Life is meaningful because it’s finite

An immortal life would hold no urgency, no need to put effort into accomplishing anything and little need for engagement and participation – but rather only patience and gentle prodding or manipulations to accomplish anything. Immortality would lack purpose as any goal can be accomplished given endless time to complete or achieve.

Aside: It occurs to me that immortality could be a function of our perception of time rather than existing minute by minute of infinite time – that by mastering our awareness of time, we alter our relationship with it, if we can manipulate time, time loses meaning and power over us. In a way, being able to like how time is presented in movies through montages, flashbacks and even flash forwards, be able to move along the timeline but not be subjected to a single timeline but rather, one that you experience in conjunction with everyone else and another that you experience alone and are able to in that solitary time line, control or manipulate the shared timeline. The idea of being immortal and having to endure awareness of days, never mind hours and minutes, seems to me to be torturous.

Immortality removes from concern or consideration the workaday world, relationships and morals and values. To an immortal subjected to the same time concepts as mortals – seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries – what mortals value becomes of little consequence because mortals would be of little consequence given their short overlap of life span. Morals and values are all a matter of perspective and relationship/context determines the perspective.

For a mortal to be subjected to a wrong where the impact lasts a period of time, even if it’s their lifetime, this is a serious wrong – but for an immortal, that same wrong becomes an inconvenience that they will spend a small portion of their existence to resolve or outlive the effect/outcome. From an immortal perspective, any mortal wrong – no matter how grave to a mortal – becomes a matter of no special consequence or significance, given the enormity of time to recoup losses or recover.

The significance of this should not be lost on any supernaturalists who believe that there is a hell or similar punitive eternal afterlife, because any immoral or even evil action, when put in the context of the grand scheme of the universe, is limited in scope and significance – making eternal punishment utterly pointless – and on the flip side, making eternal reward equally pointless – for what can any mortal in their finite time really do to merit either end of the scale?

There are three post-death possibilities: oblivion, eternal reward/punishment or reincarnation.

Oblivion

You’re born, you live, you die and then cease to exist.

Elegant, simple and logical. Because our lives are finite, what we do with them is of utmost importance, because it’s the only life we can know that we have, so we have to make the best of what we have, no matter what it is that we have.  Whether we chose to make our lives about ourselves at the expense of others or live in a co-operative/harmonious way with other – and what we determine “others” means – is down to the individual.

We are all our own moral centre, whether we can make moral distinctions ourselves or select an external system to make them for us.

Eternal Reward/Punishment

You’re born, you live and depending on how, where, when you lived, you die and go to an eternal place of reward or punishment.

The problem inherent in this system is that this requires some gatekeeper to determine your eternal destination, and some means to operate/administer the gatekeeping and the separate places where the rewarded and punished continue to exist. But it raises several questions and a certain level of bureaucratic finesse – what if you earned eternal reward, but the person you love had earned eternal punishment – it would not be rewarding for you to be without your loved one, but they are being punished – so does the reward afterlife include copies of the people in the punishment afterlife in order for the rewarded ones to be sufficiently happy?

More than that, does anyone actually deserve to be eternally rewarded when they are happy being rewarded full well knowing that others are being eternally punished?  What if someone cannot be happy in the reward afterlife unless they know for certain that other individuals are being punished? And, if you cannot be happy with being rewarded knowing that others – even people known to you – are being eternally punished, how can you exist in a blissfully rewarded state? Especially when the mechanism for determining who goes where are rather murky, arbitrary, culturally/socially determined and decided based an exceptionally small data set, given our finite lifespan.

Reincarnation

You are born, live, die and are born again in a repetitious cycle of learning and experience all that there is to experience, with successive cycles being dependant on what you experienced in the previous cycles.

Some religions have the cycles eventually end in oblivion or nirvana, and others have layovers of indeterminate time and bliss/punishment states between life cycles.

Reincarnation has the appeal of not only energy recycling but consciousness recycling – in addition to death not being an end, but only a transformation, but also a sense of cosmic justice, that life is not merely short and arbitrary, but that it is a series of experiences, and good and bad not being meaningful terms, but rather mere description of a state in the current or other cycles, to be corrected or reaffirmed according to what you are experiencing next.

