Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Meaning of Life

By Garrett Fogerlie

People are pretentious. Most everyone I speak to believes that the world will end in their lifetime. That they are vastly superior to anyone that came before them. People manipulate any piece of data to make it fit into whatever they want. For thousands of years we have heard people say that such and such a battle or war was predicted in the bible and said that it will bring the beginning of the end. Even now there are thousands of people that think the world is going to end on December 21, 2012? This is based on an arbitrary date that was a result of the rolling over of an ancient and no longer existent numbering system of the Mayans.
Every time one of these deadlines comes and goes you would think that it would make people immune from being caught up in the next one, but this is not the case. As an example, in 1822 there was a man named William Miller who predicted that the second coming of Jesus Christ was going to be on or before 1844. He attracted a large number of followers and when the predicted day finally came and passed like every other day. Both Millerite and his followers were left generally bewildered and disillusioned. This was the end of it, right? No, he went back to the drawing boards. Coming up with a new date, and once again attracted followers, in fact he attracted more followers then before. This cycle continued for some time. You may think that people would have been smarter than that or perhaps it was just par for the course for that era. However you would be wrong. This group is still around to this day, they are called the Seven Day Adventists.
People are predisposed to thinking that they are special, more special than anyone else. This is one of the reasons that religion is so attractive. It has the ability to elevate a person above the level of a mere human, give them eternal life and a kingdom that one can hardly imagine.
People need to know that their life has purpose. Apparently the magnificent of just being alive is not enough for some people. They inflate their egos by thinking that their consciousness will be around forever. That they may be reincarnated or their spirit will live on till the end of time. I have heard the idea that since energy cannot be created or destroyed then their ‘being’ must transform into something else upon the death of their physical body. But that is not correct; in fact it is a complete misunderstanding of the first law of thermodynamics. Our energy is radiated out of use as heat; the chemical energy of our flesh will be reabsorbed by the earth. The neurons in our brains will cease to fire and all that we are will be gone; just like it is for every other animal on earth.
Or consciousness makes us unique, but not as unique as we would like to believe. We are much more similar to all the other animals than we would like to admit. We have a reverence for the dead, just like elephants do. Sometimes we kill for no reason like cats and dolphins. The chemicals that control so much of physiology are the same from creature to creature. Yet for some reason we feel like we are so different that we will live on after our physical bodies die. We think that we somehow have an extra sense that allows us to know things that cannot be know by any other means.
The thought that we can be immortal devalues life. The arrogance of people, to think that we are so special and above everyone else only serves to devalue the wonder of life. The thought that we may live forever; makes us not live in the moment but ponder the next. To believe that there is a supernatural meaning of life must in turn make the life we actually have insignificant. It is the rarity of the diamond that gives it its value.
Thinking that the world may end should be done only to help prevent it from ending. Believing that it will end is more likely to be a self fulfilling prophecy. When you combine that with the thought that death is irrelevant, than you remove all value from life.

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