By Larry John
I have never talked to anyone who liked the idea of this life being all there was. Even if people don’t believe in God, Heaven, and a hereafter, the thought of when you die being “That’s all there is” is not a comforting thought. Sure we can say, “I don’t care if I live another day. If I die today I have had a great life” but we really don’t mean it. We have to “talk ourselves” into believing that we don’t care if we check out, and this being THE END of “us.” And so when someone tells us that there is more to life after this life, admit it or not, that is somewhat comforting. Entire religions have been created based on the fact of an eternal reward in Heaven if you live right, give money to the church, go to church, read their scriptures, and be baptized. You can call it Heaven, or reincarnation, or nirvana, or kingdoms, or transmutation, or eternal progression, paradise, spirit prison or even HELL…but knowing that you will continue to “exist” in whatever form or condition seems to be a happier and more comforting thought than just a slow “fade to black” and “That’s ALL Folks.”
As some of you know, I ride a Harley and I have been quoted saying (because I said it) that “if I die on my Harley, it’s a great way to go.” Well that is cute and fun and “que seraish” but the fact is, I don’t want to die. I want to live forever. I want immortality! And if I can’t live here on this earth forever I want to live somewhere, just the way I am, the big me, Larry John, with my mind, my body, my looks, my intelligence, my talents, etc., or even better a more physically perfect me. That wouldn’t be so bad. But I want to be ME! I’ve got to be ME. It’s all about ME, ME, ME, ME! And the funny thing about immortality and eternal life is you want most everyone else you know to live forever too with you. You want life to continue on with all your friends and family and even people you don’t know very well, just the way it is or better. We wouldn’t change a thing with the promise of living forever. Sure I want all the ill and sick people to be made perfect, but in large measure I don’t want to change much. I want to see my Grand children grow old and see their kids and their kids and so on. I want to grow just old enough to be wise and still not have too many pains of the body and mind. I want to continue to write and create. I want to spend more time doing things that most people only dream of. I want to be immortal! I want to live forever. Hey, get real. We all do! No normal person who will tell you the truth wants to die. We want to live. We want to live as happy as possible but regardless, we want to live. We don’t want to die.
And what’s funny, most of us with all our problems would gladly keep every problem we have if we could just live-forever. We would be willing to trade unhappiness for immortality. We just want to live forever. So the first rule of having hope that you will live forever is to BELIEVE that you will live forever. So, enter stage right… world religions. But here’s the rub. Except for the claims of a few ancient followers of Jesus concerning his resurrection, and except for a few seers, witch doctors and certifiably insane people, no one has ever had someone come back from the dead and sit on the living room couch and watch a movie with them and eat popcorn. Sure there have been plenty of “ghosts” but only a selected few get to “see” them. And believe me there have been plenty of “come back” pacts. John Lennon promised Paul, Ringo, and George that if there were an afterlife, come “hell” or high water, he would come back and tell them. George promised too. And as far as I know, they haven’t scheduled a “reunion tour.” But there have been billions of pacts and promises of “I’ll be back!” So why haven’t there been any “be backs?” Well, there are only a few logical reasons why the dead don’t come back. If there is an afterlife there must be a RULE against going back or you can’t come back even if you promised you would ‘cause no one will teach you how, or we earthlings are not that important to the dead, or it is a test of our faith and the dead refuse to break the rule or there goes faith out the window, or they DID come back and we didn’t hear or see them because we weren’t paying attention, or perhaps they do come back but you will be damned to hell if you tell so no one tells, or perhaps…and only perhaps….there is NO afterlife….and we don’t want to think about that! NOPE! We don’t want to think about that!
Regardless of the reason or reasons, we don’t get to talk to a lot of dead people. I know when my MOM died; I would have sold my soul to spend more time with her. I know when my Dad died I wanted to be with him so much…not enough to die…but I would have loved to have had another few hundred dinners of “bread, milk and onions” with Mom and Dad. But they never came back. And I asked them to come back. And let me tell you that if it were at all possible to come back, my Mother would have been on the first train back! But she didn’t visit. But I still hope she will.
And that’s what it all boils down to….HOPE. I hope there is an afterlife both for my benefit and the hopes and dreams of others. I want to believe there is…. but logic tells me there isn’t. So for once in my pragmatic thinking, logical, non-OOGA BOOGA way of seeing things I will cave in to emotion….and hope. Hope not based on any facts but a hope based on my great desire…to live forever with people I love…and that includes me. So most of us stop there and say, “Well, of course, there is an afterlife or what would be the purpose of this “earthly” thing we do?” And I used to think the same thing. There would be no purpose to life. The purpose to come to earth, get a body, live righteously, endure to the end and go back to heaven. But again, there is a lot of HOPE associated with that type of hoping. No one really KNOWS even when they say they do, but we sure want to believe! And so we believe based on our faith that what we have been taught in Sunday school is true. Most all world religions offer the same hope with rewards of becoming Gods, getting 77 virgins, sitting at a Guru’s feet, or reincarnating to do it all again until we get it right.
