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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    RE: “On the Existence of an Afterlife”

    To Esam:

    Your approach seems to be stimulation followed by ostensibly conservative/careful opining: goad the otiose plebs and loosen the exceptionally ubiquitous and depressing stronghold of our every-day, unreflective mode of operation, throw up a few scare quotes, and what you’re saying starts to make sense.’ I’m see your point so far.

    Still, where is the support for your thesis? We have an afterlife because it would be insignificant to not? Here’s my real question to you: who says our lives are supposed to have meaning? I certainly agree that religion is a most appropriate locus of meaning and purpose – it explains things well, and says we should look in our lives for that meaning, purpose and something great (read God; Allah; Yahweh; Buddha, et al ).

    Religion is the intersection between our ‘short, brutish, and ultimately pointless” lives (was that paraphrasing Hobbes?) and something beyond, or supra-terrestrial. But where’s my motivation for believing that there is the need for some rationalization of life? Religion gives an answer to a question that it assumes should be posed. And of course, we all feel like there should be something more, at least for us. We also feel that we’re entitled to speed up on yellow (‘they won’t turn green for at least another second’); that the line for ice cream, the movies or an amusement park ride is there deliberately to ruin our day; and that we’re special, interesting, awe-inspiring, incredibly gifted and intelligent creatures.

    We believe in ourselves, and we believe in purpose and substantive connection. We constantly assume that co-occurring instances are connected, much to the dismay of science and statistics teachers everywhere; we trust and believe in these things. Events happen for a reason, we say, but why? Why is this true?

    Certainly it would be nice; sincerely, I wouldn’t mind it if my education, work, boredom and late-night gym sessions were to ‘amount to something’ at some later time. But why should that be so? You ask rhetorically in your article, ‘Is it reasonable for a species, or rather for all living species, to exist merely to multiply?’ I ask you, is it reasonable to think that something which gives meaning to life after the fact can necessitate meaning/purpose, a priori? Maybe we do just die after 60 or 70 years.

    It doesn’t seem like long enough, from our perspective, but who cares about our perspective? A dayfly’s life seems so transient to us, but in turn ours seems paltry compared to any geological time frame, which in turn is marginalized by the incomprehensible scope of our galaxy, universe, and the 14-some-odd billion years of existence believed to precede us.

    Why does the dayfly keep up its species, day-to-day? Because it wouldn’t exist if its progenitors hadn’t. If humans didn’t exist to propagate, they wouldn’t exist. If you were to start a sect of un-natural people, who had much loftier goals in life than sex, then you would soon be replaced by the lesser mortals who are concerned with it. That’s the mechanism behind our existence; we exist because we’ve followed our previously-honed and sculpted instinct without much question.

    But I digress, as you have. It is my guess that we seek higher things in life, and ask questions like this, because we have been vitally fulfilled. We all have enough to eat and drink, so we concern ourselves with problems and ideas of increasing complexity. If you had to hunt for your food all day, you’d probably spend less time in reflection (cf. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). Being that you have clothing, heat, shelter, water, entertainment, and at times a surfeit of one or all of these, you’re bound to start using that advanced human brain of yours to plan and think too far to the future.

    I blame the forebrain for all this mess. We have the ability to make plans, and now we’ve got ourselves thinking that there should always be something that comes after. In sum, yes, life does seem somewhat arbitrary and pointless, but where is the logic or reason behind your assumption that it should be anything but? Maybe the ‘point’ of life is whatever you make it to be. And maybe that’s depressing (as your scary rhetoric suggests); fine, but it’s what our lives actually are. We forgo ‘putting a bullet [in our] brains,’ because this is not a charade. It’s the sad consequence of just a little too much intelligence.

    Flies can’t think, so they don’t. We can think, so we follow our human routine and – occasionally – stick our heads up long enough to see what’s going on and fruitlessly, pointlessly question the cause and purpose of life and existence, but don’t forget for a minute that for every article written we spend a week without questioning anything but what’s for lunch, what’s on TV, and who we could date.


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