Of death and beyond

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In under a week two of my greatest heroes succumbed to cancer, a dreadful disease whose toll ironically increases with our advancement in science and technology. Steve Jobs and Wangari Maathai are more than your ordinary people. They both lived their lives to the fullest extent and their efforts had effects on people all over the globe. They are icons that will be remembered for years to come and they set paths of development that will influence generations to come. They were visionaries who struggled day and night to pursue their dreams to change the way we do things. And now we have to live with the reality that they are gone, forever. Just like that. Which got me really thinking about death.

Just over a week ago, my friend Melissa and I talked in length about life and death and life after death. She has a strong belief on reincarnation and despite my philosophical diversion from all that is beyond natural she managed to convince a part of me that there is probably more to death than just decomposition.

I think of myself as an atheist. But definition can become tricky. People have varying definitions of the term and their perceived philosophical implications. In my case, it is the accepting of things that can be shown to be true and rejecting those that aren’t or those that can’t be proved otherwise. Theories must have concrete evidence and should remain valid until conflicting evidence is found. That’s my philosophy. But then again religious people (and the designers at Facebook) expect it be defined as your religion. Problem is, it’s not. I have no religious inclination.

Now as an atheist, whatever that means, am only accommodating to science. Science provides neither information on what happens after death nor a means of measuring it. We as humans have assumed there is more to death than decomposition probably since the time evolution enabled us to make assumptions. The fact that there is no science to back it up however does not mean it is incorrect. But then again why should we hang on to the idea? Is it the notion that we are too complex and too important to be just bundled up matter with a finite lifespan? What if that’s all we are, and the notion is just part of how our brains work, perhaps the only way our brains can work for this kind of advancement to happen? Otherwise what would be the point of living and making the world a better place when life goes for less than 120 years out of the 13,000,000,000 years of the universe, on a teeny tiny rock whose very existence can be completely ignored at no loss by another civilization within the 15 billion light years expanse of the universe? It is possible that the only way a mortal intelligent species can advance and not self-destruct is if it believes it is special, and somewhat immortal.

And that is working very well so far. We don’t know what we are, why we are here, where we are headed and the point of it all but we can celebrate our fallen heroes because they make life worth the hype and they give us the courage to play our part in advancing our kind. And maybe when we finally figure it out we will see the point and be grateful that we came thus far without much to go with.

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