30 Days After You Die So, Too, Will Everyone You Love

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The Importance of the Afterlife Seriously By SAMUEL SCHEFFLER 30 Days After You Die So, Too, Will Everyone You Love

Image source: Shutterstock

This is one of the most interesting ideas I’ve come across in a long time, from a New York Times piece by Samuel Scheffler:

 Suppose you knew that although you yourself would live a long life and die peacefully in your sleep, the earth and all its inhabitants would be destroyed 30 days after your death in a collision with a giant asteroid. How would this knowledge affect you?

If you are like me, and like most people with whom I have discussed the question, you would find this doomsday knowledge profoundly disturbing. And it might greatly affect your decisions about how to live.

What do you think?

Continue reading @ The New York Times.

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22 Comments »

22 Comments

  1. Monique on 11.11.2013 at 11:58 (Reply)

    I am going to go with my gut reaction on this. First thought was that I would do everything in my power to live as long as I possibly could so that I could give everyone else the chance to do everything they could do in their lives. I say this because the way it is phrased suggests to me that there is a correlation between my day of death and that asteroid, which upon further reflection seems silly. But, this was still my gut reaction to it.

  2. Elizaveta on 11.11.2013 at 12:33 (Reply)

    Knowing that I will live a long life and die peacefully in my sleep changes everything from the get-go - having that sort of knowledge about one of life’s biggest variables changes everything, not to mention that knowing right after the day of my death, the rest of the world is coming with me. This whole discussion would have to start with how I gained that knowledge and what I do with that particular gift or power. This possibly could be a great discussion one late evening after a few of us have had enough wine.

  3. Valaree Weiss on 11.11.2013 at 13:15 (Reply)

    I hope I would continue to live and not stress out about what I have or have not done. I would be thankful for each day I woke up breathing and enjoy it like it were my last one… Wow, what a good reminder, thank-you!

  4. ALB on 11.11.2013 at 13:37 (Reply)

    What is so interesting about it? It’s not like you can do anything to change it.

  5. Cindy Rosenthal on 11.11.2013 at 15:02 (Reply)

    My heart would be heavy that I could not spend their last days with them, my loved ones, to hold them, comfort them and continue to remind them that we would meet again…on the other side.

  6. Cara Mumford on 11.11.2013 at 15:08 (Reply)

    From my perspective, with unchecked global growth and accelerated resource extraction, we are already on a self-made doomsday path. So I believe I would continue living as I do, trying to make the world a better place for everyone as long as it’s here. I don’t think it would make a difference in my actions knowing that the world ends 30 days after I die, or 30 years or over a century, I would still do the work that needs to be done to make the world better today.

  7. Brett on 11.11.2013 at 15:47 (Reply)

    I know I am totally missing the point of the context of this question but what would I care? Wouldn’t I be dead?

    1. Red Dog on 11.11.2013 at 23:14 (Reply)

      It seems to me that you did not miss the point at all. Actually you made a very cogent point. Yes, you WOULD be dead, entirely dead, indeed. Most people cannot conceive of themselves being totally dead to this world, someday. Yet we all are mortal and will be dead, sooner or later. That’s absolutely, unquestionably guaranteed.

      Personally I have no fear of death. As I get older I become more curious of what the inevitable experience is like.

      It’s a very provocative article, written to provoke thought. It’s a NY Times article. Articles such as this sell newspapers. The NY Times is a dying publication, however.

      “World to end at 10. News updates at 11.” ;-)

  8. Cheesedude on 11.11.2013 at 16:02 (Reply)

    I’m quite surprised no one has mentioned the question as to which you would have children or not? I assume not all of you have children already, atleast I dont. And I would be most certain about not having any myself if we were in the particular scenario.
    Other than that, I would live my life in a much simular manner to which I already do. I would probably get alot more into psychadelic drugs, and spiritual enlightnement than i already am. (I take lsd aproximatily one time a year), but I dont practice buddism which would probably be the religion I would get in to if this was the case.
    I would certainly do my best to find a loveable lifepartner with whom I could share this burden of knowledge with. Buddhism can be practiced without cylibate if you ask me :)

    Regards a fellow thinker & introvert

  9. ALB on 11.11.2013 at 16:18 (Reply)

    I already have a child — and it is the best thing I have done in my entire life. I would have a child whether I knew this or not. It does not say WHEN I am going to die, so why deny life to a child of mine? Anyway, it says everyone and everything is going to die 30 days later, so I don’t see that it really makes any difference.

  10. Cheesedude on 11.11.2013 at 16:38 (Reply)

    Well having a child or not after the incident occurs will ofcourse not make any difference.
    But will you be able to have a clear conscience during your entire childs lifetime well knowing they will die together with the rest of the world when you leave yourself. knowing they wont ever have the chance to grow nearly as old as syou.
    And would you share this information with them if it was the case, or keep it a lifelong secret?

    I think this is a an interesting part of the scenario :)
    The sole original purpose of children is to reproduce, and continue with lifes circle.
    All of which would be pointless aswell

  11. Tim on 11.11.2013 at 16:49 (Reply)

    It would depend on how the knowing came about.. was it because YOU where the one who secretly controlled the asteroid trajectory through your ability to warp the time-space fabric (we are living in a parallel universe), or did it come via a dream which is open to interpretation, or was it made known by the Government in which case you know its unreliable and should just continue as you are?

