I believe that this life is the only life we have. I was raised in a religious home and taught that this life was merely a “dress rehearsal” for eternity and that how we live now will determine our state in the next life. And for a long time as an adult, I continued in that belief. There’s something wrong about it, though, and about any morality based on such a worldview.
The idea that we, in any way, either in heaven or through reincarnation, survive our own death strikes me as profoundly egotistical and rooted in an absolute fear of death and the unknown.
Human beings thrive on the future: we plan for it, expect it, and live for it. The idea that the time will come when there is no more future for us is difficult to bear. But that is our situation. So “This I believe: this is the only life we have.”
This conviction informs every action I take in life and indeed my attitude toward life. When I am playing with my stepson or visiting with family and friends or making love to my wife, I know that it may be the last time I am able to do so. It allows me to appreciate those moments so much more, and it prevents me from taking them for granted. I don’t expect to find my wife or children in some eternal paradise after we all die. No, I have to cherish the moments and memories from the here and now and be content in that. As the old saying goes, “You can’t take it with you when you go.”
Not only can you not take it with you, but you’ve got to work to make it better. Recognizing that this is our only life means that we must all work harder to alleviate suffering and establish justice and peace. The idea of waiting for cosmic or divine justice in the next life is out!
I used to think that those who didn’t believe in an afterlife were miserable in this one, that it must be abysmal to think that our short time here is all there is. Now being on the other side of that question, it isn’t miserable at all. In fact, its selfish to beg the universe or God or whatever you believe in for more than we have in this life. Its sort of like the kid who is never satisfied with what he gets for Christmas. Just shut up and enjoy what you’ve got!
My grandmother, as I know countless grandmothers before her have done, used to tell me that to fear something is to create it for yourself. So many humans are so afraid of not living (i.e., of being dead and gone) that we focus all our time and energy on the next life, forget about this one, and miss out on so much living. I refuse to live that way. This is a wonderful life, the only one I have, and for that I am truly grateful.
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