Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Death and Decay

I've been battling a bout of rhinovirus for exactly one week now. It's finally starting to clear up, which is a good thing considering I have my interview at Iowa in the upcoming days. I'll be flying out on Thursday and returning sometime Saturday. Hopefully the snow won't cause problems. Since I've been sick, I've not been able to do much along the lines of extracurricular science. Hopefully the skies will clear up and I can get some good star gazing in when I get back from my trip.

I made a trip home today. My stepfather, Ken, passed away Monday morning and visitation was today. I feel bad for my mother, she doesn't take this sort of thing too well. I, for some reason, manage to deal rather well with the prospect of death. Perhaps it's a result of my whole view on life. I suppose some people propose different meanings for life. That's always something to think about. The meaning of life. I don't think we seek a definition of life, but rather a deeper purpose embedded in the game of life. There are people who would say that our purpose is to serve some god or contribute to humanity—but I tend to believe these are somewhat belittling of what we have. If a mouse were to ask me the meaning of life, I would have to tell him that it is to play out your ecological role, reproducing, and passing on your genetic information to the next generation. However—we as humans don't fit that bill anymore; and I as a biologist even am not satisfied with that type of answer. No. Then what? Is the meaning of life to contribute and in some insignificant way to alter the course of humanity? I'm not satisfied with this either—if Billy Mays had never invented OxyClean, I bet someone else would have. If Albert Einstein hadn't contributed to quantum mechanics, someone else would have eventually. In the same way, all of the scientific works I will add to the human knowledge compendium will likely still get added by someone else if I were to part from this Earth tomorrow. So—what? God? Ignoring the debate surrounding the existence of our heavenly friend, I sincerely doubt that our purpose has anything to do with a creator. Why would a creator create creations to indulge its own ego?

So, if not Biology, or contribution, or gods---then what? What is the meaning of our existence? To me, it is apparent that we exist to fulfill a requirement for our existence. That is, with an infinitely random universe, we must exist. There is no why—perhaps a how, but all-in-all that's it. I think some find this depressing and will resist this notion as being trivial and demeaning. I couldn't disagree more. The fact of the matter is that even in this case, how splendid our existence is! Think about it—infinite possibilities: and, here we are.

Funerals are always a drag. We make them out to honor some person—but I doubt that person has any care for what remains after the electrical impulses in his brain shuts down. It seems selfish then, that we must require some type of finality and self condolence after the passing of a loved one. I'm not saying it's wrong, it seems perfectly natural; just, we shouldn't lie to ourselves about these sorts of things. And especially, don't incorporate God into the lie. Why do you feel better thinking that the dead is in a better place? What better place is there than this place? Sure, Earth has its problems, but at least it's something we've come to believe is real with insurmountable earthly evidence. Perhaps I'm just being plain stubborn.



1 comment:

haley said...

I'm really sorry. Not that I knew Ken, but I feel sorry for your mom. I bet her healing process will be long.

I saw The Invention of Lying recently, and your post kind of reminded me of it. You should rent it if you haven't seen it. It might provide some insight into your thoughts. Plus it's a comedy.