The purpose of every major religion has been to tell us that we will live on after we die. This seems unlikely, to my mind, as it preaches exactly what we wish to hear. Anyone who tells you what you want to hear likely wants something from you, even if it is simply your affection and fratitude. The problem is that this also cheapens the effect of living. If your greater rewards are to come next, then this life must be ignored. But if there is no life after this, what then? What possible purpose could we have for wasting this life in service of the next? And, more importantly, if the next life is the kind of one that we would enjoy, why would it do something so stupid as require that we sacrifice our first one?
I have been considering death, lately, as you can probably see. I have an admission to make. I hate it, and it terrifies me more than anything else in the world, for it is the exact negation of this world, it is the void of both nothingness and non-existence, the place in which everything that I have ever attempted will come crashing down. Death wipes clean the slate, a slate that myself, and every other self-respecting human being, has been struggling to build.
It is true, you can prolong your influence. Plato is still alive, thousands of years after his death. But if one member of a race is impermanent, than they all are. If a race is impermanent, then it tends to reason that it will end one day, on the slightest chance. Billions of years from now, the sun will explode. Unless we manage to escape our present solar system by that time, which I have heavy doubts as to, we will all be gone. That also fails to take into account human error. One maniac with a nuclear weapon in his hands could level the entire planet, were he given the chance. There are numerous scenarios like this, each of them with impeccably small odds. Yet, in the face of infinity, every odd will be tested. On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero. We will all die.
What then? Plato will cease to exist, even if we manage to faithfully keep him in our minds until doomsday. So will the rest of us. Some of us, the lesser ones, we will have already been dead and forgotten before then. Others, the great men who have left their impressions behind, will be leveled in the end, along with the rest. You can delay the complete and utter demolition of your being by making it worthwhile for others to know. But when the whole race ceases to exist, so will you, and this is an inevitability.
Schopenhauer says that, having existed for an eternity as inert matter, life is some sort of mistake, and in the end we will return to this matter. We can't really fear this, not without being in the right mind, because we will be just as happy after our lives as we were before; that is, not to have a consciousness. Yet, Schopenhauer was decidedly pessimistic. His view of life is negative. Mine is positive.
There are some who claim that living forever would be a burden, a bore. They feel that life only has meaning as long as this meaning is threatened, and that once it ceases to be, then so will their meaning. the only thing I have to say to these people, is that they had no meaning in their lives to begin with. Yet, there are some who have meaning in their lives, without the threat of death. There are some who live for things other than gratification, who create their own meaning, a world from their fingertips.
I am more bored by a life that ends than by one that continues. If I lived forever, I would be satisfied. I would seek constantly, to always understand, to always learn and push myself constantly further. My only regret is that I was not born at the beginning of time, and allowed to live until its very end. This would be the perfect life for me. Yet, it is not true. I was cursed with being born in a constant present, rather than allowed to transcend time altogether. If I could not have been born immortal, then at least I would have wished to be born nearer the end of time than this. This is certainly no end time, nor is it a beginning time. It is no golden age, but nor is it a dark age. It is worlds better than the past; it is nowhere near as interesting as the future will be. With history recorded, at least for the most part, the man in the future can relive the past. for this reason, existing in the future is always preferable.
Yet, I must face the fact that I will die. It is true, and inevitable. Perhaps I will take the easy road, and accept what religion has taught me. More likely, I will take the hard road, and make every attempt to transcend death and time altogether. I must begin by desensitizing myself to the concept of my own death.
As a concept, it scares me, to the pit of my stomach. I become physically sick when I truly consider that I will die, and utterly cease to exist. There will not even be a consciousness to consider that I am dead. There will be inert matter, and I will be gone. I must think about this, I must face it, in order to move past it. I must learn to both accept and reject death, and when I am done, I will live forever, regardless of what happens to my body in sixty or so years when I likely die. I must meditate on death, and learn not to fear it.
I think I will begin when I start my second vow of silence, within the next few weeks. I have planned it for winter quarter this year, as it seems more fitting, and less obtrusive into my social life. Here's to hoping that it will treat me as well as last year's.