Eternal life

25th October 2009
by Marcus Loane


 Many religions promise us eternal life. The desire for eternal life is natural as evolution ensured that we have a natural tendency to want to go on surviving and a fear of death is a strong incentive for this. I think life after death is very unlikely and the notion has arisen due to the reason mentioned already. Many still believe in life after death as a faith based belief or hope.

 A belief in life after death has advantages and disadvantages. For those whose lives are difficult (think, sick and starving in Africa) it might offer some comfort that things will be better in the afterlife. It also may give comfort to those who have lost loved ones as they can imagine meeting up with them again. The disadvantage would be that people may not value the one life they are absolutely guaranteed, the one they are living right now in the present. They may treat their life as a rehearsal or a waiting game, not realising how short and precious it really is. If you do not believe in an afterlife it could make you value your life much more as it is all you have.

 It is not beyond the realms of possibility that technology in the future may find a way to prolong our lives for longer or even indefinitely, with our own or replacement bodies. There is no absolute principle that prevents us from living indefinitely. The reason we do not is because evolution did not require it. The evolutionary process just has to build bodies which last long enough to reproduce. 

 What comfort is there for those who do not believe in an afterlife?

 We can value the lives we have in the present and get the most out of them. We can still have a sense of the eternal in several ways. We can go on living in people’s memories and through the impact we made on the world, however small or big. We can have a sense of immortality by having children or our relatives having children. We can also view the universe in a timeless manner - if we step outside of time and view the universe’s entire history as laid out in front of us then our lives will be forever there, written into the great story of the universe. We will always have been. We will always have been a part of existence. We will always have been a part of all that ever is, was and will be. We will always be a part of existence. We are embedded within this vast and ancient universe and we are components of it. Our consciousness could be seen as the universe becoming self aware and that is an amazing almost spiritual idea to contemplate. With this view, we are living out our eternal lives now, in the present. We are writing our story into the universe and it always will have been, and it always will be part of the great Story of being and existence and the universe becoming aware of itself. If that is all there is, and we are at the very heart of it, we are most privileged indeed.

Thoughts on losing a loved one

 We can use the same thinking as comfort for the loss of a loved one. After loss and mourning, we can start to feel gratitude that our loved one had existed and feel grateful that we got to share some of our lives with them. Our relationship will always have been, and is forever written into the story of the universe and the story of our life.
 We can also be glad we have happy memories of times shared with them and that their influence has shaped us and lives on, through us, now.

Thoughts on being dead

 Why should we fear death? We only fear death because we evolved that way. It is an instinct like fear of snakes but we can reason ourselves out of our fears. Knowing why they are there is the first step.
 We suffered no discomfort in the billions of years before we were conceived and so it will be after we die. We die every night when we go to sleep. There is no suffering in nothingness. While we still live we can be happy that we are alive, cherishing each present moment. We can be happy we are still alive when we wake up, and if we do not we will not know.
 What if we are aware of our impending demise? We can fight to survive because life is precious and valuable and we want to prolong it. What if we are suffering and death is inevitable and soon? We can still value each present moment, moment by moment, and the moments become more meaningful and poignant. We can celebrate the life we had, and be glad we had a life, and be glad we got to know the people we knew, and loved the people we loved.

 Finally we can close our eyes quietly, contentedly and sleep.

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