This Could Be All There Is

This Could Be All There Is

We know, thanks to Albert Einstein, that we live in a universe of at least four dimensions, three of space and one of time. And it very well may be possible that our universe is constructed of even more dimensions, ones that we cannot actually detect but might be so mind-bendingly curled up that we only observe those four.

Or, maybe, this is as good as it gets and once we’ve gone, we’re completely gone.

No one likes to ponder death, and we’ve all constructed religions to help us deal with the ultimate known. But for a moment, think upon the real possibility that this glorious universe and our short existence might be all that there is.

There are no ghosts, no spirits, no dead people who don’t know their dead, no communiqués from the “other side.“ There is no “universal consciousness“ waiting for us to reach it. Countless civilizations may have risen and fallen long before the emergence of homo sapiens, and whose information and history is forever lost to us. By the same token, human civilization can rise and eventually fall, never having made contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence and leaving no trace of ourselves behind: our cities covered up and destroyed by an ever-changing planet and our space probes long silent and far, far away.

It could be that there are no other beings like us (in some manner at least) in the universe. And if so, then what a shame, really, to have all that information forever lost. There are no aliens coming to Earth, abducting and raping people or carving up cattle. Among the more mundane things, there could be no Bigfoot or any of the other “cryptoids” people have dreamed up and spent a lifetime trying to prove exist.

And the gods, or god, are not there. Well, they are there in the human mind but do not exist as independent, eternal entities. This means our prayers and rituals have all been concocted by our own imaginations and that we’ve been talking to ourselves from day one. Prayers are not heard, not answered, souls are not judged and no one is burning in hell. You don’t get to see your funeral or come back to finish some business. Whatever truly that mystery of self-awareness and sentience is, disappears when our lives are brought to end. We are like Tony Soprano in the series finale of “The Sopranos”: one second we start to look up and then utter blackness. It’s over.

You might think this could drive people to despair and feel we live in a nihilistic universe, so we talk about afterlives, crossing over, and spending time deciding if our pets will be with us in paradise. And this view does spell out one thing clearly: bad people get away with the wicked things they do. But maybe, just maybe, the reality of a this being a four-dimensional universe and everything within it is finite and does not come back or ascend to some higher plane, maybe this could make people appreciate life more than we’ve ever claimed to before. Our religions try to tell us we will still be alive even though our bodies have died, and this idea has probably done more to retard human progress than anything else. This is why the suicide bomber can be absolutely assured that he *will* be in paradise after blowing himself and 20 other people up. That fighting against an enemy and dying in battle is a first class ticket to eternal bliss. The afterlife has kept us from being truly human, being truly alive because our religious leaders insist that this world, the only one we know, is somehow a mirage. A big test, a primer for life everlasting. And this keeps people enslaved to their prejudices: I’m saved, you’re not. I killed an abortion provider and he’s not really dead because my religion tells me he’s aware and suffering in hell and I will be in heaven one day enjoying his torment. And so on and so on and so on.

Near the end of the film “Contact,” an extraterrestrial in the form of Jodie Foster’s deceased father tells her that “in all our searching, the only thing we found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.“ A natural sentiment for a Hollywood movie, of course, but an interesting idea: if all we have is each other, and there is nothing beyond this life and that once we’re gone, it’s the end, shouldn’t that make us truly value life and our existence and that of others?