Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill

Why Live? Why Are We Here? What Makes Life Worthwhile?

This page is dedicated to humanity's Sisyphean fate. We are all destined to push our own boulders, and push them to no end, without purpose, without reason. It is a nauseous fate. It is disheartening. We are thrust into existence to live a pointless life. Because human civilization, life on earth, the galaxy in which our solar system is embedded, everything in the known universe will cease to exist one day, nothing we do or do not do really matters ultimately. Because death always wins and will be the omega of all things whatever meaning and purpose there may be will eventually be blotted out, and all that has ever been will be for naught.


What Matters When Nothing Matters

August 2002

When I think about it really deeply, when I'm in the trough of melancholy's pit as I am right now as I write these words, when ennui is abroad as I believe it is in my case, the matter of questioning life arises once more. As it is at the moment (and has been for many days now) I find no zest to do anything. While just a week or two ago I was very much driven to create this and that, these days I find myself listless and without energy to do anything, with neither a push nor a pull to keep me going.

In lieu of being driven to do something, to achieve something, something worthwhile, something pleasurable, something that brings joy and beauty, the past few days I have been driven to ask 'What matters?', and to exclaim (as in an existential cry) 'Nothing really matters.' I question the reason for doing this and that, for all the things I have done, and for all that's interested me thus far. And I find there is no persuasive justification for doing anything. Nothing 'clicks'—I feel no reason and certainly no compulsion to do anything. Were someone to come up and try to persuade me that this or that is worth doing I can always rebutt, 'So what?' So what if I can create a web page out of nothing, one that I can be proud of, as this web page you, dear reader, have arrived at? So what? In the long run, many years from now, it won't matter. Given a long enough span of history nothing matters. September 11 has already faded from our memories. The sting of witnessing a couple of the world's tallest buildings turn to dust and rubble before our very eyes is all but gone. Remember Ozymandias by Shelley? [see sidebar for the poem] However great Ozymandias and his works were time eroded everything and only the sands remain. Give it enough time and even the death of our most beloved elicits little more than a sigh. Nothing really matters.

Eros in the Biological and in the Heart

But why do I keep doing the things that I've been doing, the small things that I have done throughout my life? Why do I still take breakfast and eat the same three meals everyday, step on the brakes when the car in front slows down, drink potable water as opposed to just any type of water tainted or otherwise? Why do I do these things when nothing really matters anymore? For if nothing mattered then taking care of my body and sustaining it would hardly be a priority. In fact the very concept of priority would be foreign to someone for whom nothing mattered. I believe I truly feel the pointlessness of living but do otherwise because there are really two forces at work here. Till now we have underscored the feeling and experience of nothing mattering. This is a factual and incontrovertible experience by our consciousness. We cannot question its reality. What we have not afforded cognizance, however, is the more basic biological drive we share with all living organisms on our planet, namely, the drive/instinct to remain alive. This is the force that keeps us from jumping off the roof of a skyscraper and ending life's absurdity. Because of this biological drive we are always being pulled back from extinguishing that which is the foundation of consciousness. In fact this biological inheritance drives us to keep on living and to keep ourselves safe from harm and dissolution, and then some. Despite the fact that we may come to the conclusion, experientially, intellectually (or more usually the two of them synergistically) that life is pointless and that ending our life by ceasing to live is right, our bodies rebel automatically. And the more we deprive it of its requirements the more we feel and hear its reprisals. The Eros principle—the will to live—is always there, but more often than not it is simpply a biological and primitive (if not always crude) instinct without which no species could possibly perpetuate itself.

When we put our minds to it and think about the point of life and living the conclusions we arrive at may be sobering, sometimes downright disillusioning. From a very long term perspective our individual life seems very pointless indeed. But as I have discovered while contemplating my predicament—one that is all too familiar having been in and out of this pit many times since leaving the bliss of childhood/unconsciousness—the very anguish in the questioning and in the cry betrays how much I care about life, about my life. When I experience 'nothing matters!' it isn't that nothing matters per se, rather life matters so much that I am unwilling to put up with a perception, with an awareness that grasps life as absurd and pointless.

The sadness, the anguish, the rebeliousness which accompanies the gut-felt 'realization' that nothing matters is an indicator of how much we really treasure life, how much we believe in the myth of meaningfulness, of pointfulness, of purposefulness of life, and our life in particular. The more we are disturbed by that deeply felt meaninglessness (a eureka experience in itself), the more we can be certain that we are in love with life and its possibilities—possibilities we believe it harbors and dearly pray it has. The more we cannot bear life's absurdity, the more we wish to end it all and give absurd life no victory the more we can be certain of how much we really hanker for and believe in a meaningful, fruitful, joyful, zestful life.

