How a Humanist approaches the end of life

October 5, 2013 

We Humanists are a practical bunch.

We understand that we are going to die. That is the nature of things.

We don't like the prospect of it any more than anyone else, but we accept it as inevitable, most of us anyway.

There is a trans-humanist movement that seeks to transcend mortality and illness. I'm all for anything that eliminates suffering and illness. However, when I start to think about what immortality really means, I realize I'm not so sure I want to live for millions of years.

I wouldn't mind living for a few hundred, but not millions or even hundreds of thousands.

Regardless, a few extra hundred or even thousand years might come in handy. After all, I have way too much living to do and not enough time to pack everything in as it is.

Plus, think of all that I will miss after my death.

I suppose this is why most people have such a hard time contemplating their death.

It's unpleasant to think we may not exist anymore. A lot of religions posit a life after death to cope, so death isn't the end of our existence.

Humanists have no such concept of an afterlife.

When we die, we cease to exist. The people who knew us will mourn us, hopefully, and then continue on with the business of living.

I have very little expectation I will be remembered past a few generations, unless of course my books outlive me and people still find value in my writing. In that way I suppose I could attain some immortality.

As an experiment I encourage you all to go out and buy my books and share them with others.

But even if you all did and I did achieve that sort of practical immortality, I won't be around to enjoy it or even know it is happening once I die.

After death, I will be non-existent.

I realize my easy acceptance of the reality of my death might seem strange to a lot of people. But for a Humanist, it's inspiring. Accepting our mortality is what makes living fully in the present possible.

I know I am going to die and that I have a limited amount of time to do the things I want to do. I have a limited amount of time to love the people I want to love and to make a difference in the world.

Every moment I am not doing something of value, is wasted.

It does not matter to me that my impact on the world is limited. I can make a difference right now and that is at least something!

Jennifer Hancock is a Humanist educator and the author of several books. You can find her on the web at jen-hancock.com and on Twitter@jenthehumanist.

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