Parking Lot Philosophy II: Weakness

A small, mouthy bird landed in the parking lot of a 24-hour diner in the suburbs.  It was about 10:30 PM.  He was supposed to meet his friend, a dog, at 10:45.  He looked at his phone and saw a series of missed text messages from the dog that read:

>omg

>Wait.

>I have to shit.

>I’ll still be there by 1045

The bird sighed and looked at the night sky.

10:45 came and went.  The bird lit a cigarette, took a few puffs and eventually heard some fast, heavy footsteps.  The dog was bounding up to him with a big smile on his face but when he got to the bird, he gasped and grasped his chest as if he had just been shot:

Dog: You’re smoking!

Bird: Oh my god, I knew this was going to happen…

Dog: Put that out!

Bird: I’m almost done.

Dog: Then put it out. You can’t can you? You’re weak.

Bird: (taking a puff) Can you explain that to me?

Dog: What?

Bird: You always say that I’m weak when I have a cigarette.  Why?  Like what’s weak? What do you mean?

Dog: You just can’t help yourself.  You can’t control yourself.  You can’t just say ‘no’ and not light up a cigarette.

Bird: Yeah, so?

Dog: That’s weak! You lack self-control!

Bird: But you can say that about anything.  Did you ever look at all the things you do – and I’m not talking about substances – in your life that your logic could apply to also?

Dog: I don’t smoke.  I don’t do anything.

Bird: I know.  I just said I’m not talking about substances.  Look, you said I can’t just say ‘no’ and not light up a cigarette, right?

Dog: Yeah.

Bird: And this makes me weak?

Dog: Yeah.

Bird: So because I wanted, desired, a cigarette and didn’t stop myself from doing it, that means I’m weak?

Dog: Yes.

Bird: So, giving in to a want or desire is weak.

Dog: (seeing where this is going) …

Bird: You see what I’m saying? You can just plug in anything from eating to getting a new job and call someone weak if they simply follow a desire.

Dog: No, dude, you can’t compare smoking a cigarette to eating or getting a job.

Bird: I’m not comparing them; I’m saying that based on your logic, giving in to a desire is weak.  That’s all our life is: giving in to desires.  There are no ascetics here.  We’re all just following our desires.  Some may be short term, like a cigarette (takes a puff), and others may be long term, (exhales) like going to college to get a good job to fulfill other desires down the road.  Or is fulfilling short-term desires just what you find weak?

Dog: OK, first of all, you need a job to live.  You have to eat to live.  Cigarettes are bad for you! They kill you!  So, cigarettes are a desire you should not give in to!  And yes, they’re a short-term desire – long-term desires, like going to school, are not weak.  Like… ‘giving in’ to a long-term desire and following through on it is not weak.

Bird: I kinda think I agree with you on that last point, but I don’t know why I do… Like, what’s the difference?

Dog: Sacrifice.  You make sacrifices for the long-term desire.  You sacrifice short-term desires for the long-term desire.

Bird: Well, according to you I am making a sacrifice when I smoke: my health.

Dog: (shaking the bird) Yes! Cigarettes are bad for you dude!

Bird:  So I should quit smoking to be healthier?

Dog: Yes.

Bird: Why?

Dog: What do you mean ‘why’?

Bird: Well that assumes I want to be healthy… And I guess I’d want to be healthy so…I could live longer?

Dog: Yes.

Bird: But if I desire a long, healthy life, it would be weak of me to stop smoking then, because I’d just be giving into my desire for life.

Dog: Oh my god, you’re so stupid.

Bird: (takes last puff on cigarette) No I like this logic now… (flicks cigarette) It looks like suicide is the most strong-willed move a person can make – if they want to live, that is…  And I must admit, I do want to live… This is why I merely smoke cigarettes instead of just offing myself: I’m weak.  I’m giving in to my desire for life; and what’s worse is I’m giving into this desire every second – feverishly sucking up second after second.  My desire for life seems utterly insatiable: I’m addicted.[1]   What was that shit Raskolikov says in Crime and Punishment?[2]  Something about clinging to a square of space in horrible conditions…?   Wanting to cling to it….? (contemplates for a moment) Eh fuck it, I don’t remember.  Anyway, you see what I’m saying?  Living is the weakest, most cowardly thing we can do.  Suicide is the most ascetic act.

Dog: Oh god, shut up.  Let’s go in.

Bird: OK, you wanna get some saganaki?

Dog: No… that shit stinks.

Bird: Yeah, you’re right.

They exit the parking lot and enter the diner.

[1] Being addicted to life will kill you: life is the cause of every death.

[2] The passage that the bird was trying to remember: “Where is it,” thought Raskolnikov. “Where is it I’ve read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he’d only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once! Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!… How true it is! Good God, how true! Man is a vile creature!… And vile is he who calls him vile for that,” he added a moment later. (Crime and Punishment, Part 2, Chapter 6)

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