For if nothing actually mattered we would be sapped of all psychic energy. We would become a vegetable, slowly dying of doing totally nothing, lifting not a finger to feed ourselves, caring not a whit however much we soil our ourselves, having no concern for anyone whatsoever. If nothing really mattered to us then we would simply stop living and vegetate to death. We would not even have the energy to plan how to willfully take our life, much less leave a farewell note. In contradistinction, he who is pained to his very bones by the realization of life's absurdity, is a person who really cares about life.

There are many things, small things, in life that show us how much we really care, that some things do matter to us, a few mattering so much that we would not even think of acting otherwise whatever the circumstances. For instance how many of us would even at the point of certain death (here let us imagine that there is no God and therefore no afterlife) torture a toddler to death just for the sake of feeling how it is to abuse a child? Or to take something more trivial, how many of us would actually give up on social graces and walk totally naked on a busy city street just before we succumb to some grave illness, doing such a stunt just because we haven't done something so silly and shocking in our life?

There are things we care about which we take for granted, becoming aware of them only when a situation arises which forces us to choose between upholding that which we care for or going against it. For instance most of us are principled enough to be altruistic vis a vis our fellow humans. A person, for example, who locks himself up in his room as he goes through a major depression would in all probability come to the aid of a beloved when he hears him or her trip and fall down the stairs. Although he may not care about his own life the pain of allowing a beloved to suffer (and even die) when he can alleviate that suffering usually is unbearable even for a deeply depressed person.

Time Scales

However, a person who is in the grip of despair about life's meaningfulness is not concerned with 'small' things. He is alone on top of a mountain ten times as high as Everest surveying the entire continent. He is far far removed from the cares of a simple life, from the routine of daily living. He is taking life as one unit. He is compressing 80 years into one second, perhaps the entire human civilization into one skull he holds in front of him. He is studying that single atom with the eyes of a judge. He asks: What is it all for? So what if I have loved, accomplished this and that, become such and such? So what? So what if humanity has come this far? Ultimately, how can anything matter?

All things, all phenomena, every single person and creature we know will cease to exist one day. Not even the universe as we know it today will be so many millions of years from now. Permanence is but an idea. All things are transient. Everything that we do today will be obliterated and rendered trivial someday. Though we rear children they too will contract a terminal disease, or meet a fatal accident or should these fail to take their lives, they will eventually grow old and die. All our architecture, our monuments, works of art, our books, everything will very soon be dust. The planet we're on right now will be a charred chunk of rock when the sun engulfs it during its death throes. Whether the universe dies of a heat death, i.e., it will reach perfect entropy where energy is perfectly diffused, or whether it collpases once again thus reversing the Big Bang, the universe will nevertheless die and all the planets, stars, galaxies will be no more, including all the knowledge and crowning glories of all intelligent species in it. All will annihilated.

The person who is taking a universe's eye-view is certainly correct within the context he is arguing. It is indeed folly to save a few dozen beached whales at Cape Cod when all life on earth will with mathematical certainty be decimated sooner or later by a natural cataclysm.

If nothing survives, if all perish in time, why strive for anything? Why live ethically? Why care and love? Why create works of beauty? Why think deeply and solve problems? Why make war or for that matter work for peace? If nothing we do and do not do will mean anything ultimately there is no point in striving.

True, in the final analysis all is for naught. Death of the universe erases everything. That there is no one who can stand outside the universe to even witness the death of the universe is what makes it all meaningless. That every sentient being and all that we have worked for is contained and trapped in the universe and goes down with the universe is what makes life in this universe patently absurd. However, meaningfulness is not confined to this ultra long term perspective. The fact that the universe taken as a whole is meaningless may or may not render my life or what I am doing right now meaningless. I need only ask myself why I have a quest to create beautiful things rather than grotesque ones. Certainly there must be something about that which I perceive as beautiful that is important to me. Cetainly participating in the endeavor of propagating beauty through beautiful works must for me be worthwhile. On the other hand thwarting creation/creativity or creating ugly things disturbs me precisely because I find such activities an affront to my senses or sensibilities or others' sensibilities, or at the very least a sheer waste of time.

