Sad but true—we are all going to die. The awareness of death is a distinct privilege for humans—our cerebral capacity allows us to foresee our inevitable endpoint in a way that no other animal can imagine. This ‘mortality salience’ is among the driving forces of humanity, and has been the genesis of countless stories and myths, as well as a key feature of almost all major religions.
The question always becomes: What happens when we die? It’s as if some certainty to this quandary might settle our nerves when the time comes—and well it may. However, the funny thing about death is that not many get the chance to report back. So, whether it’s pearly gates, Elysium fields, an endless void, or something entirely different, we are left to wonder.
Today however, we are going to take this issue head-on—providing a minimalist view of the afterlife which should be accessible to all, and act as an effective guidepost for personal moral accountability. This is not meant to be taken as a proof or even a strong belief, but rather a fundamental jumping off point: a basic answer, and a prompt for greater personal insight.
Whether you seek admittance into Heaven, Valhalla, or any other similar notion, what I want to provide for you today is a roadmap of behaviour guaranteed to get you there.
In order to do so, I will present you with five simple assumptions. Once these assumptions are accepted, I will outline a fundamental interpretation of the afterlife which will suffice to guide the action of any man, woman, or child seeking a positive post-mortem experience.
The 5 Assumptions are:
- We have a sense of right and wrong:
Specifically, the assumption is that we can feel good or bad about actions we have taken. For instance, if we think about betraying a friend, we may feel guilty. If we consider being there to help a loved one, we may feel proud or valued.
- Our experience of time is relative to our experience of pleasure/ pain:
This one sounds a bit more complex than it is. What I am seeking here is a basic recognition that when we have a good time, it seems to fly, and that when we suffer, time seems to drag.
- Death is the greatest displeasure:
As animals driven by animal instincts, our general inclination is to avoid death at all costs. Essentially, our own death is the worst thing to experience.
- When you die, your life flashes before your eyes:
It may be that none of you are as well-equipped as me to accept the truth of this one. It’s an old concept for sure, and one that I myself have recently experienced and will attest to in a roundabout sort of way.
- A number cannot be divided by zero:
This one may come as a twist, but in order to finish this concept, we need to agree on this basic mathematic principle—specifically regarding calculus and graphing.
Now, based on the five assumptions we just agreed on, we can imagine a very interesting and poignant thing happening the moment we die. First of all, as I’m sure you can surmise, you’re going to have your life flash before your eyes. On top of that, since we agreed that you have some semblance of morality, you are going to have certain feelings—some positive, some negative—about the way you have lived.
However, we’ve also agreed that our experience of time slows down as we experience more adverse situations, and further, that death is the worst thing to experience. Considering this in relation to our final fact, I ask that you imagine a graphic function for a moment.
For this graph, we will have the X-Axis represent our experience of pain. The lower the value, the more pain we experience.
The Y-Axis will represent our experience of time. The greater the value, the more relative time any given moment seems to take.
Since death is the worst possible experience, as the X-Axis approaches death (or a zero divisor), the value of the Y-Axis (our relative experience of time) grows exponentially greater without ever reaching said zero.
This is called an asymptote. The Y-Value will veer upwards towards infinity as the X-Value creeps closer to its natural dead-end. According to the precepts of our graph, what this means is that as we approach the moment of death, we find ourselves in a single moment experienced as an eternity.
So here we are, stuck in an eternal moment, looking back at our lives, and feeling good or bad about it—or some mixture of both.
This concept affords to us a vision of eternity which compels us to virtue, not to avoid punishment—which is no true virtue at all, merely coercion—but for the reward of decency itself. It is a functional clearing of the dogma and artifice which has grown over the reliefs of truth, and tasks us simply with being prepared to face ourselves and our actions not only on the day of our death, but each preceding day as well.
This to me is the most basic understanding needed to live a righteous life. The concept we should take away from it, simply put, is that we should take no action we would not be comfortable looking back on for eternity.
Share this, and use it each day. Think on your actions, and encourage others to do likewise. For Project: FearNaught to change the world, we must confront our virtues and vices head-on. That is the purpose here. The task may be daunting, but it can be accomplished…have no fear.
Be part of the debate: ‘Project FearNaught’ is an effort to start the conversation that changes the world. As such, your voice is key to our ambition. To add your input, questions, or comments, click here.