I know my time on Earth is precious. It’s my belief that consciousness is the most precious gift in the universe. It’s been nearly 14 billion years since the Big Bang—or the latest round of expansion, if you subscribe to the fascinating M-theory—and we have the great privilege of being alive and aware for not even a century.
Some basic math shows that if you live to be 100, which is a stretch, you’ll have been conscious for only 0.0000000071428571 (eight 0’s) percent of the maximum amount of time you could have possibly been conscious.
How incredible is that? Saddening, but incredible.
We have however tainted our own gift. Many people—even those is the developed world—hold firmly the belief that after this life on Earth, we can be cast into an eternal existence in Heaven (or some other supernatural holy land).
The consequences of that belief and everything attached to it have unfortunately been measured throughout history. Some of it is good, some of it is bad. But on a personal level we are doing equal harm.
Our jewel—existence, consciousness—is often seen as a time to chase the flashlight we think we see, which is of course being coursed through the air by a supreme being. Existing eternally is something most people could easily get on board with, and many do. But at what cost?
A very common rebuttal to the nonbeliever’s claim is something to the effect of, “How do you get up in the morning?” Essentially, how does someone who doesn’t believe in anything beyond this world find optimism? Shouldn’t your relatively minuscule life be miserable?
I find the exact opposite to be true.
General relativity is tricky to understand, but for the common person’s sake, each second that passes is gone. You won’t get it back. Let’s once again do some simple math. If I completely waste away one day, that’s 0.0000274 percent of my life gone out the window (once again assuming I beat the odds and live to be 100).
It doesn’t seem like an astounding percentage, but if one day becomes three, and then three days become five, things start adding up quickly. Let’s adjust the numbers a bit to more accurately reflect how much time we’re kicking to the curb.
I’ll do these calculations assuming there are five days per month in which you do nothing. That’s taking into account all free time, which is then accumulated. I’m not implying you spend five 24-hour periods doing nothing.
Let’s see what it looks like now.
Now it’s 16.45 percent.
(Before you say five days is completely unrealistic, consider two things: 1) As I stated above, I’m not condemning anyone, and 2) I think this average takes into consideration fluctuations from the time you’re a child to the time you’re a student to the time you’re a working adult to the time you’re a retired elder.)
So now maybe you’re getting a little nervous. Well we can’t forget our final variable: sleep!
Let’s crunch the numbers again, assuming we spend one-third of our lives asleep.
Now it’s 24.67 percent.
And there you go. Nearly a quarter or your life is spent in lay moments.
For the third time, I’m not condemning you. I’m instead pointing out that you may only have 75 percent of your life to actually pursue something. I’ll admit that even if you play with the numbers slightly, things change noticeably. But once again consider the fact that you probably won’t live to be 100, and that’s the time scale I used for these rough measurements.
Now back to a nonbeliever’s life being supposedly intolerable. The fact that I’ll be conscious for such a small amount of time, and the fact that I may only realistically have three-fourths of my life to do something—it drives me to become something greater than I was.
Athletic coaches will often use a cliche similar to, “We want to be one percent better than we were yesterday.” Why can’t that be true in life? I can certainly become smarter and learn something new; or I could help someone who’s struggling; or I could educate someone. The activities list goes on.
There’s a whole lot of living to do, and I’ll be damned if I waste a second of it worrying about a fictional (though appealing) eternal afterlife.
Driving my inner purpose to become better is the knowledge that I only have so much time to do so. It really boils down to that simple fact.