I’ve often thought about my place in the universe, how I came to be, where I am going, what it means to exist at this point in time. It can be quite depressing or it can be extremely uplifting, depending on your perception. Religion dictates that we exist purely by the grace of some God, and that our time here is a testing ground to determine our existence in the afterlife. To me, that seems like such a waste. It’s as if the emphasis of our existence is placed on what will happen to us after we die as opposed to our living life in the world around us. It makes this current life seem pale and unimportant; our actions here and now merely a waypoint (and an unimportant one) in our transition to a place where we will supposedly know everything and experience everthing. What a crock of shit.
Look at it this way: if heaven exists and when we die we get to go to this place where we are still ourselves, and yet we have unlimited powers of knowledge – well where’s the challenge? Where’s the drive for self improvement? I’m pretty sure that I’d be bored as hell within ten minutes, and yet whats the alternative? Eternal damnation? Constant horrendous torture from now until the end of time? Well I guess I’d better be good because that sound pretty uncomfortable to me.
This is why I have no respect for current religions. Ultimately it just seems like someone along the way decided that humanity needed some guideposts for societal evolution, and they figured that eternal reward or forever damnation were a useful carrot and a stick to keep people in line doing good things. Did it work, though? Did their grand experiment succeed? I’m pretty sure that more people have died for the cause of their religion than all the other wars combined. To say nothing of the fermenting anger and hostility that religious differences fester in todays’ society. Look at the Middle East, a hotspot of religious antipathy if ever there existed one.
On the other side of the fence are the scientists and philosophers who have told us that there is no god, that there is no heaven or hell. This existence is all we have, and then we become space dust – recycled into the vast natural machine that is planet earth. Carl Sagan reminded us time and time again that we are all made up of starstuff. The very matter and energy that was once cosmic giants is now an essential part of our being, and will once again return. That does little to console one with the fact of eternal darkness – the deep sleep of death. Non-existence. The End. I figure most people turn to religion as an escape from that thought because it is a scary one – the end of one’s identity and existence for time eternal. No more me. No more thinking, no more living, no more loving, no more being.
There is a side effect though of taking that perceptual route. It’s been said before and most people go yeah yeah ok whatever. It’s true though, it really is. When one realizes that this is all we have one starts to embrace living in a way that makes previous modes of thought pale and listless. Life is meant to be embraced, yet only those with the courage to unload the terrible burden of modern religion seem to truely embrace it. Living with the certainty that this life is all we have makes every waking moment precious, every relationship more real and visceral, every thought wonderful and meaningful. It all sounds so sappy but it really is true. Even when times are bad, and they certainly are a lot of the time, at least it’s living. Something is better than nothing, no matter how shitty that something is.
Think about how rare and precious the gift of life is. From a scientific perspective It was a million to one shot chance that a galaxy coalesced into a stable non-violent one like the milky way. It was a million to one chance that a solar system formed around a benign yellow star that will live for billions of years radiating warm energy upon it’s orbiting planets. It was a million to one chance that a planet formed at just the right distance from the sun that wasn’t too close and hot or too far and cold. It was a million to one shot that radiation and chemical reactions produced the first amino acids that lay down the basics of life on earth, and it was a billion to one shot that a mammal species with a brain too large for just existing emerged. Finally, it was a billion to one shot that you were born, that your mother and father had sex, taking half of his DNA and half of hers to form the basic building block for your existence. Most people complain about not winning whatever lottery is in their neighbourhood, but from my perspective we’ve all won against worse odds than have ever existed in any earthly draw.
I’ve always felt that this is this is the true ideal of Existentialism, and not all the other angst-ridden bullshit that is generally associated with it. Existence as we perceive it is something to be cherished because of the mere fact that we are all unique perceptual individuals who exist here and now for an uncertain future amount of time, but in the meantime we better enjoy what we have because there’s nothing after.
I’m probably wrong as hell, but that’s always been my interpretation. It’s been a liberating philosophy for me and it’s forced me appreciate my life, the people around me and the world I live in. It’s humbling but at the same time inspiring.
Anyways, now for some links that I’ve set aside. First, there’s YAMAS (Yet Another Mac Ad Spoof) that I found particularily hilarious. I’ve been waiting for this climate prediction distributed project for what seems like years now. Only sign up if you’re dedicated to running the simulation for many months. I am currently part of an urban tribe – are you? Why does the US still have a trade embargo on Cuba after all these years? Why is the ‘red devil’ still a major fear for Americans? Is it because it threatens their capitalist dream with an alternative way of life? Isn’t pride a deadly sin? Finally, this article from New Scientist talks about the relationship between corruption, poverty and access to the global economy. There’s some very interesting conclusions that suggest that if a country opens their economy to the world too quickly they’ll have increased corruption because of the increased money flowing across their borders. Perhaps democracy and the global economy isn’t right for everybody at this time.
I’d also like to thank suburban blight for the link-o-rama in her latest Cul De Sac. Cheers!