I was having a conversation with my partner – I can’t remember what exactly I was responding to, but I said something along the lines of, “That’s why I try to cherish our time together now, in case this is actually a dream I wake up from and you’re no longer here with me”. She asked, isn’t it the opposite? If it is a dream and all of this is not real, wouldn’t all of it be worthless?
We launched into one of our long philosophical debates of: what does “real” even mean in the first place, and does an illusion have less worth because it is not “real”? Will we ever know what is the ultimate reality, whether we are the dreamers or the dream?
I asked her in return: if one day she were to realise I wasn’t real, would she think whatever we have shared in this time together, worthless?
I used to believe in reincarnation for a long period of my life. It gave me comfort: a reason for my existence and suffering. After a lot of reading – I guess that is why they say knowledge and questioning can be poisonous – quantum physicists argue that time is not linear or that time may not even exist; I am not even sure if the universe that contains us is the only universe or is it simply a child of an infinite series of russian doll-like universes, or like what tech hippies like to think: we are just a simulation of an advanced civilisation.
We could probably think of infinite theories, or for some people they believe in an absolute truth of their own choosing. But what I’ve concluded personally is I may never know, and it doesn’t really matter.
How can it not matter!? Personally, no matter how I think, whether there is an absolute truth or not, should not alter the way I choose to live my life. If I am a good human being because of what awaits me in an afterlife, am I really a good human being? In my opinion, the point of being human is the capacity to exercise agency, and agency requires free will, and a choice made freely should not be governed by the promise of reward and punishment. Isn’t the point of having consciousness the potential to develop the capacity to discern what right, wrong or grey?
And so what if there are multiple lifetimes, parallel existences, or not? Even if there is an infinity of lives, the life I am living now is the only version of the one which will exist. This is an assumption that the set of variables and conditions will never be replicated in another lifetime. If they are being replicated exactly, it doesn’t mean the outcomes will be the same, with the assumption that every entity capable making of choices in that lifetime has the capacity to have a range of responses to the same stimuli.
Let’s say we don’t actually have free will, and everything is replicated a million times, in the exact same way – we wouldn’t absolutely know anyway, so for our own sanity it is better to err on the side of caution, that we have free will, and therefore, responsibility.
That being said, I don’t necessarily think life is innately precious because there is only one perceived version of it. I don’t think scarcity should determine worth. There is an abundance of oxygen and water (for now), that doesn’t mean it is not precious. And just because no two snowflakes look the same doesn’t mean we have to find a way to freeze all snowflakes permanently.
Neither do I think the realness of life should determine its worth. Our consciousness is still being transformed whether we are living in a simulation, an infinity of universes, or a single planet capable of sustaining life. Similarly, if one decides life is meaningless, would it be enough if we tell them they are the consequence of a billion years of evolution?
I want to live in a way that I could live with, regardless of metaphysics. Because along the way if I knew that I didn’t live the life I could have lived and wanted to live, I would be slowly dying, not living. It wouldn’t matter if there was nothing or something after the end.
While having the argument with my partner it suddenly occurred to me that I was arguing for the worthiness of life, even if temporal or illusory. I guess what I was really arguing for is the worthiness of our time together, but the deeper question to myself is: would I relive this life all over again just to have this time with her?
I am not sure. Maybe if I am lucky enough to live long enough, the answer would unfold itself. If not, then perhaps it is enough for the question to exist.