Eventually we all die and go see Johnny Cash for free, I think. (Somehow I suspect he’s in a good seat near God, singing Folsom Prison Blues.) There are a lot of other reasons to look forward to eternity, if you wind up in the positive place known as heaven. I don’t know anyone who says, “Boy, I can’t wait till I get to Hell, see my people, gaze upon Torment’s face forever, listen to Death Metal music by some Russian punk band.” I don’t doubt that such folks are out there. I just haven’t met them yet. I also don’t know any atheist who is excited to meet his death. It’s hard for a living thinking person to comprehend his/her end. What you believe in life will direct your choices and actions in life. However, what you believe about the end of life will move your beliefs and help shape the form of your life. Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim– everyone dies. But is that the end or do you reincarnate repeatedly, or is there a heaven/hell dichotomy awaiting you? Or you science geeks, have you got a recipe to circumvent death?
If you are over 40 years of age, you know that your body is not built for eternity. It’s not gonna make 100 years in all likelihood. So what to do? You can work out harder, eat lean, take supplements, botox, plastic surgery, sleep in a hyperbaric chamber, look into cloning, and maybe vampirism. Good luck with all those options, except maybe the last one, okay the last two. It seems pretty obvious that our bodies pass a point of no return, a point of diminishing returns, a point of diminishing, period. Why invest in a crumbling structure, a skeleton that is collapsing slowly? Even if you don’t have a belief in an afterlife, how can a rational person continue to pour valuable resources into a deteriorating vessel? (Yes, by deluding himself, but then he would no longer be a rational person.) Someone else said, “It’s hard to be rational to the bitter end.” I don’t know about that yet. I don’t pretend to know it all, to know too much, really. I just wonder.
Okay, you can find a cause or build a library, an orphanage, get a street named after you. Save a whale, a buffalo, a rain forest. Save a buffalo in a rain forest. Write a book or a symphony or paint a masterpiece. Have a family. Propagate a lot. That has been done. Lincoln Center, Washington Street, Grant Park, Lee Highway, MLKing Boulevard, Kennedy Center, Reagan National Airport, etc. Their names linger after their bodies have turned to dust. However, they are still dead and have no say about how their names or images are used. They hit their earthly purposes. Game over. Silence. Wormfood. This end is easy to figure. It’s corporeal. Sensory. Scientific. Legal. Dead is dead. Eventually even their names pass away like Ozymandias in the sands of time. For you guys younger than 40, think Ozzie.
What to do? What to do? I’m not sure that the answer is about doing so much as it is about thinking. Thinking very practically about death, not magically or fearfully but practically.
A. “If death is all there is, then how should I form my life?”
B. “If death is only a portal into another life here on earth, then how should I form my life?”
C. “If death is followed by judgment and an eternal reward or punishment, then how should I form my life?”
D. “If time can be jumped across or frozen cryogenically, then how should I form my life?””
So what’s it gonna be? If you said, “E”, I’m gonna smack you into eternity.