Saturday, January 2, 2010

Mid-Life Something

I woke up at 4 AM a few mornings, and nearly had a panic attack.  I was thinking about death.  I know that this won't come as a shock to most of you, but I don't believe that there is an afterlife.  That means that when you die, you are dead.  Like, there is nothing after death.  That fact is really, really, depressing.  In N years, I will cease to exist.  We all will.

To me, this is sort of horrifying for the following reasons:

1.  What is going to happen?  What will my children be like?  What about my grandchildren?  What will cars be like?  Will we ever get back to the moon?  To Mars?  Beyond?  What is the world going to be like in 100 years?  In 1000 years?  I want to know.  And I won't.  Some of these I might know, but most of them, I won't.  That is sad to me.

2. What is the point?  If you are going to die anyways, what is the point to everything that we are doing?  If you take a short view, it makes no real sense.  If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you go to work today?  I think not.  What if it was next year?  How long would you work for?  At what point do you say screw it to work and go out and enjoy life?  In many ways this isn't practical, because you have to eat; but it really says that you should do something that you love.  Or, maybe take it a little less seriously.  This is very hard to do, though.

3.  You could take the selfish attitude and basically do all self-fulfilling stuff.  Why not?  If you are going to die anyways, why not just enjoy life to the fullest?  On the other hand, by doing some work, we can make life more pleasant for people around us and for our children and their children.  How do you balance your own happiness with the happiness of the people around you and your offspring?

I have been thinking about memories of people too.  How long will I be remembered?  I have not really done anything of substance in my life.  My students will remember me for a while.  My kids will obviously remember me for a long time.  I publish papers.  The oldest paper that I have ever referenced is probably from the 1960s, implying that papers before this are not really read very much, and that 30-40 years is the lifespan of even the most read papers.  If grandchildren will be the longest lasting memory of me, then perhaps they will remember me about 30-40 years after I die.  After that, who will ever even know that I existed?  So, from birth to death, to the end of remembrance, a life-time is perhaps 100-130 years.  Even with a headstone in a graveyard, the oldest ones are only 150-200 years old.  After that, they are even too weathered to read.  The people are completely gone.  Once again, sad.

These are the thoughts that kept me awake.  Actually, it was mostly that I am going to cease to exist.  That scares the sh*t out of me.

Happy New Year!


Granny Crab said...

Why do we exist? Interesting to contemplate. Many live for the "reward" of heaven, everlasting life in some form. I think our purpose is to live a life we are proud of, a life that has few regrets. For me, that is being the best me I can be. Using my talents, sharing my bounty, seeking justice for those without, helping people because they have need. I find life is little about me but is about others. I don't know who will remember me when I am dead. I am more interested in giving away myself now and I try every day to do just that.

Rico Detroit said...

I have thought about this constantly since I was a teenager. Welcome to the finite universe.

You'll never know the distant future and there are a billion things about the present that you'll never know either. And for that matter, you'll never know what it's like to be a lawyer or a dentist or the King of Persia. Even your own past is gone and slipping away from memory.

The human experience: just smart enough to realize how insignificant we are. A moment's pause, nothing more. A sunset, and yet sunsets can be beautiful. Spit in the tide's eye; build your sandcastle anyway. Why? Because it;s there.

Think about it fourth-dimensionally for a minute: you will ALWAYS exist in this moment in space and time. The universe may forget you but it can never erase you.

You are the butterfly's wings. Flap with all you've got.

Dinosaur Mom said...

Wow, I can't even think of a comment. I might have to write a whole post.

madscientist said...

Wow, what interesting ways of looking at it. I love the idea of a butterfly wing. It is so true. Without each of us, the world would be a different place. How different, we will never know.

Dinosaur Mom said...

Thanks a lot. I swear I never thought about this in any depth until I read your post and then three days later I had an anxiety attack about it in the middle of my evening commute. Gah!