If you’ve never come across it, you might find Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence to be really helpful like I have. There is debate about whether Nietzsche actually believed it. I highly doubt that he did, but, nevertheless, I think it’s an interesting thought experiment.
The basic idea is that you should live your life as if you would have to repeat it exactly the way you have lived it, over and over, forever. For me, this has helped me to rethink many of the things that I have chosen to do with my life. If I wouldn’t want to do whatever it is, forever, then why I am doing it? What kinds of things would I do differently, knowing that I would have to do them over and over again? Would I make the same commitments? Spend time with the same people? Work the same job? And on and on.
I love thinking about this kind of stuff.
Earlier today I had a random thought – another thought experiment, if you will – which made me ask some similar questions:
What if it turns out that the only people who are given entrance to an afterlife are those who are able to love, embrace, enjoy this life?
Before I go any further, though, I do want to point out that I don’t actually believe this will happen. The only “afterlife” that I can bring myself to believe in is the idea that “one lives on only through the stories, accounts and anecdotes that are told about one.”
But, if someone had the time, I’m wondering if this line of thought might actually be a good interpretation of much of what Jesus seemed to be getting at. Rather than interpreting ideas about “much being given” as a result of “winning souls” or doing a lot of “work for the Kingdom” or something like that, what if Jesus was trying to say, “You have been given the gift of life. Embrace it, all of it, right here and now. Enjoy it. Live it to the fullest. Don’t wait around for life to happen. Make it count. Celebrate the mundane. Don’t put your hope in a distant heaven; bring heaven to earth.”
How would that change your life, if you knew that right now was the important moment? How would you prioritize things? Would you spend your life “storing up treasures,” planning for the future, or would you find ways to invest everything you are into the things and people that are already all around you? What if being “faithful” has nothing to do with believing the right things, or even repeating a series of actions, but, rather, what if the most faithful are the most present, the most aware, the most engaged with everything and everyone around them?
How would this change the responsibility we have toward others, who might be unable to experience this kind of “abundant life”? This thought experiment is probably impossible for someone suffering from depression, or someone who just can’t seem to enjoy the present, to consider. But, maybe that is a challenge to get whatever help you might need to get to that place. Maybe it’s a challenge to quit settling for an unhealthy existence.
I don’t know about you, but I find this to be pretty interesting to consider.
This is a repost from my personal blog from December, 2012.