By Martin Gauthier
Open the door, turn on the light, look around you, turn off the light and close the door. This is about the length of your existence on the cosmic scale. And yet, it is probably long considering the age of the universe.
Viewed in this light, life really seems too short. Yet, everything is relative: when we’re young, we have the impression that we have all the time in the world to accomplish certain things. It becomes quite the opposite when we reach an advanced age: we still have so much to do and so little time to do it.
Then, another disconcerting notion arises in us: all the wisdom accumulated over the years, borne out of the crucible of experience, is of little use when we age because of the sudden or gradual degradation of our physical body. We do justify ourselves by saying that this knowledge will be transmitted to those who follow us – the next generation, our kindred – for their well-being and that of society. British playwright Tom Stoppard summed it all up by saying that age is the price to pay for maturity.
On a personal level though, questions abound: why can’t this experience help me? What did I learn all this for? What an immense waste of time and effort life can seem to be then. Those afflicted by disease or physical disabilities are still more likely to think so. Life seems so unfair, so incomprehensible.
But by looking at everything from a bird’s eye view, we realize that life is a continuous process, a phenomenon that never ceases to be, a vital energy that under our very eyes is transmitted from mother to newborn, handed down from generation to generation, to provide a continuity without which we would simply not be. This transmission of the germ of what drives us, on which we have absolutely no control, makes us realize that we are not responsible in any way for its creation.
Cloning aficionados might not like what follows, but it is no less real: we are incapable of creating life. All we can do is help procreate it.
It is when we understand this that life renders us humble. We can then see the forest for the trees. We elevate our gaze to contemplate the finite and the infinite. Our spirit can fly to see life as a journey, a voyage through time and space, an adventure of which we know neither the beginning nor the end. Life, which unfolds in multiple forms, visible and invisible, is this primeval energy that constantly renews itself but remains the same in essence, an unbroken line in the planetary evolution. How can we not then realize:
We only live once.
Everybody agrees with that, be they atheists, scientists, believers or mystics.
The atheist believes that life is valuable and beautiful in itself and worth living because of its unique character; that there is no need to have a divine intervention to give meaning to it. He believes that the only way to be immortal is to leave a legacy that is profitable for his children or humanity. In his eyes, life ends for the being that dies and that there is no proof whatsoever that there is something else or even that the human being has a soul.
The scientist agrees with this view, but he does so only because of lack of reliable data. He wonders what life after death means exactly, what are the parameters of this idea which, in the end, he considers to be illogical without a verifiable basis. As string theory suggests, he allows himself to see the universe beyond the readily accepted four dimensions, therefore beyond length, width, depth and time. And then, his quest for the infinitely small leads him to probe beyond what is readily observable: subatomic particles.
The vision of the believer generally depends on his religious creed. But he distinguishes himself here in the sense that he grants life a reprieve. He extends it beyond physical existence. If he is not Buddhist, he generally gives life substance, so to speak, by providing it with a soul that evolves in a beneficial or hateful world, a world that is more often than not organized with a foreseeable ending. For Christians and Muslims, it is the resurrection of the dead that occurs before Judgment Day, the end of times. For most religions, this vision of the afterlife leads the practitioner to tailor his existence accordingly.
The mystic, which tends to explain Creation by seeking what makes it tick and by forging links with the invisible, pushes the idea further. He views life as a great puzzle to solve, an essence which emanates from cosmic forces for which the material portion represents its concrete outcome. He strives to understand how it operates. To this end, he studies it; he learns to understand and to love it. By virtue of his faith and inner work, he opens pathways of supra-sensory knowledge from which he gathers concepts he yearns to test personally. In his eyes, life is viewed more and more as a laboratory to conduct spiritual experiences, to help his kindred spirits and further the progress of humanity.
Martin Gauthier is the author of We only live once. The book is available in paperback and ebook format on these links at Amazon.com and Amazon.uk. Watch what it’s all about on YouTube. Visit Seek Publications on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.