I do love the mind-candy of philosophy. And in our medieval philosophy class (mostly focused on Aristotle's effect on Aquinas and the religious integration of classical philosophers), the topic of the Immortality of the Soul was brought up. Don't let it scare you if you haven't thought about it.
Aquinas had to edit and revise (and hideously butcher) Aristotle's system of ideas in order to make it amenable to the religious community, and one of the topics he had to mess around with was the idea of immortality and the nature of the after-life, etc. and I found out that individual immortality is instinctively important to a lot of people.
That is: people find it comforting, and have in themselves a feeling of rightness when they think of living forever in some form or another.
Did you know that? Because I didn't.
Our professor opened the subject with the hypothetical situation of the Arts Building catching fire while we were in it--what would we do? Just walk out calmly? Others said they'd probably be a bit panicky, and I was surprised, and said so.
What would be the point of rushing over people? Because you want to live! Life isn't THAT important. WHAT! I reminded them that my belief system places emphasis on life but that it's not the most important thing.
"Surely you're not being literal when you say you would calmly amble out of a burning building," one of them remarked. Well, no. I have my father's daughter to protect, my mother's daughter to take care of, a blurred and imperfect reflection of God to preserve . . . letting myself die (let's put it in assertion: killing myself) would not only be against the promises I've made and the vows I've taken but it would be just plain rude to inconvenience everyone. Lots of people love me, whether I will or no or know.
But for myself--my self--I'm not that concerned. I've given myself over to something bigger than myself, and in carrying out that will is my rest.
That part of the discussion ended with the instructor pointing out that he had rarely seen such flippancy (that wasn't the word he used) except by very old people who had no energy for new relationships, and then also people of very strong faith. It doesn't follow that since I'm not A I must be B, but I'll take the ego-trip nathless.
From there we went on to talk about peace and happiness, and I said there was a difference. Which is not a widely held belief, apparently. I've spoken about this before, and this ties in with one of my long unresolved struggles I've written about before (1, 2).
Unfortunately the discussion ended over a crepe that was not mine and the endearing but upsetting exclamation of "You don't have to be afraid; we won't judge you!" Said after I tried explaining how one could be at peace and yet unhappy. (Was I afraid?) I wanted to simply say that happiness is a luxury, that one could be content, that you did not even need to be at peace to know that what you were doing and they way you were living was the right way to go about living and doing. Read some Hopkins, for crying out loud.
All of this comes together to surface much of the same struggles I've been having over the last couple of years. Care to read more, and answer my riddles?
I figure that'll do you to start with. While you go get your whiteboard and marker to write me a nice rounded "42" I shall go take another nap. Credit to Penelope Wilcock for the title.