People are usually pretty good with their search for meaning. Or at least they seem to think this way.
This eternal search has created several major religions in the world, spearheaded the advent of Ayurvedic traditions, yoga, importance of art and literature, several disastrous dictatorships and totalitarian orders, and lately billions of dollars being poured into pharmaceutical industry and computer science in hope of finding exactly the same Elixir of Life our predecessors were fighting and killing each other over.
People do not change. What changes is our surrounding, abilities and norms. Thus, we move from one major adherence and belief to another. Depending what gives us most tranquility and peace of mind, – we stick to that very magic wand.
Interestingly, most of this search for meaning is related to our inability to comprehend our own finitude. We are trying so hard, yet we die without ever properly understanding what it has all been about. We live by the norms, try to be nice to those around us, do our part, be strong and ambitious in the eyes of the close ones, successful in the eyes of distant ones – and then one beautiful sunny day our heart refuses to pump blood to our brain, or we have our bottom half paralyzed after a seizure, or even worse, – we completely lose our identity in the brutal fight with dementia.
Is any of that fair? What wrong have we done to get to such a miserable end?
Truth is, we do nothing wrong, but we relentlessly search for the explanations and relief that would make our mortality easier to comprehend and make peace with.
Christianity gives hopes people through the globe, saying that their souls may finally get to the Paradise which was so brutally banned by God from Adam and Eve, – cherubims and fire dragons will open the doors of the paradise to all those who suffered on the sinful Earth. Muslims believe that if they behave according to Quran they will be judged positively on The Day of Resurrection and be granted an eternal life.
Equally, yoga and meditation give people an opportunity to experience Nirvana and feel the beauty of their mind at this very moment.
Countless other beliefs, religions and philosophies give us a reason to hope that there might as well be some light at the end of this tunnel.
With the advent of science more and more people recognize Darwinian theories of evolution and mechanical understanding of wearing down. We understand that we come to being not due to some divine spirit but due to the biological fact of eggs merging with chosen spermatozoids. Equally we leave this world not due to our Lord’s calling but because the complex mechanisms of our body start malfunctioning (due to genetic predisposition or simple wear and tear).
More and more people turn to science in their eternal hope for continuity and a quest for meaning.
We want hope and meaning, – and whichever idea is more likely to seed the Tree of Life in our hearts, this one will fill the void we are looking to fill.
Interestingly, having offsprings is often a perfect way to create an illusion of meaning, – after all, we are still not able to change the fact that we die, – but we can create an insurance policy for a part of us to continue this journey of life. They fact they will be as perplexed about the whole thing does not bother us much, – we found our meaning in them and that’s all that matters.
Truth is, it is very unlikely there exists a universal meaning or an explanation for why we are here and why we will be gone. This quote by genius Maria Rilke probably summarises the spirit of life and the best attitude towards change:
Let Everything Happen to You
Beauty and Terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final
Rainer Maria Rilke
The beauty of life and our very existence lies in the fact of our fragility and finitude. It is our mortality that gives special meaning to the choices we make, people we love and dreams we dream.
It is our mortality that makes a young girl akin to an angel in the Renaissance paintings; it is the finitude of youth that created Lolita and the image of a forbidden fruit; it is the colossal weight of our choices that make a confident and successful man a magnet for the opposite sex; it is the limit to our existence and the crudeness of one’s choice that made Gauguin an icon among art connoisseurs and lovers of beauty.
Each and every one of your everyday choices make you a unique and different personality, – an individual. The fact that time flies equally for all of us makes your choices valuable and meaningful in the passing of this context of Life.
Truth is, every one of us is mortally afraid of having done a wrong choice, of having made a wrong turn and having chosen a less lucrative and happy path. We are so scared of giving up the potential that was hidden in us that we invent countless theories to justify our inaction and fear of facing our choices.
And this is precisely the reason Humanity has been coming up with numerous ideologies saying pretty much the same thing:
Don’t you worry. You might not have become the best version of yourself in this life. But as long as you’ve been kind of good overall, you are safe and secure. And you shall be at peace with your inner self.
I got into Transhumanism as one of these savior ideologies. As an Atheist I could not care less about some people or spirits promising me eternal life after once I’m done with. I would much rather put my money in hard science accounting for the marvels of life expectancy and numerous cured diseases and inventions of recent past.
Transhumanism and achieving immortality in my very lifespan looks like a much safer bet rather than hoping that an Almighty God or Allah comes to figure me out once I am put in the grave, burnt, composted or transformed into a diamond.
Exactly that: I selfishly want to stay in my youthful body for as many years or centuries as I please, experiencing no senescence, no physical suffering or ageing.
I do not really advocate mind upload (or Digital Escapism) but rather an Evil Queen from Snow White fairy tale version of events, where I stay young and beautiful for as long as a want.
Selfish, self-focused and naïve search for more possibilities in an endless race against time.
An important point we should make here is staying young and beautiful forever also means an endless possibilities of designing your life based on incalculable previous options, choices and mistakes.
So no matter how you look at it, Transhumanism and Immortality in a very raw interpretation is an absolute win-win situation for me, should I ever become truly immortal.
Now you can start questioning my integrity, or condemning the whole Transhumanist movement, or, worse even, science and genetic engineering, which could potentially turn the dreams of similarly romantic and selfish creatures into life.
An important point I managed to understand throughout my “spiritual Transhumanist journey”, however, is that I am no different than a devout Christian or a Buddhist monk. I am one of millions of people trying to give my life any meaning whatsoever and alleviate this inherently Human Fear of Unknown (aka Death), as well as a very human fear of losing out on the right opportunities.
Just imagine pressing “replay” each time you realise you made a wrong turn. Christians and Buddhists believe in replay after death, I want to hit that button while I have a bit more control over the situation. In essence, however, we all want a safety net for our minds.
Moving from a more conservative Eastern European society to the Western Hub of human civilization gave me heads up in terms of beauty and youth. An eternal Ukrainian tradition of digging into one’s own soul, however, made me very conscious of my own ageing and finitude.
No surprise, I got into the Transhumanist movement just on the brink of youth and adulthood, which characterizes an onset of ageing and slowing down of regenerative mechanisms. Crossing 25 might look like a great time of a person’s life. And I do not think I have ever been so fulfilled and satisfied with my life. Looking back, however, I see that for me it became a time of reflection and search for meaning.
You can talk about Transhumanism and Immortality all you like. This will not un-grey your hair, flatten your wrinkles and give you back the energy of your teen years. Most importantly, your beliefs will not wind the clock back and make you do “the right thing” when you had a choice.
But this belief, or any belief you are preaching, will give you the meaning you are looking for. It will show you the way, an improved one, fact-filled way of a possible revelation, of a possible end to suffering, hopefully here and now, in your own life, if your belief is Transhumanism.
It does not matter which belief you choose. What matters is it makes your life better and brighter. And it gives you hope. After all, hope is the best we could ask for.