What are we here for?
Science can open a lot of doors for us. If used rightly and not for destructive purposes our future could be very bright. However it is not the only avenue for seeking to understand reality or our place in it. We are conscious beings, with a higher brain, something that is quantitatively different from any other animal on earth. There are highly intelligent animals and the more we learn about them, hopefully the sooner we will hopefully start to treat them with more respect. Intelligence is not the same however as intellectual, which points to the ability to think in abstract ideas, create art and also the downside, to know about the shortness of life.
It is the higher brain that leads us to ask questions. It also places us outside of Eden, our oneness with Nature is shattered, and we feel apart and alone. So philosophy and theology came into the scene to give us a vehicle to be able to ponder the mysteries of our lives. Who we are, why we are here and also where we are going. The higher animals can use tools, but they have been the same tools for perhaps thousands of years, well at least some of them. Like using a stick to catch termites, or a crow dropping a rock on a shell to break it. It would seem the animals lower on the evolutionary tree don’t need to ask questions or to seek deeper meaning; for they have all that they need right here and now.
Humans, the highest known animal on this planet seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to finding a place to call home, where needs are taken care of and rest can be achieved. Once our basic needs are taken care of in this world, deeper ones arise, actually more important and more difficult to deal with. We have an inner world within each of us; thoughts of love, justice, honor and peace. These are not things that actually exist in the world outside of man, but reside in the soul of each that seems never to be satisfied for long….it can frustrating to say the least. Perhaps it is the awareness of our deaths that cause so much of this. The knowledge that nothing last at all, that we all die, and sooner than one would think. For blink once and ten years have passed, time goes by that fast.
To attend to the rational only can make a human being into something very unattractive, cold and very difficult to be around. Logic is good, we need to develop it, but we need more than that. We have a spiritual side that needs to be attended to, or if we don’t it will attend to us in ways that can be self destructive. We can use many things that help to make life bearable that are often addictive and in the end truncate life. It is inner pain that pushes us to seek meaning.
This discomfort can be experienced as pain or boredom or in the many ways of being fearful or anxious. For the truth of the manner is, we are not in control. Well in little things I suppose, but in health matters, or the length of our lives, or the safety of our family and friends, or at bottom, outside of our control. Though we of course seek to do that very thing, enforce control over life. Is it any wonder that many of us suffer from so many aliments of the mind and emotions? Like it or not, we all walk over an abyss and all the television, movies, sports and other diversions can actually do little to alleviate this typical, common, run of the mill angst. People often tell me that they do not fear death, which may be believed by them, but in the end is not true. Death is an experience that we will each go through, it is not some kind of abstract idea placed neatly into a religious or philosophic or scientific system. None of us knows how we will face death until the time when we get the news from our doctors. Life is hard, if not for the fear of death, I am not sure many would last into their latter years. We are driven to eat, sleep and seek a way to survive in the world so that we will not starve. It is true some will destroy themselves, but this often comes about from being mentally off balance because of some sudden loss, or pain, or depression; it is a form of escape. That is why so much is done for those near death to try to make their transition easier and with levels of pain that can be borne, if they can’t be done away with altogether.
How we deal with death, our own, as well as for those we love has a lot to do with what we believe life is about, and what it is for. The thought that when we die we simply cease is really not that bad of a belief, it can simplify life and when the end draws near and becomes too unpleasant, or painful, then to end ones life would be the rational and right solution….I understand that. However if one believes that our lives have purpose, even if that purpose is not completely understood, then there will another way of looking at ones death, not only for oneself but also loved ones.
Is death and ending, or a continuation of life? I believe that we do continue after death and by that fact it will color how I will look at my death. Today there is study of the experiences, common ones, that happen to millions of people that point to something more, apart from the different religious and spiritual paths. I also believe that these experiences were more readily accepted by our ancestors and these helped form many of our beliefs in an afterlife. If indeed life has purpose, ending it prematurely may in fact be a mistake. The elderly and the dying have something to offer all of us. It is a time where we are called to expand out hearts to help, to comfort and accompany those on their last mile.
Life is difficult and in all other areas in our lives we are asked to work through our problems, which can be many and heavy laden. So at death, we should all be accompanied and encouraged to prepare ourselves for what is to come…whatever that is. Of course this will only make sense to those who have some belief in an afterlife. If our deaths are seeds planted into the earth, then our continued life starts from there, bearing fruit or not. So I think it is good to ponder the shortness of life and also how we can help birth others into the reality they are moving into. Perhaps death is like birth, moving from a small seeming self contained world into something larger.
I think this is probable and not just flights of fancy. If the universe were just the way that Naturalist say it is, then how is it that we can think, have ideals that don’t actually exist apart from our inner longings? How is it we are self aware? Everything that makes us human is based on intangibles; there is no reason for such realities to evolve if all there is, is material reality. Everything that gives our lives meaning are spiritual in nature, this is true because we actually have souls.
What are we here for?
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