- The Afterlife
- A meaning of life
First things first – I absolutely don’t mean to offend or alienate anyone with this one, so apologies in advance if I unintentionally do. I figured if it’s OK for people to share the concepts they do believe in, then it’s OK for me to share why I don’t. Just hear me out on this. Might make some interesting discussion anyway. 🙂
You may now have the impression from this bullet point list that I’m a cold hearted cynical cow with quite the morbid outlook on life. Sound rather disparaging, don’t I? The reality couldn’t be more different. No, I don’t believe there’s any real ‘purpose’ to life, or think the human race exists for a reason. I think we’re just a super lucky arrangement of atoms that yes, is very unlikely and special, but is not deliberate. I don’t think life has any particular meaning.
I’ll always remember a particular excerpt from Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ that I used in GCSE Religous Studies. A subject I chose to study, that was. I find religion interesting from an outsider’s perspective. He explains ideas more eloquently than I could ever dream of doing.
“Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms-up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested-probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more each came from Buddha and Genghis Khan and Beethoven, and any other historical figure you care to name. So we are all reincarnations – though short lived ones. When we die our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere – as part of a leaf or other human being or drop of dew.” Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
We ARE recycled atoms that were once star dust and/or Beethoven. And in my opinion, that’s ALL we are. Atoms. Nucleons. Quarks. No soul, no spirit, no part of a higher power or other state. I find that incredibly, wonderfully, comforting. I’m a completely autonomous being and that’s that. Nobody placed me here for a reason and I have no duties to fulfil, plan to follow, or deity to answer to at the end of it. And as for fate – well my tiny brain has ummed and ahhed over whether I believe in some form of fate/destiny or not. It decided on ‘nope’. I don’t believe anything is ever ‘meant to be’. Many happenings in life provide pretty convincing arguments or at least compelling evidence – when things just seem too much of a coincidence, or when arriving 2 minutes earlier saves a life – but at the end of the day, I just think life involves many extremely lucky chances and unlucky ones also. If we can exist by happenchance, then what else can it account for, right?
Some people dislike the way thinking about the universe and beyond makes them feel insignificant, but I can’t help finding it reassuring. It’s sure as hell reassuring to think that figures like Trump are an insignificant dot in the grand scheme of things anyway, however significant he may (unfortunately) be on Earth. We’re SO tiny. To be honest I also quite like that there’s still so much unknown about our/the Universe’s origin, beyond the few compelling theories. I certainly don’t see the lack of definite answer as an indication of a creator force, anyway – sure it’s beyond the limit of current scientific understanding, maybe beyond the limit of human scientific understanding full stop, but perhaps some mysteries are OK to remain just that.
The sheer vastness of everything beyond our solar system has fascinated me since even before I started a GCSE astronomy course back in year 7. For one reason or other logistically I wasn’t able to complete the course then, but it set the ball rolling so to speak for me choosing the degree I have today. I knew pretty soon after choosing the broader Maths and Physics course that it wasn’t going to be quite right for me, and I’m so excited to start the more specific content of the Astronomy/Astrophysics focused course that I’ve changed it for next year. It’s my *thing*, and who knows to what level I’ll study it. Who knows how wondrously insignificant it’ll make me feel. 🙂
Bringing it back down from the Universe to people, I can totally understand why and how believing in the soul – and usually consequently some form of afterlife/heaven – is comforting. The same goes for most of the items on my list; I totally, totally, understand where beliefs come from and the happiness they are capable of bringing. Save for horoscopes, anyway. A little part of me dies every time astronomy is confused with astrology. *Rolls eyes at concept of star signs*
But yes, many people understandably like to think of their loved ones looking down and watching over them. And if that is your beliefs, if it brings you happiness, then that’s ALL that matters. I’m well aware I’m the one with the slightly odd thoughts here. Family members have sadly passed on since my birth, but to me, their soul isn’t out there keeping watch. Their atoms have gone on to become part of something else, and that’s all. What they did with their life, their impact on people around them, their achievements – they all live on, but the person does not. I will not. I’ll return to being atoms in the ground, then atoms somewhere else, then atoms somewhere else again, so I’d better do enough meaningful things with my tiny life to hang around on this tiny Earth in other ways.
If that’s not motivation to throw your all into life then I don’t know what is. 🙂
lily kate x
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Pixie12th January 2017 at 11:04 pm
I agree with you 100 percent Lily Kate, it’s so refreshing to hear these views from a young woman and a blogger – (most bloggers, understandably, don’t tend to air any opinion that may upset readers or potential advertisers).
You don’t say whether you think life exists on other planets in other parts of the universe – I personally think it is far more likely, in some form or another, than finding out that fairy stories from centuries past are actually true and an invisible God in an invisible heaven does really exist!
