Is an afterlife really what you want?
Most people you ask will tell you they believe there is an afterlife of some sort. Almost every religion suggests it or promises it in some way. No one can tell us whether it is true or not. They can only tell us what they believe.
What they believe is a real mishmash of ideas. Some think we will be spirits, some believe we will get new bodies, some believe in some kind of heaven, some believe there is a cosmic consciousness we will merge with.
Some believe we reincarnate as humans and some believe we might reincarnate as an animal or bug. Reincarnation usually implies that we have to learn lessons, and depending on how well we do determines what we come back as or to.
I don’t know if any of it is true, though for a lot of reasons I doubt it. I think (and notice I didn’t say I believe) that the most probable outcome of death is death. Permanent and without the possibility of “waking up” dead.
But that is not the purpose of this essay. I want to know if waking up dead is really what people want. What will being alive yet dead be like?
Again, we get all kinds of answers even though no one knows with any certainty what so ever. All they know is what they would like it to be, or what they have been taught by their religion.
I’m personally not sure I want there to be an afterlife. Oh it sounds good, but it might be like so many ideas that sound good at the time and turn out to be disasters. You know the kind of thing: My wife once decided to put our bed under the window. She didn’t count on the fact that the cats loved to sit on the window ledge at night or that they would jump down onto our faces as we slept. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
So some people think they will go to a heaven where all things are wonderful all the time. Perfection perhaps as a reward for proper living. Others think we have to learn things and they think of life and the afterlife as just a school we have to eventually graduate from.
I don’t like the idea of the Christian version of heaven. I can’t see myself sitting there worshiping an egotistical super being for eternity. Boring! There has to be more to life after death than that. Then there is hell or living like a disembodied spirit. Or living in a demented fog. And what is it I need to learn that would take me a million life times that I can’t learn in one? No one can really tell me.
What it is like to be hunted and that I should never do it if I don’t want it done it done to me, perhaps? Got it in one. Next!
I’m not making light of it but I spent many years studying eastern religions and thoughts and while a lot of it makes sense for the living, not much of it makes sense for the dead.
Do I want to know everything? Sure. Do I eventually want to merge with the cosmic consciousness? I don’t know. I have no idea what that would really be like. I assume my self-identity would be lost anyway. If not how much merging have I really done? And what is the point?
Well there may not be a point to life or death. But maybe it is all about what we make of it for ourselves. Life that is.
Let me ask you something. Would you like to just live forever right here on earth? For most of us that would depend on our quality of life. I don’t want to live forever, looking and feeling every day of it. But if I could stay in the condition I am now or better, then sure. I think.
After all, what would you do with eternity on earth in a good body? Sounds good, but we all know how complicated life is. All the relationships we have and all the trials and tribulations. Could you do that for eternity? I suppose we could if everyone did. After all, would you want to live forever while everyone else around you (all your loved ones ) dies? But it would take a lot of change for everyone.
Many people do not know what to do with the lives and the time they have now. I could see some people looking at their future and asking if they really want to go on like this literally forever. We may not like our lives, but as long as we live we can change. But what if we don’t like the afterlife? We can’t even kill ourselves to get away from it.
What I might do is travel, go to school often, and reinvent myself every 20 years or so. I might become a physicist, then a space traveler, then perhaps a doctor, and then... who knows? I could continue learning for eternity and eventually perhaps, know everything. I’m a know it all already, it wouldn’t take eternity.
Then what? Help build suns and solar systems so the human race as it is could go on reproducing for eternity? To what end? What end indeed.
What is the point of living forever, either alive or dead? After knowing everything, then what? After reaching perfection, then what?
Sure it is fun as long as you are learning. But what happens when the learning stops? When all things are run absolutely efficiently, when all the problems are solved, when all our needs are met? Then what? What do we do with all that knowing when there is nothing left to do? No problems to solve?
Well we are a long way from that, and some, like the pagans who believe in a never ending wheel of life, would say thank goodness, or thank the gods.
So what would be the difference between living for ever on earth with a perfect body, and living in heaven with a perfect soul or body, or merging with the cosmic consciousness and helping it to attain perfection that way?
The brain is an amazing thing, and as I have said many times I think the brain developed as a central command center for cells and groups of cells, with the prime directive to keep the cells alive at all costs.
But the human brain has taken it all one step farther and has decided it is the most important part of the human system, and to that end it has imagined souls and gods so it could cheat death even after the rest of the body succumb. But that’s just what I see as most probable.
I kind of like the idea of a final end for myself. It sounds restful; like a nice dreamless sleep. Of course there will be no waking up. I’ve done my part for a perfection that will probably never be and who’s fruition would mean the end of all creativity. Because what do you need to be creative for if there is no need? You don’t. Which by the way is the very reason a perfect god cannot exist: We do. A perfect god would have no needs or desires by definition. And no need or desire to create us.
Unless your definition of perfection is creativity, like the pagans believe. But then you have to accept that good and evil, so to speak, are required; because creativity is the result of conflict and its resolution. Without conflict of some sort there is no need for creativity, and nothing is done without need or desire. (which are essentially the same thing in the context of motivation) No one scratches unless they first itch.
Life is wonderful exactly because it is fleeting. It loses its value when it is eternal. And if I am going to wake up dead then I never died. I passed on from one form to another but I didn’t really die. So why do people mourn if they think a person that has died is in a better place? Do we really believe there is a life after death? No one is really sure are they?
Or is it because we miss the people who have died? Is it a selfish thing? And yet if you believe then you believe you will meet again in a better place. I suppose that is of some consolation to many. I almost wish I could believe it. I would if I didn’t know that belief in things you can’t even in principal know are true is folly at best.
I think that since our bodies are constantly losing energy and gaining new energy that we are constantly reincarnating in an unorthodox sense. I think that if the universe is striving for a perfection through me then by the end of my life I will have played my part. I can’t see it needing me to remain an individual for eternity if I am to merge with it. So I won’t be around in such a merger anyway. No need.
I’m glad to give myself up to the greater good so to speak. I’ll just have a restful sleep and won’t know a thing, thank you very much. And if it is by some fluke the Christian god that runs things, and he really is a tyrant egomaniac I figure it owes me oblivion. I didn’t ask to be born or play its game. Of course if god is a nice guy then we’ll talk.
But I would like a long life. I do love living. Perhaps a few hundred years to do the things I might want to do and to make a real difference and a real contribution. I think there is a good probability that science will give us that opportunity one day, even if religion doesn’t. But maybe not in my life time.
First thing that would change would be that you could never retire unless you were rich. (what else is new?) And if we all lived indefinitely we would over populate in no time. We would have to start leaving the planet to make room. There are all kinds of problems we would have that we can’t even think of now.
What we do with extended life remains to be seen. But what on earth would we want with eternal life after death? After thinking about it I don’t think I see the appeal or the point.