I was scouring this post to see if anyone held the same view I do, and you said it quite beautifully. Death scares me less than it ever did. I once feared judgment and the chance for eternal damnation. After all, who was I to know where I was going and how I would be judged when I left this life? The more I thought about eternity, the more I abhorred the concept. Could you imagine doing anything awesome for eternity? It would really suck. And to live in eternal bliss - what does that mean? If you have to suffering or pain to contrast with bliss, the happiness is meaningless. Finally, the Christian idea of heaven is a bunch of souls hanging around glorifying God. Makes no sense to me.
This is why I hate white lies. I was told any number of things when I was young that turned out to be, if not outright shit, then at least far more nuanced than I thought. Most of my young life was wracked with cynicism and self hate because of shitty white lies. Always consider the set-up you are dealing someone when you use them.
How to deal with them is another issue. I have the benefit of having been trained to accept the universe at face value from that young age. To me, there was nothing to deal with. This was the fact. The end. Not the happiest way to go through life, but permanent happiness is another little misapprehension I have learned to deal without. All I can say is none of us are owed anything, but we all strive for something regardless. The feeling of doing good things and living good moments as their own rewards, and not worrying or even thinking about oblivion, is enough for me. I have never been disappointed that I took a class, helped a friend, had a child or pushed myself a little further, even though I will not leave a lasting mark. That lasting mark is all in your mind anyway, even if you did live forever, because it depends entirely on someone else giving an eternal fuck. And that, whatever else you may think, is certainly absurd.
Not terribly encouraging. But then, not a lie, either.
Either way, you're about to experience the greatest unknown or the greatest peace. Dying is really living. And the profoundness of it. Is there anything more stark and tragic in all the world? Maybe life. I say be grateful for it. Most people only get to experience it once.
For me it was easy. Early on I enjoyed the fact that every living thing becomes "recycled". Just like when animals die and decompose and become valuable fertilizer for the earth we will too. The circle of life fascinates me. I become fertilizer, a corn stalk grows (or anything else doesn't matter), someone else picks it, it later becomes food for a person or animal, that person or animal later dies and the cycle repeats. Now looking back I did good deeds not for the sake of doing them, but because I was afraid of hell. Now I do them because it's the right thing to do and often look back and think how childish my mindset and mindsets of many are/were. I feel much more appreciative and thankful now after doing something good then I ever did before.
The biggest thing that leads me to do what I do is to change the world. Not on a global scale but a personal, family scale. If my children one day will tell their kids stories about and or with me I will have accomplished my goal and 'built my pyramid'. Any generation after that is just a bonus.
I find it comforting, to be honest. The idea of eternal life seems more like torture than what it does a blessing. Think about it, you would still be alive after our sun has died out (destroying our planet), after all other stars in all the gallaxies have died out, even after all matter in the universe has been sucked into black holes. What would you do then? It would be (my own personal) hell.. and i'm sure the hell of many others.
I've turned my attention instead to the wonders of the universe and (as many have said) to the fortune that we have to actually be alive and be conscious of our existance, and not just driven by survival instincts like so many other animals. It truly is amazing.
I was eleven when I came to the conclusion that there is no afterlife. I was very depressed at first. Mostly, it was because I realized that my family members I thought were in heaven were actually long gone. I am now twenty-five and I am at peace with my realization. I don’t see how anyone would want to spend eternity in a heaven with the kind of god Christians describe. When I think about death now I think about returning to the earth and that doesn’t seem so bad. I can still see the beauty in life and I appreciate it that much more knowing that this life is the only one I get.
Hitchens compared Xian heaven to North Korea, where they spend all their time singing the praises of the great leader.
Then he pointed out that at least in North Korea you can fucking die to get out of it.
i remember last year when i went to the beach, i was walking by and saw this pelican lying on the beach with a broken wing. it could not fly, obviously. and soon the crabs would eat him, or a cat, or other animal. but it didn't move or make any sound, it just stood there, oblivious to his surroundings. he had a kind of stoic look in his eyes; calm and patiently, he waited for something that surely was to come. i often think about that pelican, in my good and bad days. and the lesson he taught me.
I like this:
"To be a warrior a man has to be first of all, and rightfully so, keenly aware of his own death. But to be concerned with death would force any one of us to focus on the self and that would be debilitating. So the next thing one needs to be a warrior is detachment. The idea of imminent death instead of becoming an obsession, becomes an indifference."
- Don Jaun (from Carlos Castaneda's "The Teachings of Don Jaun")
Or as Shakespeare put it, "The coward dies a thousand times before his death, the valiant taste of death but once."
I think everything I was going to say has already been expressed by others in this thread so I just want to contribute a little poem by the Digital Cuttlefish called "Worms Go In":
When we are dead, we’ll feed the worms
And other stuff that writhes and squirms
And if you cannot come to terms
With that—well, use your head!
There are no ifs nor ands nor buts:
Bacteria within our guts
Will start to eat us; that is what’s
In store, once we are dead.
Yes, life is short and full of toil,
And when we’ve shuffled off this coil
Our carcasses will start to spoil—
There’s nothing wrong with that.
Our share of fish or pigs or cows,
And all the chicken time allows,
Is done. It’s only fair that now’s
The worms’ turn to get fat.
Should we die young, or old and gray,
The laws of nature we’ll obey
And spend our heat in mere decay,
Replenishing the Earth;
“Three score and twelve” may be our years
For love and laughter, hope and fears
And then—mere smoke—life disappears;
No heaven, no rebirth.
And with no heaven up above
Nor hell we ought be frightened of
It’s best we fill our lives with love,
With learning, and with fun!
Don’t waste a lifetime while you wait
For halo, wings, and pearly gate—
This is your life, so get it straight:
You only get the one!
I’ll have no moment lost to prayer,
To cleanse my soul and thus prepare
For passage to… THERE’S NOTHING THERE!
Those moments, all, are wasted!
I’m only here a little time
Before it’s bugs and worms and slime;
I’ll eat and drink my life so I’m
Delicious when I’m tasted!