Sunday, April 9, 2017

Our Glorious Afterlives

This morning Lynnette watched some video clips from yesterday's Mormon Transhumanist Conference. What?! I had no idea there was such a Mormon group, or that they did a full conference, much less that they've been organized for over a decade. She may only have listened because her cousin George Handley was one of the speakers, but the whole thing generated some good conversation and thoughts.

Many of their links discuss The Afterlife. It's such an emphasis for so many people and cultures, so I wanted to point out some of the great parts of life that we have even if there is no life after death... things that motivate me, and whose importance aren't appreciated enough.

What persists after we die?

Firstly, there are things that are first-hand impressions of our fundamental selves, which continue to affect other people directly. Many of my emotions are consequences of growing up with a loving father and mother, and I hope I'm nurturing the "good" emotions and growing them in my family and further. Beyond that, our actions are typically modelled on what we've experienced from others.  Less spontaneous are the memories of experiences, including feelings or pictures in our mind's eyes. Then there are the life lessons and concepts that impressed us... thoughts that were verbalized or somehow taught directly to our thinking minds.

I often give thanks for my father's persistent, hard-working, optimistic example. And every once in a while I remember my grandfather's character: his body was twisted and painful, but he was always positive when I saw him. I remember him showing us with pride his tiny garden and how he adapted his hoe so he could actually hold it and work the hard ground; I don't know how much it has affected my psyche, but there is en effect there that has lasted long past his death.

Secondly, there are physical artifacts that we generate that can be shared and copied and passed around to affect other people; that obviously includes electronic items. We live on people's minds from the recorded sights and sounds made of us. We create art such as writing and architecture and film, down to how we decorate our homes and including group creations. I include technological advancements in that category. We record factual historical informatlon as well, and those can even serve as inspiration besides being educational. We may make discoveries that do nothing more than advance knowledge, but which change behaviors of societies.

All those physical items have potential intangible effects, so that our personal influence could be shared and even magnified.

I enjoy the stories of my ancestors. I'm lucky to have writings from the past few hundred years of American pioneers with fantastic stories, knowing that these people are directly in my lineage.

Finally, although I consider those immaterial aspects to be the most significant, there are many other physical artifacts that leave a tangible mark on the world: the food that nurtures, the clothing and shelter that protect, and the fuel that energizes.

All these are things we can leave that will have an effect for years or decades or even centuries to come. True, they are mingled with the afterglow from many other people, but we're contributing... and maybe our part is enough to make a significant difference. Many heros and charismatic figures are lauded repeatedly over time, but I feel that the repeated, small nudges (especially by parents) by multitudes of people over time are the things that advance society and well-being in the world.

The one unfortunate aspect of all this is that we may not experience any of it... death might be the end of that. But why focus on that? There is so much of our own majesty that carry on in all these aspects of life.