Samuel Clemens – Zen Buddhist

I remember first asking a question that touched on this issue when I was little:  Where were we before we were born?  What were we?  Were we anything?  Were we souls waiting to be born into bodies?  That last suggestion seemed to please my Sunday School teachers, who then had to grapple with the idea that since the soul supposedly retains all of the sensory abilities of the body, we should have some sort of working memory of the eternity before now that we spent waiting for our chance at life on Earth.  Facing that prospect, they usually just changed the subject and asked me to recite the Beatitudes until I was sufficiently shut up.

Thing is, asking the question that way is a wonderful way to turn the fear of death on its head.  I’m not particularly afraid of death since I’m not convinced there’s anything waiting for me on “the other side”, but I maintain the collective philosophical obsession we have with death would be far more productive if it were turned backwards to figure out where we were before we were physically us.

I personally think this is good evidence for there being no “afterlife” … since the memory of our souls would have carried over to this body as they supposedly will when we die.  As for the literal question of what we were … I will leave you with the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has the best and most realistic answer I’ve heard to date:

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”

― Neil deGrasse Tyson

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Atheism and Personal Life, Profiles in Atheism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Samuel Clemens – Zen Buddhist

  1. Erin W says:

    I’ve always liked Carl Sagan’s formulation, that we are all star stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s