By Joseph Cox
It was in the moments of grim contemplation that a pit plummeted itself in the depths of my stomach. The black hole spawned from the recesses of my thoughts and burrowed its way inside with nothing to halt its insatiable progress. But in due time, I had no desire to stop the consumption of my heart, for it was within its depths that I began to feel free. I felt the power of nothing as it spawned from nothingness.
When I was young, I’d pray to God every night to ensure the protection of the loved ones I believed to be with him because the comfort of eternal life felt blissful to me. The ones I had lost weren’t rotting in the ground, for they had become angels to guard me up above. The people I held most dear had relinquished their life with me to bless the souls of those they would come to interact with, and in that selfless attitude I always found comfort. It was this selfless nature that fueled my recovery from the first major blow of grief in my life: when I lost my grandfather. I knew that wherever my grandfather was, smiles were sure to follow. I had wished I could be the one smiling, but this selfishness was easily vanquished. Something was made happier by my loss, so everything became sensible.
The protective veil of eternity encased my life for quite some time, but skepticism crept its way under my covers. I’ve watched the pain a car accident can bring, heard the words of those caught in the abyss of depression, felt final touches, talked to dying children, felt the blade of self-harm, and I wondered how any God could watch its creations writhe. Philosophers refer to the sentiments I just expressed as the Problem of Evil, and to a believer, such problems are easily explained away. The suffering is merely a test. Passing the test brings no shortage of reward, so endurance must be shown throughout one’s life. Perhaps even more controversial is the notion that such sufferings are merely a part of the plan. In God’s plans, the good always outweighs the bad, so one must merely stick around to watch the rainbow after the hurricanes. I felt safe as a part of a plan, safe with every action a means to an end, safe under the covers with my prayers every night, but safety would be fulfilling only for so long.
I write to you now as an atheist that has found more comfort in the idea of nothingness than in the grace of whatever Gods may be because an endless story is a boring one. The problem with the idea of eternal life is that it doesn’t allow for much life at all. Everything becomes so helplessly trivial when perpetual happiness is guaranteed, so long as one remains a decent human. Problems become mute, fear is useless, happiness is monotonous, hope is worthless, and nearly all other emotions become a morphed blob of uninteresting worthlessness. There’s no sense in fussing around with the seemingly minuscule problems of everyday life when one day I’ll be waltzing around an endless wonderland, nor is there a reason to fear anything when the worst thing that can happen to me is happiness. Though, the blade that slashes the negative emotions of life cuts deep into the joy of our existence as well. Happiness during our time on Earth must pale in comparison to what heaven can provide, so it would be irrational to savor the moments of happiness we felt. Hope is useless, because there’s nothing to hope for that’s better than an eternal paradise which has already been promised to each of us. I was raised to believe that eternity is what would give my life its meaning, but instead I felt as though I was being sapped of what makes me alive. The beauty of life is not to be found in perpetuity, but in its finality.
Nothingness is utterly terrifying, and that’s what makes it eerily wonderful. Every nuance of life is to be savored because each minuscule piece is only temporary. Experiences, no matter how grim or how magnificent, come to be enjoyed due to the nature of their occurrence. Even the depths of misery become bearable because at least there’s something to feel. Nothingness is a bitter, indifferent, and fantastic motivator. It pushes everything it presides over to yearn for more because more is exactly what we can never have. Every second becomes something worth acknowledging, because that second might be your last. The fear is what makes me feel alive, and an eternity could never match the thrill of the temporary.
As for those that have already been lost, the permanence of their non-existence is a horrible pain to endure, but an endless life would do little to dampen such agony. Whether elsewhere or gone forever, those we have lost are felt most in their effects. The stories we share, the lessons we take, and the inspiration we absorb from the deaths of those we hold dear are what give them life beyond their ends. As a child, I had not realized that my grandfather had done all he needed to do to bring smiles into the present day because the stories I share with him are some of the best I tell. Though the dead may not receive eternal paradise, nothingness need not be some evil counterpart to eternity, for nothingness is merely the absence of something. No pain, no suffering, and no ills exist in nothingness just as the eternal paradise promises. Nothingness is just more direct in asserting that no good can come from it either. Though, as I’ve asserted earlier, an eternity anywhere doesn’t seem to bring much good either.
You and I are going to die one day, and that’s an uncomfortable thought. Would you want to learn to cope with the cruel indifference of a godless world by witnessing the hidden beauty that it holds? Or maybe live in the pursuit of the love of a God? A goal that, in some circumstances, can be quite noble, or perhaps you may wish to take your own route too, and find meaning in your own path. Whatever you choose, I hope that you come to savor each second as it passes you buy, live each moment as if your only responsibility were to enjoy it, and come to find that, at the end of it all, nothingness sounds like a much-needed rest from a life well lived.