The stumbling block is that reincarnation is an awful lot of energy, effort and time if it only ends in oblivion/nirvana, because each is a state of being perhaps in but not of the universe.

Ultimately, reincarnation results in being in a solitary state of either oblivion or transcendent happiness without wanting – and life is ultimately about that wanting and the struggle to strive.

Which in the end, leaves the only sensible and natural option to be oblivion to immediately follow death, since this is essentially where reincarnation cycles complete.

Conclusion

Occam’s Razor, not to mention the path of least resistance, leads towards one short life to experience, learn and cram in what you can and then oblivion, same as before birth so is after death.

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Tip o the nib to Bhaga for inspiring me to stretch

Book Review: Pocket Guide to the Afterlife

Pocket Guide to the Afterlife

Seriously, how could I possibly resist?

Sadly, I did find this in the humour section – and I objected very strenuously to the book store clerk – yes, I bought it in a bricks and mortar store, even though I put links to online book shopping sites.

Now, I am not totally endorsing on line instead of in store book buy – after all, on line is great for a lot of shopping, but I just prefer my book experience to be a sensual journey of touch and smell.

Sorry, drooled a moment there.

The Pocket Guide to the Afterlife – 91 Places Death Might Take You was written by Augusta Moore and Elizabeth Ripley.

The 91 religions are all in the tags – sorry, couldn’t do all the funky international symbols.

What struck me the most – well, right after all these religions being able to be condensed into 2 or 3 pages of a slightly larger than a pocket book – nice to have the high level overview and not bog down in details.

What struck me the most was that a lot more religions than I realized expect to reincarnate. Some you can come back as anything, any other animal, plant or rocks even. In others, you are human and human alone, and your journey is being different kinds of humans. In others, what and how you reincarnate depends on how you behaved now and in past lives.

But the goal of all the reincarnation, living lives and learning, is to get to oblivion.  And it seems to me that that is a lot of time and energy to get to a state, that on the balance, is pretty much were we go after death.

When you compare the religions that have clothing requirements, it’s almost like being a trend pimp in high school – plain clothes, over everything clothes, special hats, special hair styles – or no hair – and then there’s food.

Eat this, don’t eat that, you can eat that but not on magic days of the week.

eesh.

Worst of all there’s the constant having to achieve a behaviour code that basically is anything that our natural incline is bad – whether it really is bad or not.

As of the book’s publishing, there are only 4 Quakers left. Why? They don’t beleive in sex. At all. Ever. Not even missionary. Ever.

The other enlightening part is how many times religions have rolled into another. Vodoo and Vodun have both rolled into Catholicism by simply matching their plethora of spirits to the plethora of Saints that the CC has. And they do all match up.

It struck me too that Catholicism is not a monotheistic religion – you’ve got god, jesus and the holy ghost, who also combine a trinity – but then there’s Mary and all the saints who are also prayed to and worshiped. Pretty Pantheonic by any standard.

But, even it’s all read, compared and giggled over, there is one truth that rings loud and in a clear and unmistakeable tone.

The major function of religion is not to define us as groups of people, despite being largely geographically determined who’s in one versus another.

It’s not to to provide moral guidance through our lives, as, most of the requirements are nonsensical, impossible standards and make life rather joyless. (Seriously Quakers, you shoulda thought of that one). For most, the commandments and requirements are also about worship the deity and authority – there’s nothing moral about that – and in fact blind authority worship will result in a general worsening of society.

The theme that rings clear and loud is that religions are all designed to make people accept their lot in life – especially those in the poorer categories.

Oh, you have to work off your bad karma from your last life, oh you must learn the lesson of humility, harder for the rich to get into heaven so be glad you’re poor.

There is nothing noble about grinding poverty, nothing truthful about being working poor.

If rich people really beleive that being poor is the way to heaven, then why do they stay rich? I know politicians cost a lot, but if they really beleive, shouldn’t they be poor too?

