Is death our final end?
If death is the end, then this life is all we have. Objectively, life can have no meaning if there is no afterlife. Huge amounts of time could be spent on deliberating whether there is an afterlife or not, but here we will take the view that there is no afterlife. This is for two reasons: firstly, belief in an afterlife is, fundamentally, one based on hope. Hope is a dangerous thing, and if this belief is indeed based on hope, then there is no real argument to be concerned about life after death. There are some reasonable arguments for life after death, but overall, the view here is that death is the end. The second reason is that there does not seem to be any genuine reason to believe in such an afterlife. We see death everyday, but we never see life after death simply because it’s not really possible. There may be an afterlife, for who can really say, but perhaps for now we can assume that an afterlife is irrelevant, and it does not really help us, or our lives.
If each person was told that their death was the end, there would probably arise both fear and dread. Perhaps even despair. But this is not the way death should be interpreted. The truth is that we will all die. Even if this does make our lives ‘objectively’ meaningless, this should not lead to a despairing mind-set. On the contrary, death, as we have seen in a previous post, should be liberating. Knowledge that one day all that we have know will be gone can enable us to appreciate life, to seize the short time we have on earth for something we find worthwhile. There may be a God, and there may be an afterlife, but only if we act as if this is not the case can we get the most out of life.
It may be sad to think that life may be meaningless, but life here on earth is full of meaning that we have created ourselves. With or without God, life may be completely meaningless, but as Albert Camus said, this recognition should be a beginning to a new life. For from this we can resurrect as a new, authentic, and ultimately free being.
The question of whether life has meaning is one which has been asked for thousands of years. There is no doubt that there have been many different answers to the question of meaning, but there is perhaps not one of those answers as supposedly bleak as the answer that life has no real meaning at all. Far-fetched associations are made between believing life is meaningless and despair, immorality, godlessness. It appears, however, that there is no way of objectively saying what the meaning of life is, but only what the meaning of your life is. Although life may be, or at least seem, ultimately meaningless and futile, it doesn’t mean that your life is too. Albert Camus said that a realisation of the ‘absurd’ is not an end, but a beginning. There are three questions, it seems, that must be answered to question whether life really is objectively meaningless:
- Is death our final end?
- Does God exist, and does his existence make life any more meaningful?
- Is the way we live a proof of the fundamental lack of meaning in our lives?
Do you think life is meaningless?
What makes your life meaningful?
We all die. Some sooner, some later. Eventually, everyone alive now will be dead. Even if there is an afterlife, this life here on earth terminates. Thanatophobia, fear of death, may be the greatest fear known to mankind. It is scary to imagine a world where we don’t exist any longer, but it is nevertheless inevitable. We all know this, it’s just whether we accept it or not. There are many forms of denial of death. However, even if pondering non-existence or death or nothingness for one second is terrifying, the potential power it may give us may be astounding and, ultimately, truly liberating. Regardless of whether death is the very end, life as we know it will cease. Perhaps if we all welcomed death into the thought-processes of our daily lives we would be able to see past the petty fears and anxieties we have, we could see through the silly reasons that we claim are reasonable for not speaking up when we think we should, and perhaps we may even come to realise what really matters. Perhaps if we took into account how shortly we will be dead, and how shortly our family and friends will be also, we could take hold of our lives, driving them in the direction that we really want them to go. Maybe we’ll only be free if we realise how brief our lives are, how sometimes we take life a bit too seriously, and we concentrate on what really matters. What does really matter is another question altogether, but there are things which may prevent us from acting how we really want to act which don’t really matter, and it may be by accepting, even embracing, the reality and inevitability of death that we can conquer our fears, and create something better.
Hope is seen in both positive and negative viewpoints. Some see hope as a saviour, something which keeps us going. Desmond Tetu said ‘Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.’ Is hope the one thing that we must cling on to when times get tough? Chuck Palahniuk said ‘Losing all hope is freedom.’ Is it hope that enables us to move forward, or is it hope that pulls us back? The fundamental problem with hope, perhaps, is the way in which it sets up potential disappointment. If hope is crushed and we, for example, find out our football team lost, or the day didn’t go as well as we hoped it would, isn’t hope just a path to disappointment? Perhaps, it seems, if we expected the worst, not only would we realise that, usually, one can still cope with the worst outcome, but also that whatever happens, we will either be ready for it, or it will come to us as a nice surprise. Is hope good or bad? Does hope really free us, or is it just holding us back?
What would a life without philosophy be like? Perhaps, at a glance, normal. But a further look would reveal that a life without philosophy is that of an animal. Philosophy is inevitable in human life. We all have our ways of acting, our ways of dealing with problems, our views on the world, existence, God. We all have opinions. How we live our life, that is what philosophy is all about. Not only how we live our lives, but why, also. We all have our own philosophy, each one’s different, greatly or slightly, to the next. Even though some philosophies may be better than others, more sensible, reasonable, and well-thought out, we all have one. But the question which has been asked for many thousands of years now is: what is the best philosophy? Perhaps there isn’t one. Perhaps there is. The point here, though, is that a life without philosophy is not possible. That is the magnitude of its importance.