Over the weekend I heard what seemed to me to be a fundamental truth, or at least a sound statement of faith. The statement was actually in the form of a question and it asked; “if there is no life after death, just darkness, then what is the point of life?” A comparison was then made between a person that spends their life in the sex trafficking trade picking up little girls to be sold and used as slaves versus Mother Teresa who spent her life rescuing, loving and protecting those little girls. Both of those people would live their lives and then nothing. Both would simply be done with nothing to look forward to but darkness. Does this seem OK with you? Would you accept that as a truth, believing that there is literally nothing after this life, there is nothing to live this life for, there is no purpose to your life whatsoever?
I wrestled with that for quite a while that afternoon, especially in light of conversations I have had with outspoken atheists. I want to believe that I have always been open minded enough to accept what others believe, or don’t believe for that matter, and carry on deliberately fair and non-judgmental conversations with anyone. I have discussed religion, sports, politics, psychology, science and other topics with a broad range of opinionated individuals over the years and not once have I stopped and simply walked away, condemning a person for their ideals or opinions. This is not some hats off, kudos for me moment. This is simply a statement that over the years I have been fortunate and honored enough to have been engaged in some rather enlightening conversations with some neat people. And some of the neatest people I have spoken to have been atheists. The caveat I place on that, however, is that the atheists I enjoy talking to are the ones who share a passion for open minded conversation. I am not terribly enthralled by those persons who wish to do nothing more than tear people down for their beliefs. This serves no one but the person who wishes to do the tearing down. And in fact, in the end, it truly serves no one as even the person who tears down will eventually be humiliated by someone else.
This concept of discussion with others that respects and values opinions is valid in this case, and I painted this a certain way on purpose because of how I started this post. In this, I am trying to find answers to some interesting questions. While I can certainly open my Bible and glean certain truths from there, it is valid to discuss something as prescient as this with people who see things quite differently than me. Certain beliefs would suggest that we are reincarnated after death. Those who claim to be agnostic or atheist would suggest that our bodies are simply returned to the earth to begin the process of biodegradation. Upon our death, we simply cease to be, there is nothing else that takes place, no magic, no spiritual removal of a soul, no reincarnation; nothing. This takes us back to the beginning of this post and the tough questions that were posed. What is the point of life? Why in all the world would anyone in their right mind choose to do what is right, what is noble, what is lovely, what is best? Commonly, those paths are more difficult than those of less moral choices. It is not easy to do what is right, but then again, who determines what is right?
If the point of life is simply to do your best, then we should ALL strive to do our best. But many don’t. If the point is to be good, then everyone should desire to good, in all cases, at all times. But many don’t. Determining the point of life is an exhaustive exercise that I do not begin to fathom gracefully. My attempts to declare any point might sound trite depending on the ears that heard them. Even using my faith as a backdrop seems hollow at times because all I can do is say that I am compelled by what I feel. Is that enough? For many, it is not.
As I stop and look around at the beauty of this planet we live upon, I am humbled. I am thankful for what we have here and I don’t ever want to take it for granted, but we live lives that seriously jeopardize that pursuit. Seeing this amazing planet from space and admiring the pictures that are shared fills me with awe and wonder. And yet, there exists a suggestion that this life is pointless. Because, if when we die there is nothing but darkness, then this life is truly pointless. If you commit your entire life to the welfare of the poor and destitute children who live in slums, you die in vain; your life meant nothing.
You could live your entire life for nothing? Rich, poor, ugly, beautiful, strong, weak, tall, short, fat, thin…it doesn’t matter?
In the end, nothing at all?
No hope for anything beyond this life?
If you think there’s no point, then why bother? Why do anything else? Just stop, there’s no point, right?
Isn’t that kind of sad?
And you’re OK with that?
Well, I’m not OK with that. There has to be more, there has to be a point to all of this, there has to be more of a reason for our existence than the idea that one day, one fish decided that walking would be better than swimming.
I believe in hope, because hope tells me there’s something far greater than you and I can even imagine, but we get so caught up in the here and now that we stagger about trying to grasp it.
I believe in faith, because faith is what says to me that it’s OK that I don’t understand it all. There are some things I cannot GET and having a faith in things unseen is convicting when I look around me at the greatness that is His creation, including all of us.
Lastly, I believe in love, because love explains everything, even when I am too ignorant to listen, look or think. Love simply is, and instead of accepting that truth, we fight constantly for what we want, instead of simply stepping back and realizing we could all be happy if we would learn to love each other.
For me, the point to this life is in understanding that there is so much more after this short layover. Our lives here in this moment are but a blink in the span of time and yet, your life has a point and a meaning and a purpose, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.
There would be no point.