The purpose of religion is to maintain the status quo, so the poor do not rise up and demand the equality we claim our society offers. So they do not share in the benefits of their labour in order to obtain education and bring themselves up the socio-economic ladder.

Especially all the ones who claim to be about Jesus – a guy who didn’t own a horse, wore long hair and sandals and hung out with 12 guys and never married.

Hmm, doesn’t sound like the Evangelical way of huge missions, universities, fleets of cars and planes, tv networks, theme parks with waterslides, expensive suits and, well, with all that money, they should be able to get better haircuts.

It’ exhausting.  If people sat down and read a book that provided just a short overview of what religions claim – their creation story, their god’s personality, the after death scenarios, you’d start to see that it’s all pretty random and a bit nutty.

I mean, as silly as a believer of one finds everyone else’s religion, so do they all find yours funny too.

So, why not enjoy them for the art works they inspired, as literature.

It’s not hard to be a good person – it’s the giving yourself persmission to be that good person.

It’s easy. Don’t kill except in defense of yourself or others.

Don’t assault or rape other people, especially children. You’d hope that this would be obvious, but it clearly isn’t to a lot of religions.

Don’t steal from people or businesses, it’s not yours until you pay for it.

Letting go of your gods will not turn you into a genocidal raping and pillaging crazed person, but there’s a lot of evidence that hanging onto a god will turn you into just that.

Purpose of (Capitol L) Life

Recently posted in a discussion on a public forum:

“It appears to me any organism with a sense of being {intelligence vs instinct} has at one time or another strived to answer what, why, or how when concerning our existence. So with this I believe there is a necessity to ‘understand.’  ”

To which, I respond:

So, because we’re all pretty much so self absorbed to think that we collectively and individually have a purpose, that there must be one?

Maybe we yearn for a purpose because there isn’t one….

In a universe that’s not teaming with life that we can detect, it seems like life might well be a fluke.

As for a deity or group of, and anything powerful enough that drives the universe with or to a purpose, is awful slow in getting the universe to a point where the purpose is in play, evident or meaningful.

Unless we’re basically a petri dish. Not a nice thought.

Even if there was “something”, does that mean we’re required to play along and fulfill that purpose? We don’t get a choice?

Humans are not unique in self awareness.

Elephants in captivity marked with red on their heads and put in front of mirrors touch the spot of red – they know that it is themselves and not another elephant. They also collect the bones of their dead and they mourn the loss of group members.

Spending any time with cats or dogs also allows a person to see some sense of self in them. And it’s really not Disney-izing them.

The 2 cats and 2 dogs that live with me have clear and distinct personalities. They have boundaries that they enforce with …well…force. And they use facial expression, body language and sounds to communicate what they want – pet me, feed me, pay attention to me, don’t touch me there.

There’s no evidence that any animals wonder why or try to answer why they are around. They just enjoy what they can and do what they need to in order to live.

When you look back through all the history of the earth – the vast majority of the 4.5 billion years hasn’t had any life on the planet.

Humans have been on the earth for a blink of that time.

If you were a deity, are you really going to wait that long to get to the creatures that you have a purpose for?

Think about all the species that are gone, all the mass extinctions – practice runs? rough drafts until the earth got to us? Doesn’t that mean that we’re just another step to something else?

If you really believe that there’s an afterlife, then there must be a beforelife.  So, if the deity is all knowing and all powerful, why let anyone be born – keep all the souls at hand in the afterlife.

What’s that? Life is the testing and proving ground?

Why bother, an all knowing god is going to know who’s going to be good or bad before hand. Weed them out and not waste the time.

If the afterlife is an eternal thing, why would a soul need to keep coming back to live a life and learn new lessons – there’s no way to learn lessons in the afterlife?

Adding in a deity makes the whole thing sound awful boring and even reduces Purpose.

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Random small bit:

It’s really funny to me when people start their advice with “If I were you…”

Then proceed to tell you to do something that you don’t want to do, aren’t interested in doing, and really wouldn’t do.