Drinking a mocha and wanted to share some thoughts in my head. A belief in the afterlife cultivates the idea that this life is temporary and what matters most is the next life. Unlike this life, the afterlife is a man-made narrative that is not found in reality. Let’s face it, no one has ever been to heaven and then reported their findings when they arrived back on earth. Heaven is not like the South Pole. I have never been to the South Pole, but it is a part of my reality because (1) I have seen pictures, (2) many people have been there and reported on agreeing views of the South Pole, and (3) there is consensus among rational people that the South Pole in fact exists. Thus, the South Pole is not on the same plane as a heaven or a reincarnated life.
So what’s the danger? If we are consistently focused on securing eternal bliss in the next world, and the next world is cloudy myth, then that leaves us nowhere. It goes like this:
- I cannot be fully present on earth because I am focused on my (post-death) eternal destiny.
- I cannot be fully present in the afterlife because it is unknowable.
- Therefore, I am not fully present anywhere.
What I am proposing is that we focus on the here and now. That we stay present with what is happening at this minute. May we be encouraged that every breath is a gift and should be used wisely. That every interaction with the people in our lives is precious and should be held in the highest regard. May we create a life in our present existence where greed and hatred are extinguished and empathy and compassion is cultivated. And let us do this because we want to live to the fullest. Let us not pursue virtue with the goal of future mansions in heaven, or future virgins that await us, or because we fear coming back in a 2nd life as a rat. What matters is today, so live it to the fullest.
A common rebuttal is: well if an afterlife doesn’t exist, then where is my hope? Maybe your hope should be in how you live out your life in this world. A hope that says, “I hope to leave the world a better place than when I first arrived.” A hope that says, “My life matters, and I am making the most of it.” As a person who does not believe in an afterlife, I have a tremendous amount of hope. My hope is that I will always be able to say, “I did my best to treasure the people in my life, to cultivate compassion in my life, and to stop and smell the roses.”
Written @ Starbucks in Los Gatos CA on 1/10/2015