This question has caused so much division among humans…Perhaps a more pertinent question is where we will go when we are alive, what will we do NOW, in the only moment that is truly real (or accessible) to us. As we focus on the future, we remove ourselves from the present. As we fixate on the past, we take away from the moment as well. It is a waste of our precious gift of time to spend it worrying about or hypothesizing about the future, especially the theoretical future after death.
The veil between life and death is not open to us…and perhaps for good reason. Given how much time we spend focused on a realm we do not currently know, I suspect if we knew more of our eventual destinations (if any), we might spend even more time concerned with the future and missing the present moment. Given how much division this supposition causes, I can only imagine how much more would be caused by our ideas about what to do to ‘prepare’ for a more known future.
I’ll bet I’ve already divided us by talking about something I cannot possibly know about – what happens after death. None of us can know that; it’s like caterpillars trying to talk about the butterfly world. We can guess and hope, reference whatever sacred scriptures we hold dear, or trust in our intuition and faith and feelings about the subject, but none of us truly knows. All the people who wrote our sacred scriptures were caterpillars as well (albeit ones who claimed to somehow know about being a butterfly).
Do you feel the division arise in you as you read? Those who believe in no afterlife are most likely already making arguments against my implications that such a life is possible. Those who believe in an afterlife are most likely summoning up memories of what someone else told them – the words of their scriptures or sutras they use to ‘prove’ the existence of an afterlife. Just by bringing up the issue, we are divided, pulled out of the present moment by imaginings of the future none of us can prove or hope to prove.
We do know one thing for sure – we are indeed eternal, at least on the physical level. All the chemicals that compose our bodies do not simply ‘go away’ when we die. Those chemical were present (all the chemical mass in the universe) at the moment of creation (or the Big bang, or whatever you like to think of it as), and science has proven they remain unchanged (at a chemical level) when we die. Einstein’s atoms are still here, along with those of Hitler. They are like trash – they just don’t go away…there is no away.
Knowing this eternal nature of our beings (and suspecting the eternal nature of other less tangible parts of our beings), it is natural for the human mind to extrapolate and project, to imagine connections and implications or that fact. Thus we imagine eternal nature for our consciousness. Most religions and belief systems base their foundational tenets on this imagination. This is sort of a Boolean paradigm, albeit based on subjective belief rather than known quantities. If X, then Y makes sense if the quantities involved are known. If they are subjective and ethereal, it is a nonsensical paradigm.
Since it is all subjective supposition, all possible beliefs about what happens after death are equal (equal in potential to be true…or false). None can claim precedence over the other (by claiming their holy books are true and the holy books of the rest of humanity are false). Yet we try. Do you see the instant division that occurs once we accept a belief system that inherently excludes other belief systems? My system is true and yours is false. I then spend the rest of my life trying to prove this, to educate those who are now considered ignorant (since they do not believe as I do)…or I spend the rest of my life defending my belief system against others who try to do this to me.
Perhaps I simply disagree with the others and (either quietly or not) live my life according to my own system, thinking that others are wrong and I am right. All such exclusionary systems divide us. Even a more unitarian viewpoint divides us, for in including all groups in its paradigm, it inherently assumes that there are ‘others’ who must gently be integrated with ‘us.’ This inherent division caused by beliefs about what we can’t prove has caused a continual history of war and pain and suffering among us.
If we all just live in the now, kindly and gently, we will all soon enough (100 years or less for most) find out what (if anything) happens after death. We will find out undeniably, in the only way we can – by our own direct experience.
Thus, I suggest it might be more practical and helpful to focus our time, effort, and attention on the one place we can truly know about, the one place we can directly experience – the present moment.
All our proofs about the future are moot – the person with differing views has just as many arguments as you do, and believes in the undeniable ‘logic’ of them just as much as you do. Neither of you can be proven right or wrong…until you are dead, when proofs will no longer be needed.
I suggest that a Nowist perspective will not divide us, and will keep us focused on the present moment. This is the only place the Divine can be manifest, the only place we can possibly be manifest. This is the only place worthy of our attention – the present moment. if we focus on how to live better right now and drop the division of thinking we know something we cannot possibly know (the future), all our lives will be the better for it.
What do YOu think? I welcome your comments.
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