Infinity Cut Short
Not long ago I had a long and refreshingly intellectual conversation with the pastor of my younger sister's church. Leave it to a former drug addict-turned-preacher to present a unique perspective on his faith to a former drug addict-turned-atheist, right?
My esteem of the man rose considerably throughout our talk, not because he made any progress towards my conversion, but because he made absolutely no efforts towards it. His line of conversation was directed more towards himself, almost as if he was just using me to introspect and reinforce his ideologies. Now, consider that our thoughts tend to track similar paths, albeit with different destinations. Neither one of us is a fan of linear thought progression and we tend to form ideas and theories that, while valid, aren't easy to express. It makes sense to me, but I can't always convey it to you as most people don't understand the way I think. It was nice to talk with someone who could follow my logic - someone who could intellectually grasp what I was trying to say.
But, alas Babylon, we came to the same crucible of thought that I have found is inevitable in my conversations with the faithful. The issue of life, or perhaps, the point of bothering with it. The notion of non-existence following death. The struggle for the human mind in grasping the idea of infinity.
You see, this isn't a big deal for me. I've been told it's a flaw of my character, but I find no problem whatsoever in accepting that I will someday die and cease to be. I feel no trepidation over the fact that, very soon, my consciousness will vanish and I will never form another thought or idea for the rest of eternity. It seems simple to me to accept the transient nature of my being. The good pastor, though, feels this is too much. He exhibits what I consider to be the largest flaw inherent to the acceptance of religious life. They cling to religion, to faith, and to god, because they are afraid. Faith, as I have come to view it, is born of fear. It is a basic human instinct to fear death, mind you. Self preservation lies at the base of our cognitive programming. This is the allure in religion. It provides the lie that death is not the end. There is something else. Something more. Whether your brand of poison is heaven, paradise, nirvana, or to simply wander the spectral plain as a ghost, to hold with that faith is to know that the end of your life isn't the end of your existence. You will continue to think and to know and to... just be.
This is a comfortable idea. It is a warm and safe way of thinking. Maybe that's exactly why I can't accept it. Maybe I have a mild instance of the oppositional defiance disorder. Maybe it's the non-linear thought progression that I prefer that lets me look around this otherwise indomitable obstacle. Whatever the cause, I find this breed of thinking to be immature. It's naive in the extreme. Oh, certainly, I'd like to think that I'll continue in some form or another after I die. I'd like to think that this is just another part of the journey. I'd like to think that there will be reunion with my passed loved ones. No matter how hard I try, though, I just can't. I don't see any way of accepting that. It's tantamount to giving up, to me.
Ol' Padre insisted that I was being heartless. Despite the similarities in how we think he found my reasoning to be nigh on abominable. There was trepidation in his voice as he told me that what I was saying was making him very uncomfortable. It was a likely and gross hyperbole on his part, but comparisons with sociopathy were made. He could not fathom the idea of an end. He, like so many others, needed to cling to the belief that he would continue indefinitely. I'm less comfortable with the idea that an eternity of bliss or whatever than I am with contemplating eternity of nothing. It's not like I'll be able grasp the eternity of nothing, after all. I won't exist. Is this truly such a robust notion that it simply can't be swallowed? I won't try and inflate my hubris by thinking I'm just better at accepting something than the next man, but really? What is there to be afraid of?
We're all going to die. We're all going to rot. And that's about it. The human mind isn't capable of encompassing infinity, anyways. Is it immortality that you want? That's all it seems like, to me, anyways. Can you actually comprehend that? Can you see it? Anything like that would be more curse than blessing. To see an end is what brings out the best in us. We can't truly live a life without end. The confines of any sane mind would rapidly find the bliss turn to banality and devolve further into a cursed search for something missing. The missing end. Even mythologically we often portray the gods as beings jealous of human impermanence.
I'm no longer sure of the point I'm trying to make, here. This has degraded into a conversation with myself, I guess. Some sort of attempt to rationalize my thinking against the theological mindset, perhaps? I'm looking for input. Criticism of my way of thinking. I was appalled by the pastor's reaction to my viewpoint. His revulsion to the idea of an absolute end is incredibly perplexing to me. The universe itself will one day suffer a heat death of its own in which expansion will stagnate and stellar production will halt. We just do it on a vastly smaller scale.
Let me know what you think. Where is your bubble of comfort? Can you accept the idea of a total end to your being?