Therefore, while the universe taken as a whole, from its alpha to its omega, may be utterly meaningless, within a more human—as opposed to a cosmological—context meaningfulness not only can be found but is perceived and hankered for in the course of most people's lives. To most it is meaningful to keep children (whether their own or others') from harm and to take care of them. It is meaningful to many to learn and be skilled at something. It is meaningful to a good number to be able to create, whether that be a chiffon cake, or a painting, or an essay, or a computer program, or a sculpted physique, or what have you.

Within the human context, within the constraints of the measly 4 scores we are alloted, there is meaning, even if we do not always experience our lives as meaningful. There are things that we value that we will go on defending or working for however little they may contribute to the meaningfulness of our lives. Yes, we can always retort, 'So what?' But what we need to ask ourselves is whether we are willing to forgo with that which we have valued and treasured, whether we would actually thwart that which we cherish. If we are able to actually act contrary to what we value, then truly nothing matters to us. But if we are adamant about what we value even if by defending or upholding them we add not an iota of felt meaningfulness to our lives then we have neverthless led a heroic life which by some people's standards is very meaningful indeed.

To Whom Does It Matter Not?

If somehow we are able to realize experientially that nothing matters, then it can only mean that sometime in the past we had known what it was for something (or many things) to matter. The only way we can come to that feeling of nothing mattering is if we've been accustomed to something mattering. If we had all our lives experienced nothing mattering then we cannot possibly know that nothing matters for it is taken for granted, just as for instance we don't suddenly have a eureka experience when we see an orange carrot the next time we go to the market, for as we all know carrots are colored orange and have always been orange in color. But we do suddenly raise our brows when we encounter a purple carrot for surely a purple carrot is an abomination (which in reality is not; carrots in fact come in many colors ).

Therefore, the 'fact' that nothing matters is less of a fact than a state of consciousness. The phenomenon of mattering is not a property of objects or of the universe, but rather a state of our psyche. Things matter or do not matter depending upon our psychological state at any given moment. Hence, mattering is always in a state of flux. What matters and what does not matter are mutable. A thing's value, as in the bourses, changes and may change dramatically.

The person who experiences a loss of meaning in life and arrives at the conclusion that nothing matters cannot be contradicted. We must acknowledge his experience. His experience is a fact, even as his claim can be questioned or is questionable. In order to enlighten a person mired in this most agonizing situation it is necessary to point out to him that there is a difference between what he feels and what he is claiming. It is incontrovertible that he is experiencing a loss of meaning in life, but his pronouncements—'Nothing matters,' 'Life is meaningless'—need to be qualified. Such laconic sentences are elliptic (from the word ellipsis), i.e., they are truncated of certain vital words, thus distorting how we apprehend the statements. 'Nothing matters' usually means 'At this moment I feel it in my bones that nothing that I have done or can do will really matter. I feel such a loss of motivation that I cannot bring myself to embark on anything. I feel that all action and activity is pointless.' Notice how instead of life or some abstract idea it is the 'I' that now becomes the subject. 'I feel...' 'I am unmotivated...' 'I cannot find anything that matters to me.' It is very important to underscore the psyche which has become aware of meaninglessness because all of these phenomena—meaning, purpose, mattering, value, and their absence or negation—are psychic phenomena. They do not exist outside the psyche; they are not properties of the universe per se. They were born in the psyche and will die with the psyche. Meaning and purpose unlike color or shape or ionic charge are not measurable charactertistics of nature. Therefore, in the discussion of claims of, say, life being pointless the psyche must always be included, so much so that philosophical forays into them must necessarily be psychological ones as well.

Parting Words... For Now

This matter of meaning in life or things mattering is perhaps more important to our existence than most other questions. Unless we experience a modicum of meaningfulness and feel that some things matter then there is little motivation to live. The individual who finds himself experiencing meaninglessness and all the attendant phenomena that go along with that experience is certainly not in an enviable position. Few of us intentionally want to be in such a wretched, agonizing, and debilitating situation. Be that as it may, such an experience is not evil (a loss of faith or even a mortal sin, as Christianity would have us believe). It is a very human experience, one which I dare say each of us ought to go through at some point in our adult lives. The 'good' which such an experience brings is a revamp and reevaluation of what really is dear to us, what our life really is for, separating the superficial from the essential, pulling the rug from under us and forcing us to concentrate on existential issues. With luck, we come out of such dark nights of the soul a little wiser, a little more aware of ourselves than we were before.

