There was such a robust — and ongoing — reaction to my piece yesterday that I thought it makes sense to run its companion piece today. Hope it generates as much intereset.
By Bob Quarteroni
I hope there is no life after death; no heaven, no hell, no cosmic consciousness, no reincarnation, nothing.
I know when I say that it upsets people; they often get quite angry at me for not wanting to be Bob the Eternal.
I hear so often how the idea of an afterlife, a heaven of whatever stripe, is what keeps them going, and without that the universe would be empty and have no meaning.
Well, I think it is empty and doesn’t necessarily have any meaning, but that doesn’t particularly bother me. I’ve come to terms with it.
Perhaps the best expression of this I’ve ever heard is an ancient Easter Island proverb: We are born, we eat sweet potatoes, and we die.
Those 10 words sum it up perfectly: We are born for an unfathomable reason on an obscure planet in one of a trillion galaxies drifting around the backwaters of the universe for the briefest blink of time in the vast sea of eternity.
Why this should be is the ultimate $64,000 question but we’re never going to know, in my probably not humble enough opinion.
So while I would love to know what it all means, in its enormous complexity and imponderable dimensions, my chances are about as good as a microbe’s chance of being elected President: It’s just not going to happen.
And the odd thing is I feel sort of cheery about this. I don’t regret for a second that when my candle blows out, that will be it. (It is strange to think though that if I would die in my sleep I would never even know that I ceased to exist).
My life has been rich with experiences and full of people I’ve loved and who have loved me.
I’ve seen and felt just about every emotion it is possible to feel. I’ve done — mostly — what I’ve wanted and I have few regrets.
At 67 that’s enough for me. I’ve lived my life and I’m ready to leave it with no regrets, nor fears.
That’s because I always envision what comes after as pretty much like what came before I was born: a nice, quiet, dark, welcoming nothingness, a womb of vacancy, a cradle of emptiness.
Far, far preferable to having to fight this crazy monkey of a mind for eternity, even in some kind of sanitized, whitewashed heaven, or as an itsy-bitsy sentient pimple on some universal cosmically conscious visage.
Being an all-star physical coward, I do fear the death of dying but I don’t fear death at all. It’s, obviously, a universal condition, affecting everything and everyone — at least those that we know about — and rather than fearing it I think a reasonable response is to just accept is another facet of our lives. We eat them sweet potatoes and we die.
Or, as Stephen Hawking — who has obvious reasons to want to be released from his flesh prison, said, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
But I am in a tiny minority. I just saw on CNN this morning that the single biggest characteristic that would disqualify someone to be a president in their opinion was to be an atheist. And recent study found that 74 percent of American adults believe in God and 68 percent believe in a heaven.
The believers are legion; this desire to go on after death seems an almost universal urge, notwithstanding us outliers who just won’t get with the program.
The idea that this is all their is seems to be sooooo terrifying to most people that they just can’t accept it and they fall back on the soothing pieties and beliefs of religions from Albigensianism to Zoroastrianism to comfort them with the idea of an eternal pie in the sky once we reach room temperature.
Not sharing this, I don’t understand the fear. What’s so hot about being around forever? To me that would seem like the worst penance that could be inflicted on anyone, not a prize to be cherished.
Isaac Asimov agreed, saying “I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.”
Amen to that.