Perhaps my greatest regret in losing my belief in god, is also having to let go of the concept of an afterlife in paradise. It’s a nice idea to be rewarded with a perfect vacation for your soul after you’ve worked hard at life. Yeah… it’d be nice to have one forever party in the sky… sigh.
But you know what? I don’t believe there’s after party. I’m a bit young to be thinking about this sort of thing, but someday I will die. Don’t know when or how, but I hope I am old and at peace. When I do, my consciousness will also cease to exist.
I’ve thought about ways that I can cope with the loss of an afterlife. One way I cope with death is to understand the importance of it’s role in our species’ evolution. Another way I cope just so happens to be this blog. I figure that since humans can’t achieve immortality, the next best thing is to preserve your identity with words, have children, and/or make memories.
Preserving My Identity with Words
I don’t have a particularly exciting life that others would be interested in reading about. Nor are my observations very original or profound. But maybe my close friends and family would care about them, and enjoy getting inside my head for a little while. Perhaps when I am gone, they might like to have written thoughts to remember me by. Lots of people keep physical diaries, however I happen to be incredibly lazy writer in general, and even worse when it comes to pen and paper. I can’t keep it up for very long. I also find physical paper limiting because I can’t write long passages, easily share with others, go back and edit parts of it, or elaborate on a point. I suppose the upside of paper is the handwriting is more personal, and it’s probably more honest precisely for the fact that you can’t go back and edit it. Anyway, I digress.
I’m preserving my current thoughts, ideas and stories for future generations. When I am gone, these words will remain.
Preserving My Identity with Children
Another obvious way to achieve a quasi-immortality is passing on your genetic code.
Jordan Peterson is the first one I’ve heard put in such a way, but at some point, when you get old, it becomes too costly to “keep you updated” and you have to be replaced by a younger version (which would of course be your children and grandchildren). While it is a rather crude metaphor, I found it comforting in a way, because I know that my death’s purpose is to make room for the next wave of new people and new ideas.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to have a son, who is now 1 year old. He presents a unique opportunity to see childhood objectively, to teach another human being about the things that his father and I value, and in turn he will pass along those values and make his own impact on the world.
Preserving My Identity with Memories
I can be a meaningful part of the lives going on around me; work hard and be a good person. Build a legacy with my family and friends. Work with other people’s kids and teach them things. I have three step-children, and they are absorbing as much from me as my own biological son is.
The problem with all of these is, they are not perfect solutions.
You can’t interact with my writing the same way you can interact with me personally. It’s a one-way street. Also, WordPress will not live on forever. Even if I were to export and publish all of these articles into a book, the book could be destroyed, and with it, my identity.
Children grow up to be their own person. I can teach my son about the things his dad and I value, but they will not be an exact copy of my ideas. He will learn to reason and form his own opinions and ideas. I look forward to meeting my son’s future self.
Memories made with other people are fallible and fade with time.
So that said, when I am gone, I am gone. You will not meet me in heaven, which is why our time together is so precious.
- Hug your kids a little tighter. Spend time with the people you love. You don’t know if you will get a chance to see them again.
- Life is precious. Prioritize your time wisely. If someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, or you are busy, say “no”. If you’re feeling stressed or out-of-control, eliminate unimportant things from your life. De-clutter your house (both metaphorically and actually).
- If you have a desire to do something, see something, or learn something, stop putting it off. Do it right now.
- Don’t overwork yourself in a job you hate just to get to retirement so you can “finally enjoy yourself”. You have this one life right now and you need to enjoy it!
- If you have broken fences, mend them. If they can’t be mended, learn to let go. Live life with no regrets.
- Dudes. The forever party in the sky?—It’s actually right here on earth. Have fun.
Can you think of other ways to preserve your identity? Leave your thoughts.
Image Source: Jos van Wunnik