I believe there can be meaning in life as long as we confine ourselves within the human context and bother not extrapolating all the way to the universe's end. And if we take death as the finish line after which there is nothing else we can do as our motivation to do this and that rather than do nothing then we can when we do reach that finish line say that we had struggled to be ourselves and to do what we could do and wanted to do. Whether our life had been meaningful or not, well that may no longer be too important a question as one crosses the line.

To end I must say that in recent years I have come to believe that we are destined to find meaning and to experience meaninglessness. Jung said: "Probably, as in all metaphysical questions, both are true: Life is —or has—meaning and meaninglessness." [Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Vintage Books, 1989, p.359] Like the twins light and shadow to experience one necessarily brings the possibility of the other. If you are at the moment zipping back and forth between 10 projects and cannot at all fathom how I can possibly be feeling meaningless when life is brimming with so much to offer then it may be wise to remember that a high is high only because there exists a low to contrast it with. And I being down here at a much lower point than you should perhaps console myself with the fact that there have been times in my life that I was on the summit myself and may therefore find myself climbing up once more.

What is the Purpose of Life?

January 1998

The Meaning of Purpose

Every now and then we find ourselves asking what the purpose of life is. Unfortunately, while the question seems sensible enough (the syntax of the sentence being perfectly correct) the assumptions implicit in it are rather questionable. For instance asking for the purpose of life assumes that purpose is built into things and beings. But is this so? The concept of purpose is an anthropomorphic attribution. It may be rightly a characteristic of human beings with normal psychological faculties, but it is not necessarily a characteristic of all things, animate and inanimate.

A branch that's broken off a tree may have a human purpose—that of being whittled into a spear or a flute—but the branch itself or its falling off the tree does not have a purpose as we humans understand that concept. The branch itself or its falling off is not telic—it did not fall off to cause some intended phenomenon to happen. It fell off because of very natural causes (e.g., it was rotting and snapped under its own weight).

Some may argue that the purpose of things may be assigned to it externally by a transcendent being. They will state that the breaking of the branch may have been orchestrated by God as part of His Will. In this case the branch or a human being, unaware of being utilized, may be acting as an agent for some divine purpose. The object therefore is being used as an instrument and a means to achieve some higher being's purpose.

One problem with such a theory is that if there is such a divine being, then whatever we do may be futile since we are directed from the outside with or without our knowledge, willingly or unwillingly. For all we know like puppets who are ignorant of being puppets some 'higher intelligence' is manipulating us and everything around us via invisible strings. In such a scenario we would be living under the illusion that inanimate objects behave naturally and humans act on their own, when in fact part or all of what we see in our universe is made to happen according to some supernatural entity's plan or whims.

We can now move on to refine the concept of purpose and differentiate between intrinsic and extrinsic purpose. An intrinsic purpose is purposiveness that comes from the individual. An extrinsic purpose is provided for externally. Some examples: A cat sticking his paw through a crack in the wall is doing so as it attempts to catch the mouse it's been chasing. This is intrinsic purpose. The cat is doing what it's doing because he has a certain objective in mind. A man picks up a hammer and nails a slab of wood over the crack in the wall to cover it up. The man has an extrinsic purpose for the hammer and the slab. The slab does not have an intrinsic purpose of plugging up cracks in the wall, and the hammer does not have an intrinsic purpose of hitting nails.

What is the purpose of hydroxymethyl cellulose? If we are asking for extrinsic purpose, we can probably name a number of uses in the various industries. But if we are asking for its intrinsic purpose we must decline to answer for it does not really make sense to ask the question. Hyrdroxymethyl cellulose does not have an intrinsic purpose. To ask the question is senseless. Although this substance and for that matter any chemical substance may have chemical properties that makes it prone to combine with other chemicals in a certain manner, this does not constitute purpose as we humans understand purpose. It merely is exhibiting its natural properties as a particular kind of chemical.

Intrinsic purpose issues from the individual. The individual has some intention and acts toward achieving that intention. Extrinsic purpose is supplied by an entity and forced upon another. Clearly when theists state that God has a divine plan for man the purpose is extrinsic to us, even as God's purpose and ours may possibly intersect at some points. When a theist says that a car accident which maims a drunken driver is part of God's plan for his eventual conversion to Christianity, the theist is clearly talking of extrinsic purpose. It certainly was not the driver's plan to ram into the lamp post and break his bones. To some this divine plan theory is heartwarming and comforting but to some it may be revolting. In the case of the drunken driver some would argue that for God to intentionally cause traumatic injuries is unethical and cruel. Had it been a human who caused the accident on the grounds that the driver will reform thereafter that person would be summarily incarcerated. Attributing divine purpose to events in our world therefore needs to be resorted to with much caution given the fact that there are no divine harbingers that come to tell us when we're right and when we're wrong in attributing events to supernatural benevolence (or malevolence).

