual nor ascetic at the time.

But I should have interrogated these assumptions. Yes, strength will go away. But if courage and goodness (among other “imperishable things”) are worth having, how do you expect to get them if you won’t get off the sofa?

All those seemingly “perishable” times spent working out are part of what you’ll need to be prepared to seize the “imperishable” bits of virtue and spiritual uplift when difficulty comes.

The same principle applies elsewhere.

Sex: how do you expect to know the depths of human love if you don’t experience intimacy with another human?

Money: how will you see the full possibilities of generosity if you have no resources?

Your imperishable things need the perishable ones, and vice versa. Don’t accept the false dichotomy.

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

Intellectual Influence: H/T to Jocko Willink and Dick Winters for making me ponder the connection between physical and moral courage.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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