Pie in the Sky

I always thought the expression “pie in the sky” meant “unrealistic thinking”. Belief that aliens will come and save humanity from environmental collapse would be an example of “pie in the sky thinking”.

But it doesn’t mean that at all!

I learned the other day that “pie in the sky thinking” is when we defer our rewards or pleasures until a later date, possibly never to collect them at all.

It comes from the Calvinist/Protestant idea that if we work hard today and embrace toil and discomfort, we’ll be rewarded with our delicious pastry-based treat when (and only when!) we’re safely in the afterlife. Our time on Earth, the sky-pie advocate would say, is for work, toil, effort, seriousness, abstention. Something delicious like a pie can wait until we’re in the cloud kingdoms (and presumably won’t actually have bodies anymore and won’t be interested in sensory, gastronomic pleasures such as eating a pie). What a scam!

A more secular example of “pie in the sky” is retirement. Work today, relax tomorrow. What we mean by ‘tomorrow’ in this scenario is a variable feast: an ill-defined distant lazy time kicking in around the age of 65 (if you’re lucky), or 80 (if you’re less lucky), or in your 50s (if you’re fairly clever or accept a redundancy package), or 33 (if you’re Jacob Lund Fisker) or never (if you die first).

So “pie in the sky thinking” is something we need to escape. As Atheists or Agnostics or otherwise skeptical individuals, we can assume there is no “sky” and therefore no “pie” and no reason to delay our gratifications for so long. Escapologists can (and do!) have our pie today.

Bring on the pie, I say, before we’re too rheumatic or wrinkly or cremated to appreciate it.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

One Response to “Pie in the Sky”

  1. sean says:

    Couldn’t agree more! The idea of retirement is ridiculous. We need to work less RIGHT NOW while our faculties are still in decent shape.

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