His heart beat faster, his thoughts took off like a jet plane, his stomach felt funny, but he wanted to do it. Whatever it was that made him want to do it was so important to him that it drowned out the screaming voice of his conscience, warning him: don’t cross that line!
He loved to live for the moment. Though he knew the consequences, he chose not to think about them – like a smoker who knows what awaits his lungs, yet will not really consider what it will be like to have emphysema or lung cancer. Or a reckless driver who cannot be stopped by a red light, refusing to consider the consequences of a car coming from the other direction. Mesmerized by the thrill of having no restraint, he closed his eyes to the future.
Soon it was over. He had done it. Overwhelmed with guilt, he swore that he would never do it again. But time went by and he changed his mind. This time it wasn’t so hard, though. Somehow it didn’t seem as bad as it used to. Like a dog returning to its vomit he repeated this cycle again and again until eventually he began to resent his conscience. Its familiar warnings that he once took seriously now seemed like old fashioned principles that needed to change. Change! change! change! was the war cry of his peers.
He remembered his grandparents speaking of what it was like in the olden days: you would be an outcast from society if you did such things. But now it was easy to find friends who thought like he did. Friends who showed him how to think in new ways that gave him more freedom. The miserable, guilty feelings his conscience once gave him went away. It began to speak softer and softer, until one unexpected day, it spoke no more. Silenced by his choices, his conscience appeared to be gone, or changed, or evolved, or something. Or was it?
What if his conscience had the equal rights he screamed about? What if it had freedom of speech and he had to live with it? What would it be like to live with his life in front of him like a movie, or watch himself like an objective viewer? To hear his thoughts? To see his interactions with others? To see what he did when no one else was watching? But no, his conscience was silenced and his life went on.
Then one beautiful day – the birds were singing, spring was in the air, the warm sunshine felt so good, things couldn’t be better – suddenly... he found himself dead. Like most tragedies, he didn’t expect it. He never thought that morning when he woke up that it would be the last day of his life.
He was alone with his conscience now. This time though, it had freedom of speech. His conscience was different than he had ever known it to be. It wouldn’t be quiet when he told it to. He couldn’t avoid hearing it. It was bolder now and he began to fear it. The truth he avoided in life was ever before him in death. Now he wished he had listened to the warnings. The birds weren’t singing, spring was not in the air, and all he lived for was gone. Passing before his mind's eye, endlessly, were all the dark deeds, words, and thoughts he had given himself to his whole life, and the knowledge of their consequences.
Was it worth it? Why had pleasure been more important to him than doing what his conscience told him was right? He used to blame others for his wrong ways, but now he knew that it had been his choice. When his heart beat faster, when his thoughts took off like a jet plane, when he felt funny in his stomach, he should have recognized that it was his conscience screaming at him. He should have stopped and said, I can’t go past this warning or I will deeply regret it someday. He once hoped things would turn out okay. But now he knows: a man will reap what he sows.