Purpose in and of life

Does human life have a purpose?
Does humanity have a purpose?
Is biological evolution telic?
Does the universe and its existence have a purpose?

Some definitions:

Purpose in life
An individual's goals and objectives, and destiny during his lifetime. This is a concept that is specific to human beings, or to beings with psychological faculties at least equaling that of humans.
Purpose of Life
A grand cosmic theory that attempts to spell out some unified goal(s) of humanity as a whole, or biological life (including humanity) as a whole, or the universe as a whole

The concept of purpose, of course, is realistic. We humans can think and plan and act towards certain goals. Our actions are thus purposeful—they are telic. We know empirically that people have different interests. We also know, as proved by idiographic data, that individuals do consciously, conscientiously, and perseveringly pursue certain objectives in their lives. Some objectives may be quite simple, such as assembling a model airplane. Some are long-term goals such as obtaining doctorate degrees in both psychology and religion. The objectives may or may not be attained, they may be realistic or foolhardy. That, however, is beside the point. That there is such a thing as purpose in life, at least in humans, is inarguable. People do have purpose or purposes in life ranging from the trivial to the globally radically transforming.

What is problematic is the objective reality of 'purpose of life.' When the concept of purpose is taken to the extreme, and extrapolated to universal or cosmological proportions without altering the basic definition of the concept, then we run into severe problems. It is quite probable that it is meaningless (and absurd) to extend the concept of purpose beyond the context of humanity and certain animals. Just as it is ludicrous to ask: "What is the sun dreaming of right now?", "What is the IQ of the earth?", "What are the intellectual abilities of Life and the Universe?" so it may be utterly futile to ask, "What is the purpose of biolgical life in general?" or "What is the purpose of the existence of the universe?" To raise the question of purpose of the cosmos may be absurd even if it is intuitively, metaphysically, theologically, or even aesthetically appealing. In short in wanting to know the purpose of life we may actually be asking a non-question. While the grammar of the interrogative sentence would garner an A from any English professor, the question itself is meaningless since we are applying a concept where it is inapplicable.

Having clarified what we mean by purpose of and in life we can now state that the above distinction and arguments will similarly apply to 'meaning of life' and 'meaning in life.' As above we question the very meaning of those phrases. And as with 'purpose of life' we conclude that to ask what the meaning of life is cannot possibly be a very meaningful endeavor since we are dealing with a non-question, applying a concept that hardly can be applied on such a cosmic scale.

Meaningfulness in Life

January 1998

Meaningfulness in life may or may not connote purpose, but it does denote a general satisfaction/contentment with one's life. My life is meaningful or has been meaningful if I conclude that it has been a good life, 'good' being a subjective assessment. If I conclude that my life has been wretched and miserable, then I would hardly consider it to have been meaningful; I may even say that I had been shortchanged.

The conclusion of meaningfulness can change over time. I might have said a year ago that my life is meaningful. But today if all my possessions have been taken away from me and I am now in a detention camp being tortured, I might now aver that my life has not been meaningful. Meaningfulness in life is thus a subjective evaluation at some given point in time. It changes over time and certainly varies from one person to another.

We need to distinguish between two concepts: meaning and meaningfulness. As we said the latter refers to a subjective evaluation of one's life thus far. The former on the other hand refers to an objective reality that transcends the entity or phenomenon. When we talk of meaning of life we are likely to be referring to something permanent and transtemporal, to something that is not contingent upon the idiosyncrasies and whims of an individual or a group or a species. When we ask the question 'What is the meaning of something's life?' we are asking for something that is almost external to the entity. For example, even if the entity may have found its life meaningless, without significance, without purpose, we may still assign a meaning to that entity's life. Thus, we may say that his life was a sacrifice that others may live. In this case we have equated meaning with ultimate purpose in life. This purpose, however, is applied externally. The person did/does not find such a purpose in his life.

We have argued elsewhere that we have grounds to dismiss the term 'purpose of life' as meaningless. The term 'meaning of life' where 'life' is understood to mean the whole of existence must in the end be debunked as a subjective dead end. It has no objective reality. If it has significance then it is to afford the individual who believes in what the meaning of life is a myth to live by. In other words, whatever the individual takes to be the meaning of life becomes a faith on which he grounds his existence, and which therefore makes his life worthwhile. What the meaning of life is to a person becomes the religion of that person. If, for instance, the meaning of life consists of God's will being initiated on earth and pursuing that plan is man's destiny, then this assigned meaning guides the person on how to live his life. Moreover, if he exerts effort to remain faithful to this he will no doubt find his life meaningful and worthwhile.

