Everything I’m about to go into now requires us to be on the same page about death. Obviously, we can’t say for sure what happens when we die, but my thesis today operates under one of the more popular secular theories of death. That is the idea that once you die, that’s it. Your consciousness dissipates completely with no fragments remaining. This is a pretty popular belief today so it shouldn’t be hard for a lot of you to get behind this idea. With that pretense established, let’s get into it!
First, you must understand that you will die. A lot of us put off thinking about it because we’re young and it might not be productive to ponder death but I think this is a mistake. Death doesn’t discriminate against age. While, statistically speaking, younger people are less at risk of death, it certainly doesn’t mean we should put it to the side until we’re in our sixties. In fact, young people have the most to gain by really deeply thinking about death.
There’s a problem with how we currently perceive death. We look at it as though death is a horrible, painful, gloomy thing. In the West, everyone is solemn around death and we’re very up tight about it all. So, why do we look at death as something negative? Isn’t it as healthy and natural as birth? I’d like to share a quote by Alan Watts with you.
So then, when you die, you’re not going to have to put up with everlasting non-existence, because that’s not an experience. A lot of people are afraid that when they die, they’re going to be locked up in a dark room forever, and sort of undergo that.
What I have a problem with is how death changes the way we live our lives. We work so hard in life to leave a legacy. Because legacy is the one thing that can cure this disease of mortality. We want to live on forever in our life’s works. We want to change the history books. We hate the idea that we could dawdle through life without ever changing much and then dying. We hate thinking that people would forget we ever existed.
You must come to the realisation that even if you do live the greatest possible life, change the world for the better, or commit horrible deeds, you can never realise your legacy. If you’re dead, you cannot see the change you made in the world. You cannot hear people talking about your accomplishments. And you cannot identify with the people whose lives you made better.
The typical counterargument for people who believe legacy is beneficial is this: “even if I don’t realise it, I will have made the lives of those around me better”. This is impossible because a dead person has no pronoun. They cannot be the “I” in question and so whoever is associated with any legacy is gone forever. Your legacy now becomes someone else’s legacy because you can no longer exist and must therefore be someone else entirely to witness any such legacy.
The only reality is the reality we perceive. We cannot validate our actions when we’re dead. Of course we don’t realise this because it’s ingrained in us to think that when we’re dead, we’ll be transported to a higher dimension where we can see the earthly goings-on. In that case, we could reflect on our great legacy and be proud of what we’ve done. But we agreed at the start of this post that this was not the case and that once you die, the entity of “you” is no more.
Also, I’d hate to be the one to break it to you, but the people you care about? They don’t matter either. No one actually matters. And this is an absolutely awful thought. How insensitive of me! But really think about it. Being selfless is just an illusion.
When we hear our family members are safe, we get reassurance. When we love someone, we get the pleasure associated with being in love. When we help someone, we get the satisfaction out of improving someone’s situation. When we impress someone, we get pleasure from the nobility of worthiness. When we teach someone, whether we like it or not, we get the feeling of superiority but also the satisfaction of imparting knowledge.
You see, we can be as selfless as possible, help as many people as possible, and leave a brilliant legacy. But everything we do is for ourselves, whether we’ll admit it or not. We’re always getting something from our actions and there is no truly selfless act.
And so when we’re dead, when there is no more “I”. The entity that was you loses all of its properties. That includes all the warm fuzzy feelings you had amassed by creating your legacy. Also, if you suffered a horrible and painful death, all of that dissolves immediately upon finally dying. Half the pain is reflecting on the memory of your ordeal but this is impossible to do when you’re dead.
If by now we’re on the same page, you can find liberation if you want to. You don’t have to do anything in life. You don’t have to strive for greatness. And you don’t have to be selfless. You don’t have to worry about things. Because what’s the most it can all come to? Nothing!
The moral of it all? Don’t take life too seriously. Seriously! You don’t get to save this game and resume it another time. All you can do is have as much fun playing it while you’re playing it. At the end of the day, no one will care what you did in your life and your legacy will be a total waste. Relax and enjoy the ride because it is not as serious as we’ve been lead to believe. There’s no leaderboard in the game of life. There are no winners and no losers in the game of life either. The real winners are the ones who got the most enjoyment out of it.