A fate worse than death, A ground for morality, A reward beyond hope, Death as nothingness, existential anguish, Heaven, hell, meaning, purpose, significance, the final assault on our value, ultimate limit to our will
These words are inspiring. This perspective on life is genuine. Who can resist the call to become a “god” over his or her own life? Who doesn’t recognize the tyranny of public opinion and our incessant need for the approval of others?
Once again, it all rings true but it also rings hollow.
Why? Because we intuitively (and experientially) know that no meaning, purpose or significance in life that we create for ourselves can stand in the face of death. It is a finality when finality is exactly the problem.
Certainly the reality of death can make us appreciate life all the more. No doubt. Certainly we need to find meaning, purpose and significance in life and not just follow the crowd into mindless consumerism and a materialistic lifestyle. Fine.
But whatever meaning, purpose and significance we create (or discover) must go beyond this life and conquer death. The “nothingness” of death must be transformed into some form of “continuity” of meaning, purpose and significance that includes us, that includes our self-aware existence, not just memories, or works of charity, or writing a book, otherwise all of our existential anguish will overwhelm us in the face of the final reality of non-existence (or worse).
Two more things need to be said.
The first is that the interpretation of death as “nothingness” may not be accurate. It is bad enough in its own right – the horror of “non-being” is truly abhorrent to a self-aware, sentient being.
Yet there is also the witness of multiple religions that death is not “nothingness” but rather a gateway to another dimension, another life, one that may hold punishment or reward.
Remember that religion (in the view of some) may provide us with a ground for morality. We need to believe in a just universe where good will be rewarded and evil will be punished.
According to this perspective, death is not the end but the beginning. There is more to be said (and experienced) about existence beyond this life and, if that is true, we need to know on what basis we will be judged (if we truly live in a just universe).
There may be “a fate worse than death” waiting for us or perhaps “a reward beyond hope” – either one is apparently dependent on what we do or don’t do in this life. We would be wise to get that right before we pass on to the other side.
A second thing needs to be said about the quest to create our own existential meaning in life. To be a “god” over our own lives, to decide the meaning of our life, to create purpose and significance for ourselves, we must be masters over life and death for any of it to matter.
Only the insensitive, truly lost soul, can believe that death does not matter, reducing it to a biological function in a final service or servitude to the amoral forces of nature.
Death is the final assault on our value, the ultimate limit to our will. In the face of death, we can no longer maintain the illusion that we are the masters of life.
Maybe that is the point after all.
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Tears of the Desert Warrior by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
Footnotes and references included in the original manuscript.