First, kudos to Edward for his comment on my "Finding Meaning in Meaninglessness" post. Like follow kudo'er Adam, I love the line, I have found that my life is none of my business. A comment excerpt:
There is no reason to be sure of anything. My certainty changes nothing of how I engage the world. Even being sure that I know nothing actually impedes my effective participation.
I have found that my life is none of my business. I get that there are (at least) two things going on: what I think is happening; and what is happening. These coincide most when I let the thinking happen, and give it the same valence as dreaming.
This makes a lot of sense to me, which probably shows that I don't understand it. Regardless, all I have to work with is what's at hand. Me.
Who would like to genuinely feel that life is none of my business, because that would mean that death isn't my business either. As it stands, I envision death often – not my favorite subject, especially when I'm being tested on it.
Which I'm not right now, or I wouldn't be sitting here typing on my laptop. But every indication, sadly, points to the fact that one day I'll be taking the final exam.
A Barna Group survey found that about 8 out of 10 Americans believe in an afterlife of some sort. One out of 10 believe that there is no form of life after one dies on earth. And one out of 10 (9%, actually) said life after death may exist, but they weren't certain.
Count me in the uncertain 9%. A percentage that really should be 100%, since neither the 81% of afterlife believers nor the 10% of afterlife deniers can be sure what's going to happen after they die.
The question for me is, what attitude toward death fosters the most living while I'm alive?
Often religious believers say that believing Jesus, Buddha, Allah, God, Krishna, Guru, or whoever will meet them after death gives them peace of mind, contentment, happiness. Well, I'm sure it does.
So does cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy (the drug), alcohol, marijuana, and other ways of coating one's consciousness with a layer of Ah, everything's all right.
Nothing wrong with this. Nothing at all. Echoing Marx, I just see religious belief as another feel-good "opium." And the problem with most addictive substances is their long-term side effects, not their immediate gift of Ah…
More and more often I've been going along through my day and getting hit with an intuitive out-of-nowhere smack on the psyche: "Life isn't going to last. This could be your one and only living, guy. Not only isn't this moment ever going to come again, after death no moment may ever come again."
Strangely (or not) that smack ends up feeling more like a caress. I'm grateful for it. It's a wake-up call. Brian, don't sleep walk through life like you so often do. Pay attention!
Life shows up most clearly against a well-defined backdrop. Death. Non-life.
So do white clouds coursing across clear blue sky. Out here in Oregon we get a lot of gray clouds hanging below gray overcast. Not nearly so attractive.
When people believe they'll enjoy an afterlife while they're in the midst of this life, the imagined "to come" blends with the actual "this is." Their attention is split between immediate and anticipated experience.
"Ooh, I'd like to do that. But God won't be happy with me when I get to the Pearly Gates, so I'd better not."
Uncertainty about what will happen after death provides a pleasing neutral backdrop to life. It's a lot easier to make out the details of a piece of art when it's been painted on a blank canvas, not one that's already been drawn on.
It's a matter of taste. Some people enjoy the baroque. Dogmas fastened upon theologies attached to beliefs suspended on anticipations.
I'm more into simplicity (though often you couldn't tell this by looking at the top of my desk). A few flowers in an unadorned vase on a mostly bare shelf.
A few minutes ago I was reading the weekly Sisters, Oregon newspaper and came across a realtor's ad. She said, in bold letters:
I like living here. I do it all the time.
Some people, though, live here and there – earth and heaven, reality and fantasy – simultaneously. Not advisable, if you really want to enjoy the neighborhood.