Saturday, December 06, 2003

You're Gonna Die

I have bad news. You have a terminal illness. It is called life, and it is 100 percent fatal. You will tell me you already knew this, but you choose not to think about it or dwell on it too much. Then I have some worse news for you. There is no afterlife. That nice white light at the end of the tunnel people with near death experiences talk about--random firings in a brain partially deprived of oxygen. When you actually die, they turn the light at the end of the tunnel off.

Now do I have proof that there is no afterlife, of course not. I have no more proof that is doesn't exist than you do that it does. Yes, I could be wrong, but so could you. But you have books that tell you that there is a wonderfull afterlife if you just...kiss Hank's ass, for example. I say you have a nice collection myths and fables. They are the stories everyone has told themselves for millenia to get away from the harsh reality that there is nothing out there and you are all alone. Pre-historic people I am sure had great stories. The Greeks, Romans, and Vikings wrote down a bunch of good ones too. Jews, Christians, and Muslims wrote some good ones too. Oh wait I am not supposed to say that. Those aren't myths and fables they are reality, and you are part of the one true group, and everyone else is going to hell for their disbelief, especially me for telling you, "You're whistling in the dark." Maybe there is a myth that is true, unfortunately it was about the god Mithras, and we are all doomed for not believing.

Perhaps you are not a fundamentalist fill in the blank, and don't already hate me. (If you are then you are not going to listen to a word I say anyway because you already know your myth is the One True Way and I am dammed anyway.) "So I am going to die", you say. Can it be any worse?

It's worse. The sun will continue to grow hotter in about 900 million years it will be hot enough to cause photosyntheis to fail and all life on Earth to die out. Of course we are hopefull and by that time we should have colonized the planets are the stars.

Except in 5 billion years the sun will become a red giant char the inner planets into cinders and collapse into a cooling white dwarf. The other stars will suffer similar fates as the universe exhausts it's resources of hydrogen. Eventually the debris will get sucked up by massive black holes lurking at the centers of galaxies. These will evaporate by Hawking radiation and eventually explode, and the universe will keep expanding. You see there doesn't seem to be enough matter to stop it so what debris are now left are spread over a vaster and vaster space.

So you are going to die, and so are all of your descendants. All of your acomplishments will be destroyed and there will be no one to remember them. I have seen the future and it is cold, dark, empty, and it is going to last a very long time. Almost enough to have you make up a nice comforting myth to temporarily chase away the darkness.

So why the look into the abyss? Because Truth matters. Yes, that is Truth with a capital T, and no I don't claim to have it. But the harsh reality I presented you has enough of a sting to make you stop and think. If nothing ultimately matters what does? The answer is everything. Every moment in your life is transitory and all it is special for that reason. Take pleasure in your life become an uncommon hedonist.

What is an uncommon hedonist? The more evolved version of a common hedonist. A common hedonist is someone chasing the big fantasies and the big pleasures. This is not to say you can't dream of having Carrie Anne Moss in Black PVC cheerleader outfit, but unless we are in the Matrix it is a safe bet it is not happening. An uncommon hedonist is someone who will take the big pleasures if available, but will also take all the small ones. This could include taking the time to clean your home because it pleases you to have a pleasant environment. Or writting a blog because it helps to clarify your thoughts.

We started with the premise you are going to die, and that doesn't sound good. If you think about, where were you before you were born. I would say you were dead. That amounts to some 13.7 billion years--counting from the begining of the universe--that you were dead, and it really didn't seem to bother you that much. So the many googleplex years of your future death won't bother you either. We have been afraid of death all along and now we realize it wasn't that big of a deal. The real fear is life. Are you going to live it fully or will you squander it on some future promise that may not exist?