The other day I was listening to music on the radio in my car during a long drive by my lonesome. There was one particular song that came on – a country song with religious overtones – that had a particular line that made me twitch a little. The song told the story of a young boy who met an old man who had lost his entire family; the old man then told the young man that he was able to go on because of a faith in the afterlife and the belief that he would be joining his family eventually. Not exactly a terrible message, even if you’re not religious…it’s about staying strong even when the world gets you down. But there’s this one line, near the end, that just ruins the entire song for me:
You know I’m more and more convinced, the longer that I live, that this can’t be, no this can’t be, no this can’t be all there is.
That line is meant to be inspirational, I’m sure. I’ve heard similar things in movies and TV shows, read similar things in books, and of course I am surrounded by many, many religious folks who would be very likely to say something very similar when questioned on whether or not they believe in an afterlife. The message between the lines here is that there must be an afterlife, because how can this, this thing called life that we all just endure, be all there is to existence?
I hate that message. I truly do.
There is no doubt that the world isn’t perfect. There are horrible people in the world, and there are horrible things happening to good people. There’s death and destruction and a variety of horrors, and the nature of human beings means that no one can truly know what is going on in another person’s head, whether any one person is perfectly happy or internally miserable. Sometimes life genuinely sucks and there’s nothing you can do about it.
But you know what?
There’s also beautiful sunny days that make your skin feel warm and wonderful.
There are thousands of varieties of flowers, plants, and trees, each more beautiful than the next.
There are experiences that make your heart soar, like holding your child for the first time or watching them walk down the aisle.
There is a vast, endless quantity of knowledge up for the taking, a hundred billion things that a person could learn about if they so desired.
There’s the power in failing, picking yourself up, and becoming a better person for it.
There’s the feeling of a hot shower on your body after a long day.
There is random kindness from random strangers who had absolutely no reason to be kind but chose to be anyway.
There is the wonderful rush you get from accomplishing something, even little things.
There is the simple joy in making a loved one laugh.
There is the peace that one can enjoy simply by taking advantage of a moment of quiet.
There are countless activities that can make a person both stronger and happier.
There’s the unexplainable happiness in the simple actions of children.
There is an entire planet of food and drink and guilty pleasures available.
There is creativity and imagination and an entire Universe of ideas and innovations.
There is the endless possibility that exists in each and every single person, if they’re just willing to search for it and work for it.
So you see, it bothers me a great deal with people use the phrase “this can’t be all there is”, because it deeply undermines what “this” is. If you’re a religious person (or just a faithful person) and you believe in an afterlife, that’s great. But please remember that just because there might be something after death doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy to the fullest all the precious things that you have before death.