If there was an afterlife…

If someone you could prove to you there was an afterlife what would you think? What would you do?

I watched a movie last week with that very premise. A scientist had proved that a form of existence goes on after the body is dead. It was a provocative, earth-shaking discovery which in the movie led to millions of people taking their own life, in a hurry, I guess, to check out the afterlife – presumably in the belief that it must be better than this life.

It was an interesting idea, but I wasn’t entirely convinced. I’m happy to believe there might be an afterlife – it makes for a richer, more mysterious world. Even so, I found it hard to believe that a revelation like that would lead directly to a huge spate of suicide – many millions in this case.

The rational side of me would accept the science, but in the absence of further information certainly would not presume that the afterlife was something better. That’s no more than wishful thinking. The afterlife doesn’t necessarily equate with heaven, and almost certainly not a slew of waiting virgins. If there is an afterlife then it’s life on another plane, and no guarantee it’s any better than this. Why risk what you know in favour of what you don’t know but simply hope for?

In any case, I’d like to see out this life. Why waste it? There’s a lot to do, much to achieve, fun to be had. Different story I guess if you’re mired in misery, but still – for me – much of life’s grandeur is a product of the struggle, the striving to get by and get ahead, and sometimes, to overcome. Life can be pretty superficial, and having an easy out makes it more so in my book. It’s the challenge that gives life its weight and purpose, but that’s just my view.

Anyway, in the movie, there was another revelation near the end of it. Life went on after this, but it wasn’t an afterlife as we think of it. Rather upon death people went back to the key moment of their life when they went A instead of B, when faced with a fork in the road took the high path instead of the low, and so on. They died and returned to those moments to re-live their life from that moment forward, with the opportunity to take the other path and correct the mistakes of yesteryear. Basically, people returned to redeem their choices and live the life they are meant to.

Now if that became widely known I would expect many then to take their own life to get another shot at it. Regret is commonplace, remorse widespread, and there are few of us who haven’t made choices we now wish had been otherwise.

It’s a common daydream of mine to look back at particular moments and wonder what would have happened had I gone the other way. How would life be different? It’s a pointless conjecture, but hard to resist. If I knew then what I know now life would be very different – except I didn’t know and couldn’t know.

For me, it would change little. I would still go on. If one day I died naturally and went back again then I would be happy for it, but I wouldn’t force it. The uniqueness of life as I see it is that you get one shot at it in the here and now. Dies are cast, bridges are burned, and it’s what life is about. You learn, you feel, sometimes you suffer, and hopefully, you feel the full gravity of the gift bestowed upon you. To get another go at it by putting a gun to your head cheapens it. To stop, reset, and go again, feels like cheating. Like gambling without the risk (or thrill) of losing.

In this, as in many other things, I’ve an old school attitude. You make your decisions, good and bad, and stand by them. Life’s too short for regret, and a shallow thing without responsibility.

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