I was religious once, as a child, if you can call it that. I was taught that life is eternal, both before and after the brief moments we spend on Earth. I don’t specifically remember whether or not I was comforted by that idea. I think I was too young to ever think about death. I chose instead to focus all my attention and energy on catching bugs, playing soccer and causing as much mayhem as I could get away with — the usual childhood pursuits.
I think that idea — the hope of there being something after death — does comfort a lot of people, though. And without getting too hypercritical, I think that is the general purpose of religion: to comfort.
I am no longer religious. In fact, to be honest, nothing too drastically has changed in my perspective on life since those days so many years ago, or in the ways that I spend my time. I am just a little more aware of and intentional with my ambivalence towards the divine cosmos now.
I don’t personally believe that there is a God or any sort of higher power. But I also don’t actively disbelieve that. I guess that makes me agnostic, but I’m not one much for labels. It doesn’t matter very much to me at all one way or another if there is or isn’t. Since we probably won't ever know for sure either way, actively believing or not believing doesn’t really change anything in my day-to-day life.
I get that religion can give people a source of purpose, or give a greater meaning to their lives, but for me I think it’s more helpful to be a little less focused on an outside higher power and a little more focused on what’s closer to home.
It doesn’t matter to me in the slightest if I have a divine reason for existing. Everyone should already know that the meaning of life is 42. But if for some reason you need more clarification than that, I think the real answer to life, the universe and everything is pretty simple.
To me, the purpose of life is to feel and do and see as much as possible in whatever time we happen to get here. Living life should be saying yes to adventure. Loving and crying and grieving and laughing and caring and giving. Climbing trees and dipping your feet in rivers and smiling at strangers and loving your friends and dancing to your favorite song. Life is waking up early to watch the winter sunrise, stopping to smell the flowers, jumping on piles of crunchy leaves and summer night stargazing on rooftops. The reason we’re alive is to take advantage of every moment in whatever way we can.
And as corny as this all sounds now that I’m writing it out, it doesn’t matter to me what comes after life, if anything, because I know that when my time comes to leave, whether that’s in 70 years or tomorrow, I will have lived.
Ryan Reynolds is a photographer at The Beacon and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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