Saturday, December 2, 2023

Why do we yearn for eternity?

A food for thought that some may like to journey into for a better understanding of what we are human beings. Life is mysterious and must be so. Life without mystery will be extremely stupefying. As Chesterton said, “Mystery is that which keeps the mind of man healthy; so long as you have mystery, you have sanity. Take away mystery and you fall into morbidity.” In other words, mystery is not a problem to deal with for otherwise we would be part of the problem and we will have no end to it. Mystery is not a problem to be solved because man himself is a mystery. Human life is a mystery and we often plunge into the unknown to get a glimpse of what or who we are ultimately. This short article deals with a glimpse of that mystery.
Every human being yearns for a life after death or better said life after our earthly life. To achieve this objective or salvation, as is commonly known, man systematized his belief in one form of religion or the other into practice to attain that goal. No human is deprived of believing in something or the other. Atheist, who say that they don’t believe in religion or in the existence of God, in itself, is a belief system based on their reasoning. Atheist may not believe in any of the prevailing religions or in the existence of God but maintain their rationality and that is their belief. For instance, Jean-Paul Sartre was rationally an atheist but lived all his life, shelling out all his earnings and savings, in the care of people in need. Sartre’s approach to life with his philosophy of atheistic existentialism must be a scandal to all believers in God. This affirms that man needs some kind of belief or understanding which need not be necessarily a religious belief. This leads us to the greatest question of ‘Man’ himself. In a question form; what is man? Or what are we, as a being, in this universe? Or where do we go from here? This article, of course, does not deal with these tough questions but only a passing remark on man. In a simple philosophical term, Man is a finite being with an infinite mind. Man is a finite being because he dies. Man is, by nature, mortal. We are born to die. Death begins the moment we are born. Science will say that human cells begin to degenerate as we mature. Clinically, a human is considered dead when breathing and blood circulation shuts down completely. Death is an irreversible factor of human life.
Philosophical explanation of why we die is; Everything that is composed must decompose and everything that has parts must depart. We know that our body is composed of various types of cells like bone cells, blood cells, hair cells etc. And we also know that our body is made up of parts and joints like bones, skins, heart, lungs, hands, legs, neck etc. These are all corruptible matters and for this reason we die. Therefore, physiologically speaking, we have all the attributes of impermanence and finiteness as a human.
If man were purely a physical being only without rational aspect, there would be no issue. But since we are not merely a physical being there is a big problem and this conflict comes from our mind which has the attribute of infinity that does not accept the truth of mortality as a being. For this, Philosopher Descartes, says, “Man is a spirit with a body.” However, this does not mean to suggest that man is a dual being of body on one hand and spirit on the other. It is singularly and uniquely one whole person; a fusion of body and mind, matter and spirit or body and soul. The two elements of life are intrinsic to each other so much so one cannot be without the other.
What then is the mind, that philosophers call spirit? The mind is not the brain and the brain is not the mind. The mind is the spiritual quality in human that performs the task of rationality. Philosophically, the mind is defined as that which does not have parts outside parts. For example, the right hand cannot touch the right hand because it is having parts outside itself while the mind can touch itself. Say, I am thinking that I am thinking. We notice here that it reflexes back on itself. And again, though our body can only be in one place at a time our minds can be in many places and distances at the same time. Our body cannot pass through walls but our minds can. Such is the quality of the mind that we call the spirit aspect of man. Theologian Karl Rahner, says, “Man is a spirit in the world.” This spiritual quality, inherent in man drives man to defy the idea of finiteness of life.
We may not subscribe to the truth that life is temporal yet remains a necessary condition to be in it to attain eternity. However, the kind of eternity that each one of us will attain shall be determined by the way we live in this temporal world as elaborated in the Bible. The blatant truth is any religion that advocates hatred or killing or coercion does not qualify to be a religion but a cult only. In Christianity, if any church leader or worker threatens anyone with sickness or misfortune for not contributing or to donate certain amount for church activity is cult in practice. Any cult must be challenged because it is against the divine truth. Hence, for sanity sake, it is good to cross check our understanding of our religious understanding to ascertain whether our belief is a cult or a religion in its true sense.
Jonas Yanthan


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