Over dinner recently, my friend Je and I were discussing the subject of infinity, and I shared how absolutely terrifying I find it. I can remember being 6 or 7 and lying in bed, trying to grasp the idea of forever.
Seriously, just humor me and spend 2 minutes with your eyes closed, trying to really appreciate the notion.
As a child, I was pondering infinity because I’d learned that—according to my faith (and if I played my cards right), I could spend eternity in heaven. This was supposed to be a good thing. I could spend the rest of forever in paradise. It could be partially due to my inability to even imagine the kind of paradise that heaven (if it exists) could offer, but the longer I thought about spending eternity ANYwhere, the more I began to feel crushed under the weight of the concept. I was probably close to hyperventilating, picturing in my mind as far as I could see or imagine on the horizons of both time and space, and then trying to imagine time and space beyond that, and beyond, and beyond, and beyond. Forevvvvvvvvvver.
Forever in silence, forever in dark are also ideas I’m not keen on. Because there is at least a 50% chance that when it’s over, it’s really just over. Now consider THAT idea for a few…
I think I may have written about this before, but I’m at least somewhat alarmed every time it comes to mind. Dig this for a second:
I think that if you’re my age and you aren’t afraid of death—at least a little bit—you’re just not thinking about it hard enough. You’re not really and truly letting yourself imagine what the beyond may (or may not!) hold.
I’m open to hearing other opinions on this, but despite what anyone may tell me about what he or she has come to believe about the afterlife, it seems to me that all reasonable people have to agree on this: nobody is absolutely sure.
Related to that, Je and I discussed the possibility of non-human entities being able to house the essence of a person.
Plenty of people have imagined, even predicted there will be a day when machines can not only think and react like humans do, but can feel and empathize and surmise and love and anticipate and change their opinions on subjects like humans do. And if a person’s essence could truly be bottled up in this way, we would have in effect discovered the fountain of youth, no?
It’s possible this movie already exists, but the idea definitely got me thinking about the decisions people would be faced with if these technological possibilities were ever realized: would you rather spend the rest of however long this planet/universe is around perfecting and experiencing life in this known/comfortable realm (and housed in some semi-human form), or would you like to take the gamble on death in the hopes (or with the faithful knowledge) that something better lies beyond? If this movie hasn’t already been made, I’d like to see it happen (hopefully not starring Arnold Schwarzenegger).
It’s impossible for me to say what I would choose, and I’m not sure I like the idea of messing with the life spans we’ve come to know and work within (beyond advancing medicine to alleviate a lot of suffering and extending people’s lives long enough for them to experience the joy of grandchildren). How long is long enough? What will we do with an extra 40, 60, 200 years that we wouldn’t do if only expecting the standard 70 or so?
Unless of course there is NOTHING after, in which case we should live it up and stretch it out as long as we can!
Oof. What a dilemma.
Until I reach that place that many elderly people arrive at—satisfied with the lives they’ve lived and left at peace with the fast-approaching end—I will remain thankful for the not knowing. Not knowing is what drives us to create. To procreate. It’s what’s kept me from settling for less-than-ideal and what makes me want to meet and know people. It causes me to just go for it when presented with amazing, terrible-for-me food, but it's also what drives me to the gym the next day to make up for it.
Not knowing is the best possible incentive a person can have.
If that’s true by chance, how lucky we are for it. If there is a God and this is God’s design, well that is just the trickster scheme of the century. Of infinity!
I kind of hope nobody ever figures it out…