Friday, June 10, 2011

Immortality and Death

Immortality. Humans have searched for, written about, and lusted for eternal life since the beginning of documented history. The thought of living forever is like a powerful drug to the human body. It can paralyze the senses and make us believe almost anything. Literature and cinema are full of tales dealing with immortality.

There is the Island of Immortals in Gulliver's Travels.

The Greek Gods.

The Roman Gods.

The Holy Grail, The Elixir of Life, The Fountain of Youth.

Christianity, Islam, Taoism.

The Elves in Lord of the Rings.


Edward and Bella. Bill and Eric. Dracula.

Why do humans have such a profound obsession with immortality? Because we are scared stupid (sometimes literally) about dying, about leaving the Earth, about being forgotten, about missing life.

Death is so... final! There are no second chances or negotiations when it comes to your last breath. Sometimes I lay in bed and think "some day I'm going to die. Me. I am going to DIE!" Then I start to freak out a little bit... it's a scary thought. I accept death as part of life, but I'm in total denial about it happening to me. It's like hearing about some one's horrible freak accident and you think "well, that sucks for them, but it will never happen to me."

But eventually, death will catch up with all of us. The unspoken number-1 rule of life is to stay alive. All other goals and dreams seem pretty pointless if we can't achieve the first and most important goal. STAY ALIVE.

Also, we can't predict anything when it comes to death. Not the when, the where, the how... the why...

But eventually we will die... and then what?! This thought, the what-happens-next, is why humans are so obsessed with immortality.

Some people are so obsessed with not dying that they will waste their entire lives seeking immortality. This is where religious people and atheists differ. Religion gives people the idea that after they die, their soul can live on forever in a perfect paradise, surrounded by all of their loved ones. Sounds awesome, right. It's so comforting. Ahhhh... I could just sit back and bask in the promise of immortality.

But wait. Even in death, nothing is free. In order to reach this perfect paradise, you have to devote part of your life to God. You have to say the magic words, read the magic book, talk to God, and devote time to going to church. If you don't do these things, you can't go to heaven. The Bible says you have to accept Jesus into your heart in order to go to heaven. If you don't, not only will you not go to heaven, but you will BURN IN HELL, FOREVER!

Wait... what!?

What if I'm a good person? What if I'm moral. Honest. Caring. Loving. Compassionate. Wholesome. Funny. Sympathetic. Empathetic. Kind. Courageous. Honorable. What if I devote myself to feeding the homeless instead of wasting hours in a church. What if I decide to build houses with my own two hands, instead of clasping them in prayer. None of that matters, because if I don't speak the magic words, it's an eternity of hellfire and brimstone. Do I really deserve an eternal life of torture because I didn't go to church on Sundays? If so, what kind of God do you serve?

People often say, "well, it's better to be safe, than sorry - especially with your immortal soul." But do you know what I say to them? This is my life, my one and only chance to live. I am not going to waste a moment of my life worshipping a ghost or a phantom.

Instead I am going to play with my kids. I'm going to kiss my wife. I'm going to watch a sunset and listen to the ocean. I'm going to volunteer my time/money to help others... actually HELP them, not asking a ghost to help them. I'm going to grill out hamburgers. I'm going to cry at a sad movie. I'm going to sleep in on Sunday. I'm going to go on vacation with my family and see the world. I'm going to smile at a stranger. I'm going to work hard. I'm going to kick my feet up after a long day.

As an atheist, I believe that death is final. No pretty pictures, no fairy tales. It's hard to accept, at least it was for me; I wanted the fairy tale. But wanting it doesn't make it true.

I get it. Heaven is comforting. It is a beautiful idea. I can't think of anything better, but still, that doesn't make it true. The only truth we have is we live and we die. For that reason, I will not sacrifice one second of my life, my only life, for an unproven higher power. I will not chase immortality while wasting my time here on earth. At the end of my life, whenever that may be, I want to look back and know that I LIVED. I want to live running at full speed, jumping, flipping, and flying. I don't want to look back and see that I wasted my life on my knees, cowering in fear and praying to a merciless God. I want to leave a legacy. I want to live in the thoughts and memories of my family and friends. And they will be GREAT memories!

Dead. Death. Dying. Departure. Passing. The Big Sleep. The Swan Song. The End. How will you live? How will you love? Who will you choose to spend your life with? It's your life, your ONE life, how will you live it?

No comments:

Post a Comment