I was born in 1979.

Prior to my birth, a few interesting things happened:

  • Around 13.7 billion years ago, the universe came into existence with a Big Bang
  • About 4.6 billion years ago, our Solar System formed
  • Life arose… lots of animals evolved, but most went extinct, including the dinosaurs roughly 65 million years ago
  • The shape of the continents changed dramatically as plate tectonics resurfaced the Earth
  • Somewhere on the continent of Africa, modern man arose, and spread across the other continents
  • Civilization blossomed, along with the domestication of animals, tools, technology, and information.
  • In the last couple of centuries, there were some massive catastrophes including natural disasters and world wars
  • Finally, I was born.

I was oblivious to all of these events.

I didn’t exist yet, but everything that ever happened in the universe, happened – and it went by in an instant.  That “instant” spanned 13.7 billion years.  It could have been even longer – it doesn’t matter, because to you and I, it was still an instant.  We have the luxury of science and history to tell us of our universal past, but without that, the only recollection we could possibly have of anything is what we actually lived through.

What’s the point?

The point is that when you die, it’s likely the same thing.  The only difference is that there no “instant” at the other end  for you to suddenly become conscious, like birth.  Instead, time and events like the ones listed above will happen on their own, without you, just like they did before you were born.   Time will go on until the end of the Universe but you won’t be able to know it.

Should you be afraid of death?

I will freely admit that death itself does not scare me.  The physical act of dying terrifies me.  I don’t want it to be painful, and I don’t want it to be drawn out.  I want peace and tranquility, like any other normal person would want.

Though I am not afraid of death, the thought of it saddens me.  I love life so much that it crushes me to think that I wouldn’t be able to spend time with family and friends.  Of course, losing a loved one is equally painful for the same reasons.

It also saddens me that I wouldn’t witness the next great advances in technology.  Imagine the people of the 1800’s – they could never have imagined the beautiful and stunning images that the Hubble Space telescope would send back to Earth.  I’m in my 30’s now, can you image what kinds of things the human race will discover in the next century?

What about life after death?

It would be reassuring to know that there was some sort of life after death, but simply put, there is no real evidence for this, no matter which religion is scrutinized.  In fact, it seems that people’s life after death experience are biological in nature.  After all, they can be simulated with drugs and in a lab.

It also seems very anthropocentric to believe that we are so special that we deserve an afterlife.  There are all sorts of problems with life after death – based on religious views and different versions of “heaven” and “hell”;  the concept of the soul; the age of the person (for example: do one day old infants get life after death?…); animals (do they get to experience it too?  which ones, only the ones we like (like dogs and cats), or all of them… cockroaches, crocodiles, crows, for example?)  The list goes on.

Some (most?) religions encourage their believers to dedicate time (and sometimes money or possessions) to their faith in order to gain entry into the afterlife.  Don’t you think a better use of precious time and resources  might be to focus on the one life we definitely have and make the best of it – rather than hoping to enter the afterlife that might exist?

In conclusion…

You’ve got one life to live on this planet.  Just one.  You should do everything in your power to enjoy it to the fullest, and to make sure that everyone and everything around you has the same opportunity.

So, getting back to the original question – What happens when you die? – I think the answer is mundane and simple.