Keith Richards is My Role Model or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Existentialism

StevenCraigBlogBelieve it or not, Keith Richards truly is my role model. And yes, I mean the Keith Richards that is rumored to receive regular blood transfusions in order to detoxify the chemical waste dump he has turned his body into. And yes, I mean the same Keith Richards that once, by his own confession, snorted the cremated ashes of his deceased father. But despite all that and much much more, Keith Richards is 71, yes 71 years old, and his very living breath is a giant middle finger to the moral judgment of the falsely virtuous.
For decades now, Keith Richards has been held up as a poster boy for the dangers of the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll mantra that rose to its heights during the liberalism and social activism of the 1970’s only to be incrementally reigned in and frowned upon in the decades since. Watch out, folks would say, or you’ll end up like Keith Richards. Or as Peter Hitchens said of Richards in 2010, “(He is) a capering streak of living gristle who ought to be exhibited as a warning to the young of what drugs can do to you even if you’re lucky enough not to choke on your own vomit.”
Oh really? And just what part of Keith Richards’s wild ride should we learn from? The copious sex? The never-ending cycles of drugs and alcohol that often reduced him to sleeping just two or three nights a week? A recording career that fundamentally altered the course of music history and earned him a place on the short list of the century’s most influential artists? A wealth that has afforded him a lifestyle of beautiful vacation homes and lavish experiences that most of us can only daydream of? If that’s his punishment for a life of excess and debauchery, sign me up.
“Oh but wait, have you seen Keith Richards lately?” you ask. To which I reply, “Well, yes I have. You know what he looks like? A fucking 71 year old man!” He looks about the same as my dad who just turned 70 himself last year. Never a particularly good looking chap, Richards has turned into a middle of the road man in his seventies.
And he’s still alive. After over 50 years as the living embodiment of the phrase “party like a rock star” and hearing the admonitions of those who said he would surely wreck his health, he is still alive and in reasonably fine health. How many of those admonishing, teetotaling douche bags has he outlived? Ah, thank you irony.
Because in the end, the only thing that really matters is not how long you live but how you live it. Moralists will suggest that Richards will pay for the sins of this lifetime in the next, that his atonement may be delayed but surely it is coming.
And that is where existentialism, often viewed as a pessimistic perspective on the human condition can actually shed a ray of hope and liberation. The existentialists suggest that there is no “next life”, no after world, no consequence or meaning other than the false ones we try to foster in this brief and meaningless existence. If our lives have no meaning and our death really is the end, there are no subsequent consequences for our actions and we are free to live a life that offers us joy and appreciation for the few moments we are fortunate to have. Released from the fear of continual judgment, even one that lingers beyond this lifetime, we are liberated into a state of living consciously with the knowledge that our lives are brief and meaningless so you might as well enjoy that shit while you can. Carpe fucking diem.
Keith Richards has embraced the chaos of life and, in doing so, won the game of life. Personally, I prefer mountain biking and skiing to the indulgences of drugs and alcohol (though I have to agree with Keith on the sex), but if you derive genuine pleasure from them, what the hell does it really matter what anyone else thinks? What does their fear-based judgment mean anyways? Too few people live the life they dream of for fear of the consequences. But what worse consequence can there be than living a live devoid of joy and passion, a life truly unfulfilled, only for a delayed gratification that nevers comes. So thank you Keith Richards for reminding us to delve headfirst into life and suck all the marrow from it, damn be the consequences. Besides, there are always blood transfusions….