Auto Eulogy for Dick Ainsworth

I wrote this eulogy in good health and good spirits. I would have gladly stayed around for quite a few more years and probably enjoyed good health and more. But here we are, celebrating my life and the simple fact that it's over.


It's customary on these occasions to speak well of the dearly departed -- enumerating my good qualities, my outstanding achievements, my many remarkable discoveries, inventions, and puzzles solved.


My most important life quest, however, eluded me completely. I never actually determined what happens next. Haven't you wondered? What, if anything, continues after this life? The fact that your atoms and whatnot continue wandering about the universe forever doesn't count. Do we continue to exist? Do you?


There are two -- and only two -- possible answers. Either something happens next, or it does not. That's it. Sound Aristotelian logic dictates: There are no other options. Everything that can possibly occur falls into one of these two categories.



Plan A: Something happens next.


The concept of an afterlife is common to all religions I know of. Details vary, ranging from halos and harps to 72 perpetual virgins, but one way or another, there's more to come. If we take these depictions seriously, only one of these conflicting scenarios for what happens after we die could be correct. This means we can't take detailed descriptions of the afterlife literally and must look for a concept unifying the notion that we don't actually die at all but live on in a literal sense.


Yet, notwithstanding diversity in detail, adherents to the existence of an afterlife are consistent in their belief that something does happen next. Unfortunately, this potentially empowering and uniting belief that there is more to life than the one we're experiencing hasn't stopped religious differences from inciting wars from ancient times to the present. Equally depressing is the limiting notion of many religions that creates us/them dichotomy: those who practice our version of life everlasting will achieve it, and all others are doomed. But would you really want to sit somewhere "up there," plinking on a harp and praising God for all eternity? That's a long time and would undoubtedly be dull as all hell. A banjo, maybe, but a harp, no way!



Plan B: No, it doesn't


This plan takes the opposite approach and is much easier to define. Quite simply, everything that lives will eventually die. This includes trees, stars, galaxies, childhood pets, petunias, and Bamby's father. So why should we be any different? Specifically, how could we not be included in our apparent life/death cycles?


Delving into a debate between Plan A and Plan B is tempting. You've probably had your own thoughts about both possibilities. But details of this ongoing argument are not what I've learned and will share with you now. 


There is one distinct advantage to being dead.


As to that all-important question: Now I know the answer.



Milky,Way,Panorama
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