Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Response to "Baby, You're a Firework!--Humanism and the Hereafter"

Temple of the Future has a new post entitled "Baby, You're a Firework!--Humanism and the Hereafter." I responded in the comments with a comment of such length, I had to apologize, as it should have been a blog post that I referenced instead. So, I'm going to copy & paste it here, after you follow that link and read James's post.

Ready? Good.

Beautifully written, with wonderful, evocative imagery. When you say “We promote science and skepticism – though more poetically than most,” you clearly mean it, and I quite enjoy it.
Unfortunately, I disagree entirely.
I find meaning in life, yes. I find love and wonder and hope, yes. But the brevity of life I find to be an annoyance sticking in the back of mind, like an itch in the center of your back that you can’t . . . quite . . . reach. It’s an annoyance that if I ponder it too much will turn to frustration. To paraphrase Hitchens, it’s like knowing that I will have to leave the party, well before the party is over.
What I want is immortality, physical immortality. I am not satisfied or comforted by the idea that people may remember me, whether through fame or children. Though fireworks are beautiful, I prefer to stare into a longer lasting campfire, perhaps contemplating, perhaps just… relaxing. I want to be alive when the sun expands to into a red giant, engulfing the earth as I watch from a safe distance. I want to watch my great-great-great-great-etc grandchildren grow and laugh and cry and love and do all that people do.
I consider the shortness of my life, of the lives of loved ones, of the lives of hated ones, and colors become duller, the purple majesty of the mountains loses the power to stun, and the significance of any one action, or life, seems as a spark in the wind, rather than a blaze.
Having said all that, perhaps you will not believe me when I say the following: I love life. I LOVE life. I have known a despair and depression so great that I had the note written and the knife at my wrist. Another time I swallowed pills and chased them with alcohol. And another time before that I admitted myself to a psych ward for a day, because I knew what I would do if I didn’t. I did not love life for those years.
But I survived. Because I survived, I have loved and laughed and danced and sang and had sex and had more pain and then loved and laughed some more. And I’ve learned. Oh, the wonders I have learned! About life’s ever changing, ever evolving diversity! About the strange, strange behavior of particles so small I cannot comprehend it! About stars and galaxies crashing together, releasing energies so vast and immense that not even the sun compares!
And the wonders I’ve yet to learn! What will life be in a million years? How can the descriptions of stellar movements and the tiniest of particles be reconciled? I want to know! I want to be here when I find out! I want to call my friends and family, saying “hey, did you hear about…?” I want science to get off it’s ass and make that dream a reality (oh, how I hope for that)!
Until that day, life’s brevity shall annoy me. But, if you will allow me but another moment, I’d like to quote Tim Minchin: “But here’s what give me a hard on: I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant bit of carbon. I have one life, and it is short and unimportant, But thanks to recent scientific advances… I get to live twice as long as my great-great-great-great uncleses and auntseses. Twice as long! to live this life of mine; twice as long to love this wife of mine. Twice as many years of friends, and wine, of sharing curries and getting shitty at good looking hippies with fairies on their spine and butterflies on their titties.”

 Addendum: One thing I didn't address, but should have, is James's final paragraph, wherein he says:
You could do great things in service to others, as Adams did, and as many others have. So come on – show ‘em what you’re worth! Let your colors burst! Make ‘em go “Ah, ah, AH!” as you shoot across the sky! Leave them all in awe! And when, inevitably, those colors begin to fade, and your trajectory tilts downward back toward earth, do not despair. Do not seek solace in another life for which we have no evidence. Instead remember that you live on, etched onto the retinas of those who watched your marvelous display.
Let nothing that I have said stop you from doing this! That is all.

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