T’S not wrong to abhor the prospect of annihilation of consciousness, even if you frequent Indian restaurants. Revulsion toward oblivion evidences love of life. To the extent either is felt, so the other.
Nor should reasonable fear of death be suppressed. Whether in desperate straits or just tired of the grind, even certainty of paradise, with or without an inground pool, would do nothing to mitigate the blackness of the crossing. Any unknown can inspire terror.
A possibility exists that as early as sometime in the next century a key to aging will be found, and no longer will the spectre of mortality, much less Just For Men, lie with surety before us.
There’s a chance that some now alive will never have to die in an earthly sense, yet surely that ultimate of all luxuries, if ever attainable, will fall to a generation yet unborn, and then— at least in the beginning— only a small number relative to the population. At first only the very rich perhaps, then talk-show hosts.
For now though all of us, even those who make it a habit to over-tip, expect to eventually face the dissolution of our present bodies, so we should think twice before declining party invitations.
At issue is whether we will enjoy real conscious existence beyond the grave, raconteurial abilities intact, or simply the commemoration that will reside in the minds of those our lives touched— particularly those we willed our stuff to, whether or not that included any Elvis or Beatles memorabilia.
Each one of us will be remembered by many. The humblest life is comprised of innumerable small acts, the effects of each expanding to alter— if only minutely— even the tiniest molecules of rubber in the tires on Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair.
Yet despite all we leave behind— children, creations, estates, good deeds, transplanted organs, eyeglasses, even the nutrients of our bodies themselves— this is not what we consider an afterlife.
Few moral decisions are significantly influenced by beliefs regarding a hereafter. Discernment of the best course of action is not usually contingent on knowing what happens when we die; virtue has inherent value apart from external reward.
However there are a few real situations where cognizance might be invaluable, even if curiosity alone— especially considering the difference in quantity between a few more decades at most versus an eternity of Nintendo— didn’t warrant an attempt to explore likelihoods.
If a paucity of empirical evidence (except maybe against survival) is not difficulty enough, the problem is made harder by our bias in favor of continuance. Life is short— we desire more. It’s unfair— an afterlife could function as a means to balance things out, even if in our earthly lives we were finally able to find an affordable three-bedroom.
However what we want to see as truth isn’t always what the evidence suggests.
The ancient Epicureans harbored no such prejudice.
They yearned for nothing more than eternal sleep— better that seemed than the hells threatened by pagan religious leaders who, as a means of counterbalancing the dearth of intuitive substantiation symptomatic of their already-archaic belief systems, became, whether deliberately or via a rationalizing self-deceit, dependent on that form of extortion.
According to the Epicurean antithesis, having no awareness after death meant there was nothing beyond the grave to have to fear.
Nowadays we could attempt to offset revulsion toward oblivion in a similar way. If there’s a continuation fine, if not we won’t have the consciousness necessary to worry about either eternal nonexistence or the stack of credit cards and endless phone calls from creditors we left to our survivors— they’re alive, we’re not, what are they complaining about?
To the extent that an afterlife still seems the more attractive, to remain objective we must balance this tendency with an equivalent counter-tendency in favor of no survival, especially if we live in a rented trailer, more so if it’s situated in southern Georgia, and still more so if it came furnished.