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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    On the Existence of An Afterlife

    Normally, discussions involving religious overtones are considered too taboo and controversial. I have thought about this theory for a few days now and cannot find any obvious faults with it, and thus I hope to share it with the reader, who may offer support or criticism as he or she chooses.

    First, are our lives merely the time that we spend on this earth as functioning organisms, ending with death and oblivion, or is there more to the story after our last heartbeat? I find it difficult to accept an existence in which we are limited to a finite number of years. Our main mission is to reproduce and propagate our species, which ends in irreversible death and then the decay of our bodies.

    What meaning is there to our ‘life’ if it is so short, brutish, and ultimately pointless? What value do all of our experiences have, our melancholy times and our happy occasions, our periods of growth and our periods of decay? Could it all really amount to nothing in the end; do we simply emerge from nothingness and then return to it afterwards, for all eternity, enjoying a mere flicker of animation before all of it disappears again?

    Some theorize that our highest mission is to reproduce, that our species, and in fact all living species, exist primarily to multiply, expand, and propagate. But really, what is the point to all that? So, we give birth to a new generation, who in their time will give birth to the next generation, and so on and so forth, but if life has no other ‘point’, why do we continue this sorry exercise?

    What are our goals in life? For some, the accumulation of wealth and power; for others happiness and pleasure, but are these not all transitory? How little it all matters! Even if you were the greatest ruler, with the whole galaxy to command, controlling unlimited wealth and enjoying the most awesome of pleasures (be they with your harem of beauties or enjoying the more subtle joys that our existence allows), all that would last a few decades, a century at most, and then we would wither away! Lest we also forget that for most, life is not so appetizing, indeed many struggle to find the basic necessities and some even suffer unspeakable oppression and torture, just based on where they live.

    So then, with all of this pointlessness, how does our species continue to exist? Perhaps the non-sentient living creatures, the birds, fish, and terrestrial animals simply do not know better, but with all of our philosophy and deep thought, why do we as a species find it necessary to experience the gilded richness of life; why do we subject ourselves to its m’eacute;lange of emotions, the heartbreaking losses and the joyful resurgences, if we know that it will all end, and strictly speaking, sooner rather than later?

    Why do we torture ourselves through life, gaining education, experience, working endless hours, doing impossible tasks, fighting and sometimes dying for intangible words like ‘honor,’ ‘victory,’ and ‘nation’? How can we ever justify it to ourselves to offer the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ to any ideal, no matter how grand, if it means that we let go of that short time span that we have before we return to complete oblivion?

    I have posed many questions, in the hopes of getting you to think about what makes life work for you, in order to challenge you to think about why it is that you wake up every day and do what you are currently doing, instead of putting a bullet to your brain and letting the sad charade end? Perhaps you have some answer in mind that does not involve religion, and if so, I hope that you would share it with me one day.’

    For myself, however, I can only find the answer in something innate that belongs to the vast majority (but not all) of’ humans, and that is an inborn understanding that there is indeed more to life than what appears on the surface, and it is in order to reach this ‘transcendent’ plane of existence that we live and continue living.

    Perhaps the fact that I am devout in my religious beliefs influences my thought here, and I certainly suspect this to be the case. Depending on the faith that you believe in, there is usually some provision for an afterlife, which either involves (at least on a basic level) some sort of ‘reincarnation’ back into this world. Or if you follow the world’s two faiths with the most adherents, namely Christianity and Islam, there is the concept of a ‘Day of Judgment,” in which your actions in life are judged and you are assigned (again, at a basic level without delving too deeply into the details) to either eternal punishment or eternal bliss.

    Still, this answer will not satisfy many. Unfortunately (it is subjective of me to say ‘unfortunately,’ but so be it), in this secular age, few are to be swayed by religious arguments, and yet logic and reason fails us here.

    Is it reasonable for a species, or rather for all living species, to exist merely to multiply? What is the mechanism or driving action behind the concept of evolution? Why must species continuously compete, adapt, and struggle in changing environments over limited resources?

    What is so precious about ‘life’ and passing on some bits of genetic material onto the next generation, where your own contribution will diminish even further, and so on? Does this not strike anyone as a bit arbitrary and pointless, as if it was the simple plot of a novel used as a device just to get the story going, while the real purpose and moral lurk in between the lines?

    I believe that the real purpose of life is simple; it is a time in which our minds and (dare I say) our ‘souls’ mature. We face a multitude of incidents, events, and experiences, all of which influence our life. Our quest to get the basic necessities – food and shelter – as well as our genetic imperative to ‘procreate’ are all merely the filler plot in a story’ whose’ real purpose is to get us to form and test beliefs, concepts, and values.

    But what significance would these ‘beliefs, concepts, and values’ have if we all just die anyway? Why do we bother to seek education, to think, to write or read articles, to do anything other than meet our basic needs and fulfill our genetic instructions, if all of it is to be thrown away and rendered useless in a relatively short time span?

    I submit to you that none of our knowledge is lost, but rather that it is used and preserved in an afterlife, the construction of which is explained (and at times in contradictory ways) by various belief systems. The exact structure is unknown to me, or rather, I cannot hope to know it using the information currently at my disposal, but I hope that I have at least given you the opportunity to question some of your beliefs, to think about the ‘meaning’ of your life, and to admit to the possibility of an afterlife, even if you do not necessarily stake any belief in traditional religion.

    Esam Al-Shareffi may be reached via email at [email protected].

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