Why Go On?

August 1996

Why indeed do we live? Are we any better if we do? Or is non-existence, or non-consciousness, just as good? What have we lost in not living out life? We are uncertain if anything awaits us after death. All we know is that if death is the final conclusion of our existence then our lives are trivialized.

We are all participants in the play of life. We go through the motions. We act as if there is something worthwhile living for. We earn our keep. We toil and struggle to make it through the day and onto tomorrow. We cure the sick and care for the aged, trying to prolong our terminal existence. Like all other creatures we maintain ourselves and become the progenitors of yet another generation of ourselves.

The Christian dogma of an afterlife reads like a myth when viewed with an eye for absurdity. They become phantasms of a sentient being denying his own mortality, a desperate attempt to accord meaning to an otherwise ridiculous existence.

But why do we go on? For those of us who do not or no longer see the world through Christian spectacles, what is it that provides us steam to move on? Pleasure in the guise of happiness is certainly one of them. Love for or, its degenerative form, attachment to people is another. Pseudo-immortality through fame and works is another.

But do any of them matter? In the end though one has lived through these happy times, the very memory and the individual who has experienced them will ultimately be annihilated. And then every single event would not matter at all. Death erases the slate completely and no wonder, no happiness, no works, nothing at all will matter to the individual who has lived them, for even he, in the end, does not matter.

Do we live for the sake of the generations hence? Do we as the only possible ancestors of those after us have an obligation to make certain of their own existence? Must we continue the human heritage, the species?

Experiencing the pleasures of life—the challenge and exhilaration of running after a shuttle in a badminton match, the suspense of watching a movie, the satisfaction of learning from one's readings—these all seem to promote a hankering for more of life. But the fact is they come as punctuations to a drabby existence. We run after these diversions and distractions so we may not see the bleakness of being alive, intelligent, and conscious. We hurry after satiety even as we can never be sated completely. Once the 'high' we experience from one begins to disappear we panic towards replacing it with another.

Life looms before us as an empty canvas waiting to be splashed with color. Without the incessant search and dousing of those paints life is a bland monotony describable only as a living death. Abiding by the cycles of our earthly existence is a monotony. The daily demand of simply keeping ourselves alive can be a frustrating test of our patience and endurance. When we become lucid enough to take flight and soar to a higher vantage point, we are aghast and ask 'What is it all for?' Ten thousand times we play the rhythms of nature and to what end? Do we simply live for the ephemeral moment unobligated either to our past or future? What bestows worth to our existence if and when there is nothing with permanence and certainty? When our nature and the nature of our actions and experiences are fleeting like all else in the universe undergoing constant death and reformation, what is there to hope for? When nothing survives in the long run, when nothing empirical points to the famed spiritual realm, when instead we are faced with merely the certainty of non-existence, non-consciousness, non-permanence, and nothingness what reason have we to go against the grain of physical dynamics and abide by the urgings of eros that arises from life per se? The reasonableness of life cannot be proved. Taking life not piecemeal but as a whole there is little to provide us with a compelling rationale to allow life to go on. Any life, whether microbial or sentient as us, are 'too good' to be allowed to live and live without meaning. It is a waste of the precious complexity and beauty of life to spend in a universe that offers no succor for the battle against non-being.

It is no wonder that Christianity builds its foundations on the precept of eternal life (and damnation). Without continuity in the hereafter, life would be too absurd to take seriously. Without such continuity there is little to hope for and to be joyful about.

I have said that if our existence ends with our physical death life would be too absurd to take seriously. But it is also true that death is that potent warning that we neither have the luxury of eternity nor the invincibility of the gods to live wantonly. In order to say ( if this be our philosophy and worldview) that I have lived the best I know how and have lived the best I could we need the spectre of non-existence in the not too distant future. We require that ever ominous blade that hovers above us that we may live a worthy existence.

Death does not always usher in life. That is the truth. There is no mathematical or chemical equation that says the process of death yields new life. Were we so certain such is the case, without exception, we would be mentally ill to evade that process. If such certainty were the norm each of us would reach seraphimic wisdom at the end of our earthly term. We would all be addicted to killing ourselves for the high of a new and better self.