This I Believe

Mano - Shaker Heights, Ohio
Entered on March 26, 2007

I believe in death.

Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy life and do not seek death for myself or for anyone else.

But I do believe that when I die, that is the end of my existence. There is no afterlife.

Most people do not truly accept the reality of death. What we call death is seen as only a transition point to a new life afterwards, so that it is not really death at all.

But I believe that death is real and final.

It has taken me some time to come to terms with death. My father died about thirty years ago, before my own daughters were born, and it was comforting to think that he was somewhere ‘up there’ and able to see them grow into fine young women. It was harder to give up that belief than belief in God.

But now that I have come to terms, emotionally as well as intellectually, with the finality of death, I feel at peace.

Taking death at face value has given me a much greater appreciation of the one life I have and made it much more precious and meaningful and joyful. Seeing death as a natural part of life has removed the fear that the thought of death often invokes, leaving only regret that I will not be around to see more of the solving of life’s mysteries, and to continue to enjoy the company of my fellow beings.

I am humbled by the very fact that I am alive. This vast universe began about fourteen billion years ago and the Earth and its life formed over four billion years ago. I am here because of a long series of cosmic events. I consider myself very lucky that I live in a time when I know so much about where I came from. It seems only fitting that I also know how my life will end.

I used to think that this life was not the main one, that life after death was what I should look forward to and prepare for. The realization that this life, the one I live now, is all that I get changes its meaning profoundly. Rather than being viewed as some kind of rehearsal prior to the real thing, this really is show time, folks, and we are called upon to give our best performance.

When you have only one life, you realize that you need to use it wisely, both for yourself and for the benefit of others who are not as fortunate as you. As Robert Ingersoll said: “Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so.”