Man at the Brink of Immortality
From the earliest civilizations arose an innate desire to survive in any given environment. Those that chose to fight death’s henchmen, famine and war, developed more advanced agricultural techniques and created complex social structures. The primal instinct to exist drove humanity to proliferate across the world, as many populations boomed, seemingly without bound. Throughout history, this fervent yearning for life was shared by the predominant masses, but the inevitable befell every person on earth. Accepting the natural process of life became the standard, when the multitudes that sought to find the fountain of youth and the elixir of life eventually failed. Religious zeal relieved the hopelessness of the situation for the Romans dreamed of the Elysian Fields, the Christians prayed for a majestic Heaven, and the Buddhists awaited the bliss of Nirvana. Ultimately immortality, whether be it spiritual continuance in the afterlife, philosophical justification of a fundamental essence, or scientific perpetuation of the physical self, brings meaning to life in relationship to the individual.
The depth of this argument initially appears to be too ambiguous and irrelevant to every unique individual. First of all, the cases of immortality stated above, while all equally valid, are by no means inclusive of every possible situation. Rather, immortality shall be defined as the eternal perpetuation of any human component, which relates to personal identity. Second, while the “meaning of life” is something special for everyone, that meaning can only be pertinent to the individual, when the person can perceive it as being relevant. At any point in time, if people happened to die, without the everlasting retention of any component of their selves, the meaning of their life would be forever lost to them. Lastly, the context of the statement is constrained to the effects of immortality on the individual alone, and not its implications on friends and family. Those that are dead usually do affect the social structures around them, but the time, place, and mode of death would be irrelevant to the dead, in the scenario where an afterlife is nonexistent.
The majority of the diverse plethora of religions and spiritual doctrines share the belief in some form of afterlife. The anthropologist would note that due to the inescapability from death, most cultures felt the need to address this imperative issue. The instinct to survive influences these societies to create afterlives, in which the departed maintain their distinctive characteristics. The Wari, a small group of Brazilian natives that became a case study due to their practicing of mortuary cannibalism, professed that in their afterlife, they are reborn into the Water Spirit community.1 They retain all physical attributes and are no longer susceptible to age, pestilence, and imperfection. Their faith in the Water Spirits gives meaning to their lives, since...