What does “Being Alive” mean to you? What is the value of a human life? Is human life precious? There are many different answers to these questions – but here’s one way to think about them.
Recall, or imagine, yourself waking up in the morning. The groggy feeling, the sleepiness, the feeling of soreness, unwillingness to get up, or perhaps instead the feeling of being totally refreshed after a good night’s sleep. I’m sure you’ve felt that.
Recall the taste of cool water in your mouth, refreshing you when you’re thirsty. Or perhaps the warmth and comfort of a cup of hot coffee just when you need it.
Picture yourself stubbing your toe, or maybe nicking yourself on something sharp. Imagine, really imagine, the pain. Imagine being itchy, or hot and sweaty, or cold with the shivers.
Recall the taste of some of your favorite foods. Imagine taking a bite. Imagine, with as much detail as you can, the way your mouth starts to salivate just as the scent of that food comes up to your mouth. Imagine the texture as you chew; the feeling of swallowing.
Imagine what it feels like to go to the bathroom. No, seriously.
Don’t like that? How about the feeling of a warm shower – the water hitting your body, when you are sunburned. The pain mixed with the odd feeling of refreshment at the same time.
These little experiences are the kind we forget to talk about when we ask ourself what it means to live. Why life is valuable – what the meaning of life is. Life isn’t just about what great things you achieve – it’s about what it feels like to be alive – and that by itself is a precious thing. It’s one of the great miracles and mysteries of the universe.
Now remember the smile on the face of someone you love, or care about. Recall laughing and having a conversation or a special moment with them. Recall as many such moments as you can. Your life is a collection of memories, some say. But it’s more than that – because even when you aren’t building new memories or moments, you are experiencing life.
Now imagine your own death – in particular, focus on the fact that this will all end. Set aside any belief you may hold in the afterlife – instead focus on what will be lost regardless of what you hope you will gain.
It will all end. There’s no more memories, no more pain, no more pleasure, no more waking up or going to sleep, no more going to the bathroom, nothing.
Really THINK about it, let the thought linger – now, add to that this – it will happen. It’s going to happen, and it’s real. Your story, over. No rewinding. You won’t get to make any more memories, knock off any more items from your bucket list, or eat any more of your favorite foods. All of your memories will vanish. It’s one of the most unpleasant thoughts people can think – not death itself, but the fact that it will happen. The first time that most people think of their OWN life ending, they feel somewhat sick. You know the feeling? That deep, sinking, nauseous feeling in your gut as you feel a mixture of fear and anger at the injustice of it.
But, take comfort in the fact that you have lived – and greater comfort knowing that your are part of something bigger – the human race – and life itself. You see, every other person alive today is experiencing the exact same sensations as you. The feeling of going to the bathroom is the same whether you are a billionaire or bum. Life itself is a gift we all share, and it’s a gift that has been shared by countless generations before. Each and every person who has ever lived got to feel the same basic mixtures of everyday sensations, although of course the details have been different.
Everyone experiences joy, pain, love, sadness, and so on. And that means everyone who lives or has ever lived has been a part of the preciousness of this human experience. Think about that the next time you lay eyes on a stranger. Imagine what it feels like to be them.
Now imagine what they feel like at the moment of death. When someone dies, a life as full of richness and experience as yours is extinguished forever. This is why human life is precious and why death is wrong.
Now imagine every single possible human life from now to the end of time being not only extinguished, but prevented from even existing. No one will be around to even discuss what it feels like to go to the bathroom, let alone write a play or sing a song. The very concept will be lost forever – and no one will be around to even mourn that loss. That is what we face in the case of human extinction – and that is why preventing such an event should be the moral responsibility of everyone on Earth.