  12. TOGwDog on 11.11.2013 at 16:53 (Reply)

    I would cancel my life insurance.

  13. Tony Tench on 12.11.2013 at 06:55 (Reply)

    Love on! ….pressing onward toward the goal for which God has taken hold of us….Love on!

  14. Leila Sanderson on 12.11.2013 at 08:22 (Reply)

    If I had a long life ahead of me and i’m 35 that probably gives us about 60 odd years to find and colonise another planet. If you know all life is soon to be extinguished that’s pretty motivating. Still, we might end up destroying the planet before then anyhow…

  15. Sandy on 12.11.2013 at 09:54 (Reply)

    I disagree-I don’t think it’s others that motivates us. (Unless it’s the asteroid analogy and by our living longer we should preserve others). I read the Times article, but don’t agree that we work for legacy.

    If we’re honest: we work for reward, to squeeze as much as we can out of this life. We know our time is limited. We want to convince ourselves that what we do matters and is not in vain. But nothing motivates like instant gratification.

    (You work because in two weeks you’ll get paid. That’s why I believe most people aren’t entrepreneurs. Sometimes your own business doesn’t pay your for months…or years.)

  16. Greg on 12.11.2013 at 11:17 (Reply)

    I think we risk missing the point of this thought experiment if we take it too literally or mechanistically.

    It seems to be this thought experiment is trying to get us to two things:
    (1) Make conscious and actually think about our source(s) of happiness/eudemonia/well-being (“h/e/wb”)
    (2) Force us to acknowledge our tacit assumption of life enduring far beyond our own and the importance to us of that assumption.

    Why?

    From what I’ve read and seen, a significant portion of our h/e/wb is directly related to whether or not we have any focus in our life, what that focus is, and where it’s situated.

    Those with no life focus can fall into a negative loop of trying to lose their self-boredom in endless distractions and self-medication followed by lowered self-esteem, followed by more distractions, etc.

    Those whose focus is entirely on themselves face an increasing pointlessness of the effort as they become increasingly conscious of their own inevitable mortality.

    But when our focus is not only outside ourselves but is greater than ourselves — open-ended and/or involving many others, then our efforts seem less in vain and can seem even more worth pursuing as our own life’s end nears.

    So, regardless of whether one is extroverted or introverted “by temperament”, h/e/wb seems to derive from the sense of meaning that arises from an extroversion of one’s focus.

    For some, it’s on working for the h/e/wb of other people or forms of life with which one empathizes.

    For others it might be something aesthetic and enduring, especially if in some way self-expressive, a kind of “See me. Understand me. I existed. I lived. I thought. I felt. This is who I was.”

    If you invest in something which generate $100 yearly for 10 years, its “present value” (ignoring interest, etc.) is $1,000. At 5% interest, the present value is $772. But if there is NO “next year”, the present value is $-0-.

    But the imminent meteor destroys all “next years”, destroying all “present values”, leaving us with just ourselves and the profound senses of pointlessness and absurdity.

    1. Monique on 12.11.2013 at 14:29 (Reply)

      Greg,

      I don’t think you can miss the point to this thought experiment. Everyone is going to approach it from a different and unique angle. Each response to it is going to be a valid response.

      My own personal feeling is that your last line leads to a dangerous despair. I think that the present can be enhanced by the knowledge of no tomorrows. But, as I said, no missing the point, all approaches are valid. We come at this from two different viewpoints.

  17. Olga on 13.11.2013 at 06:38 (Reply)

    I’d definitely eat all the fruits I can and become immortal with the help of my worshippers ^_^

  18. Rore on 19.11.2013 at 15:12 (Reply)

    My first reaction was profoundly disturbed. But then I realized that knowing that the earth and all its inhabitants were going to be destroyed (presumably with no chance of planetary survival and rehabitation - i.e., a bunch of sterile asteroids), I would stop trying to develop a legacy for my work and relationships. I would live in the moment and enjoy what I could and share that with the people I love. I would do my best to live a long time too, but I do that anyway ;-)

    1. Greg on 19.11.2013 at 15:37 (Reply)

      Rore, that is my point as well. I agree with the part of Monique’s reply noting it can lead to despair, but suggest the alternative she offers of “remaining moments enhancement” would likely be a bittersweet 5-stage journey across a Kubler-Ross psychological landscape.

      What might account for the differences in the serious alternative views noted here is the implicit assumption or lack thereof of an “afterlife”. Those who imagine their consciousnesses as somehow transcending death might take the impending end as a chance to live it up, unburdened by fears of responsibility to future generations, etc. Those who understand death as being a total annihilation of all things “them” (incl. their consciousness) would find the lack of any post-death redeeming value of their having existed a final, ultimate stone of absurdity of all existence.

  19. Red Dog on 01.12.2013 at 22:30 (Reply)

    Provocative article + negative fantasy = mental masturbation.

    Fear sells. Bad news sells. This is the sort of thing that sells newspapers.

    “World to end at 10. News update at 11″…

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