April 18, 2016

How to Live & Die: Immortality for the Faithless.


Religion is precious for those who affiliate themselves with a faith. It offers a better life beyond the one they are living, a meaning and a cause. But what about those of us who are faithless, whose worldview is open, those of us who have no god to turn to and no promise of a better afterlife?

“Who am I, and what am I doing in this body” were the first words I remember, as my consciousness took form.

As a child without faith, it is sometimes difficult to accept the infinitude of the universe, and our small insignificant place in it. It doesn’t necessarily become easier as time goes on. We grow and we experience life, love, emotions, but those questions keep resurfacing; “What is the point of all this, the joy and the suffering, if in the end we just disappear without a trace?” “Why be productive, ambitious and driven if in the end we just die, with no final promised destination such as heaven?” These are questions that have been asked by philosophers and sensitive people for years.

For the faithless, beyond death lies the great unknown; perhaps a something, maybe just an eternal nothingness in which our conscious thoughts and physical body have no place.

Look up at the night sky, and you might find some comforting answers; perhaps not God or the angels that adorn medieval cathedral walls, but a tangible hope. The stars that shine died thousands of years ago, but their light reaches us long after their death. Even when their physical body is no more, their influence continues to inspire and light our paths in the dark.

How can we too produce a light that exceeds our relatively short time on earth?

Seven years ago my granddad was suffering from terminal cancer. In his final weeks, my father told me that he had just been taught to use the internet and had made a Facebook profile. I naively asked, “But why is that beneficial? Isn’t it too late?” to which he replied, “Well, we’re all going to die eventually, might as well never learn anything with that attitude.”

He was right. Life is short, but we might as well do with it what we can. When close to death, many patients exhibit a similar propensity to learn and discover, to travel the world. If you know your time is up, you get an extraordinary desire to make the time that’s left count, which consequentially has the potential to inspire people.

Time is hard to come by, and we are all running out of it, but so long as you’re reading these words you still have time to make your mark on life. We don’t need to be extraordinary people or at death’s door in order to project an inspirational “light” that continues to shine even after death.

Being faithless, we can freely walk our personal life path, clear of the obstacles that might hold back those who follow an organised religion. We need to live mindfully and allow ourselves to fully connect with the world around us, to feel the natural emotions and senses we are born with and to stay true to our conscience.

Live well, and our ideas, thoughts and achievements, big or small, will naturally sow a seed from which other humans can learn and seek inspiration; our lights will continue to shine throughout the universe, however insignificant they initially appear to be.

A beautiful quote from the romance novel One Day, by David Nicholls, gives some good practical life advice, which should be followed by everyone, faithless or not:

“’What are you going to do with your life?’ In one way or another it seemed that people had been asking her this forever; teachers, her parents, friends at three in the morning, but the question had never seemed this pressing and still she was no nearer an answer… ‘Live each day as if it were your last,’ that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wan’t practical. Better by far to be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.”


Author: Elizabeth Cool

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Danielle Buma/Flickr

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