“As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague possibilities.” – Charles Darwin
Our analysis of death and immortality has been quite revealing – taking us through the distinctions between life and existence, metaphysical and physicist conceptions of time, and being and nothingness. Literal biologic and personal spiritual immortality seem unreasonable and unwieldy. They appear to be the naïve thoughts or hopes of the childhood of our race, following our emergence via evolution to self-consciousness. We cannot prove our ancestors were wrong, but we can distill from our analysis more sophisticated formulations on life and death.
These conclusions include:
- Inevitable biologic death gives man a focal point for life, an impetus to accomplish something meaningful in a finite time frame, within one’s historicity.
- While alive man can have a transcendental form of eternity through infinite present moments and continuance within his phenomenal experience of being.
- Metaphorical immortality derives from offspring, effects on others, and works.
- Man’s perpetuity within the universe occurs via the recycling of his materiality, his mental energies, the chain of causation he initiates, and participation in space-time.
- If there is an afterlife it most likely takes the form of impersonal spiritual continuance within a greater being, but this cannot be demonstrated.
- Of known creatures, man uniquely participates in the two eternal aspects of the universe – by virtue of his material make-up of indestructible subatomic particles and through his knowledge of the eternity of the universe as a whole.
- Man also uniquely participates in the two poles of being – nothingness and ultimate being – and in this participation achieves the existential summit within the universe.
At the end of the day death does not truly justify the fear most of us naturally experience although only the most hardened fail to see it as a cause for regret. All of our reasoning converges on one conclusion; the best response to man’s mortality is for us to live fully and thoughtfully, to appreciate our apparent uniqueness in the cosmos, and to recognize that at a minimum our immortality is instantiated in having existed at all.