But just for fun let’s suppose that there were no afterlife, no heaven, no hell, no reincarnation, no transmutation, and no place we all go when we die. We just die and fade to black and that is all there is. What would be the purpose of life? Why are we born? Questions like where did we come from, why are we here, and where are we going….you know the same three questions that philosophers, religions, prophets, seers, and “beyond the veil mystics” have speculated about forever…would seem silly. What if we knew the answer: THIS IS ALL THERE IS! Now remember, I am not saying that this is all there is. I just am saying….just for fun…if this were all there was, how would that change your way of thinking? It’s not easy to think about this “what if” but if you HAD to think about it again, how would this knowledge change your life? Remember, “the game is” THIS IS ALL THERE IS!
When I have talked to some of my friends and they have agreed to speculate on the fact that this is all there is, most of my religious friends have given me a very strange and interesting response. They say that if this life were all there was and there were no heaven or hell or in other words no rewards for doing what is right and no punishments for doing what is wrong, or no karma control by some universal consciousness or supreme power… they say “Look out! Bar the door!” They would have as much sex with as many people as possible, they would forget about tithing or giving to the poor, they wouldn’t care about lying, they wouldn’t care about cheating, and it would be all about them. They would have no guilt either. They would drink more beer, smoke more, use more drugs, have total disregard for everyone, they wouldn’t feel obligated to marry, they wouldn’t go to church after all if there wasn’t a “personal” God and “personal blessings”…what would be the point? They primarily would just be looking out for good old number one! So without the enticement of an afterlife of some kind, living a good life would lose its appeal. Why?
But after a while and walking on the “wild side” of their brain, they finally come back to their senses and start thinking pragmatically and say, “You know, I probably wouldn’t change my life at all. Even without an afterlife and even if there weren’t rewards and blessings for doing the right thing, I think I want to still do the right thing. It is a happier way to live life.” And they are right! Right living is happy living and even if we aren’t going to live forever, we do want to be as happy here and now as we possibly can. And doing the right thing for an even more perfect reason…for your own personal happiness and the happiness of others…is reason enough! Life is good enough without the rewards. So even without the certainty of going to heaven after we die we still want to live life as happy as we can for no other reason.
But I digress, so back to the original issue at hand. Most of us don’t want to die. And even if the only PURPOSE of life is to live…that’s a good enough reason for most of us. We don’t care if we came from an amoeba or a chimpanzee, the fact still remains, we are here NOW…and we want to stay here eternally if we can, especially if this is all there is.
Even though we expound and preach our learned knowledge, hope, faith, and belief about what’s next in the next life, one thing is for sure - we want to continue to continue as Larry, Scott, Michal, Mary, etc. We would love to live forever just the way we are and never die. But we WILL all die. And even though we don’t have a perfect knowledge of the next life, we ALL have a perfect knowledge of death. We are going to die. So what about this thing called IMMORTALITY? What is it that we all want if not LIFE itself? Do we want to be famous and have our “famousness” live on after we are dead and gone? Well if you think about it selfishly, if you are dead and gone and you have faded to black and there is no more Larry, Scott, Michal, Mary, etc. Who the hell cares? For sure YOU won’t care. Your caring days are over! You’re dead. So immortality must be for the living, not the dead. Even if you are Andrew Carnegie, achieving immortality through your contributions to society, business, and people or your philanthropic giving through foundations and non-profit organizations, what would YOU care? You might care while you were living, but certainly not when you are dead. Hey, fading to black is fading to black. It’s over. So YOU have to care about YOUR immortality by hoping that the “living” care about YOU.
My Mother before she died said, “When I am gone Larry, please don’t let your kids and their kids forget about me.” That was a strong desire of hers while she was alive on earth. She didn’t want to be forgotten. But except for me, my wife, my sister, her last remaining living sister and her husband, an aunt, and a few old cousins, she HAS been forgotten. And the reason is that we are so busy taking care of the living that the dead are dead to us. It is not that my MOM didn’t deserve immortality…she did. But immortality on earth is hard to have. We, the living, love the stories of the dead but who knows how true those stories really are? I have heard of Christopher Columbus, but I really don’t know Christopher Columbus. I know a few stories of George Washington, but I am not sure how many are true and accurate. Many times the dead get a better or worse “rap” than what they deserve! I hope the stories they tell about me when I am dead and gone don’t make me look too super human or like the devil himself!
So, do we want to live forever? If we really think about it, the answer is definitely…YES! Especially if there is NO Hereafter…closing your eyes and “that’s it” is not that appealing. Do we want to live on earth forever (as long as we don’t have too much pain and sorrow)…again the answer is YES because we are not sure about what’s next if there is a next! But one thing is for sure… we will die. No one has ever lived on earth forever that I know of. Sure there are some religious mythologies and legends like the legend of Cain…but I have never known anyone who says they have seen him. So we KNOW that we all will die and knowing we probably won’t come back to earth, and knowing that if there is no afterlife we won’t care, and knowing that when we are gone we will only be known to a few people who will eventually die and we WILL be forgotten. And knowing that the stories of our life will be somewhat distorted depending on the storyteller, what is the purpose of this life?
Well the answer and reason for this life is…NOW! We must stop living in the past or wondering about the future, we need to stop worrying about where we came from, why are we here, and where are we going. We need to start living life to the fullest NOW! NOW will always be a good reason to live. And if there is a hereafter…it will be NOW…then. And except for a few writers and entertainers who might achieve some form of immortality through their works, immortality and eternal life is just plain silly to worry about.
Live NOW as if this were all there was and if it is… or if it isn’t…you won’t be disappointed! Think about it.