Keep doing what you’re doing. Love Pixie xxx
Lily Kate France12th January 2017 at 11:10 pm
Thank you so much for reading, Pixie! I debated whether it was a good idea to post something that some people might really dislike but thought if I can’t share my views on my blog, then where can I?
I agree that extraterrestrial life is far more likely than an invisible God haha! Funnily enough this is the topic that I’m currently studying as part of my first year science overview course. Personally I think some form of life is likely out there but incredible distances away and perhaps not carbon based/recognisable, but I’m really undecided!
Glad you liked this one 🙂
Max13th January 2017 at 2:32 pm
I don’t believe in any of these things, but I know that a lot of people do guide their lives by those beliefs. I am also reluctant to discount Karma though, just in case what goes around does indeed come around, but it is no great belief of mine. I am also very impatient with those blogs and instagrams that are too, i don’t know, religious, shall we say? I also do not believe in the cult of celebrity. Very interesting and exciting that you are changing your program of study! I can’t wait to hear more about it. A lot of people have been asking if my older girl is going to go to an arts high school. I think these is a push in that direction. But I feel like if ballet school does not pan out, or for we do not decide it is right, a normal high school would be better. It is so difficult to discount the sciences at such an early age, as she might find a career in that field very creative, stimulating and satisfying.
lily kate17th January 2017 at 6:42 pm
I can definitely see how all these things can provide lots of guidance and help in life for sure. As for karma, I can see where you’re coming from that what goes around comes around, but I don’t think there’s necessarily a spiritual element to it rather than a logical ‘you be nice to people, people are more inclined to be nice to you’ kind of thing.
I feel you with the impatience! I disagree with people pushing their beliefs down others’ throats, basically, which I hope isn’t how this post came across.
I’ll certainly share more about my course when I get onto the astronomy part, it’s still mostly core maths based at the minute.
How old is your eldest now? I agree that it’s quite soon to start specialising and ruling out subjects. I’m glad I kept a broad range up for quite a while, but she’s probably far more talented than I ever was!
Natasha Storey14th January 2017 at 9:47 am
A really interesting read, thank you for posting and being open with your beliefs / thoughts. I’m always split between my logical brain thinking that, as you said, we are a collection of atoms and there is no higher power determining what happens next, and the comfort of knowing that things happen for a reason and karma will even things out in the end.
lily kate17th January 2017 at 6:47 pm
Thanks Natasha! I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to be more honest about ‘big’ topics sometimes. 🙂
I can totally see the struggle, I guess it depends on what you find most comfort in. Which is probably a slightly different combination of beliefs for everyone!
Lucy14th January 2017 at 7:33 pm
I looove this post, it’s so interesting and well thought out! You’re killing it with the opinion pieces at the moment! That’s such a fascinating quote from Bill Bryson, I always used to think about it in terms of water but I guess it’s true of us too! I don’t have any concrete beliefs but I’m open to pretty much anything so this was really cool to read. I also don’t have any problem with being tiny in this huge universe – it really scares lots of my friends! But I find it so comforting, none of my problems are that big and no matter how badly I fuck up, it’s really not going to be the end of the world. Also, I noticed that ghosts didn’t make the list – don’t worry, I’m a sucker for a good ghost story too 😉 haha (I’m assuming you don’t believe in them either as you don’t believe in souls – unless you think they’re glitches in the time/space continuum, as a friend was arguing for at the pub last night?) xxx
Lucy @ La Lingua | Life, Travel, Italy
lily kate17th January 2017 at 6:53 pm
Thank you so much! Really glad you’re enjoying reading them, because I’m enjoying writing them, even if they take longer to plan out and write.
It’s true for both water and us, especially as we’re mainly water!
Yay for tiny people in this universe 😀 No fuckup can be the end of the world, not yours, not mine, not Trump’s, nobody.
You guessed right, I don’t believe in ghosts. 🙂 Sounds like an interesting debate re. space/time continuum though!
Paula Melissa17th January 2017 at 1:51 pm
This was so interesting to read, Lily. Especially as someone people would call ‘religious’. It’s funny because all the reasons that you gave as to why you like there being nothing more to us, are all the reasons I believe there is more to us. I find it comforting to know that I am a tiny part of a whole world that was beautifully and intricately made. And when I mess up (which is oftennnnn) I am comforted to know that God has a wider plan. That it is not all dependant on me. It kind of lifts a weight from my shoulder. I love the way you wrote this Lily! It is so easy to be offensive when writing about religion as an Atheist so I respect you (I always did loool) for this.
lily kate18th January 2017 at 11:34 am
It’s really nice to chat about these kind of things with someone with different beliefs! I’m really glad this came across as I intended, not offensive at all. I can definitely imagine how it must be comforting to think of things in terms of a wider plan, and see how it must lift a weight. Of course I totally respect you and your beliefs too!
Lots of love <3
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