Where do we come from? How did we get here? What happens when we die? Where do we go? These are a few of people’s big questions about how reality works. They are interesting philosophical questions, and, unfortunately, they are ones that I cannot answer definitively because I only speak about things that can be scientifically proven in my book and on this blog. However, there is an important point about knowledge such as this: it only has value to you if it informs your decisions or guides your actions in life; otherwise, it’s just trivia. So instead of needing an answer, we need to understand how those answers would impact you and then you can make the most beneficial decision based on that.
Let’s start with the options, as there are only a few flavors of two sources/destinations:
Scenario 1: The Universe is Purely Physical, So You’re Born from Your Parents and Disappear in Death
This is the only one that’s scientifically provable. After all, you can prove where babies come from and monitor how bodies decompose when they die. That would mean that the only thing that happened before life began was a stimulus that triggered the reaction of self-replicating organisms, and ever since then life evolved through reproduction and genetic mutations until we had humans. The only thing that happens when you die is that you become food for other life (except in modern times where you become either ashes or are buried in a casket).
The philosophical implications of this scenario are not what you might think. Many people use this scenario as an excuse to be nihilistic and believe that life has no meaning. Of course, since meaning is subjective, then anyone is allowed to conclude that. However, someone can just as easily conclude the opposite: life is precious, and people should do as much as they can to get the most out of their lives. If there’s nothing before and after, then you might as well do what you have to do to survive and then whatever makes you feel happy and fulfilled with your free time. While there might not be many ethical implications or specific actions in life to take, you can choose to see life as either a gift or a slog in this scenario.
Scenario 2: Life Has a Non-Physical Component, So You Come from Somewhere and Go Back There
As stated at the beginning of this post, this part is unprovable. However, the more interesting part is how it would actually affect your life if it were true. Now, there are two main possibilities if this were the case: you chose to come here and live this life, or another force (i.e., “God”) brought you here. Now, these are the most interesting options than Scenario 1 because they might change your entire worldview about life. There are a couple of main implications, so let’s look at them here:
Taking those two scenarios and their possible implications, you now have the knowledge necessary to do one better than answering the questions of where you came from and where you go: you now know how to proceed in this life. If everything in this life is purely what science can prove, then you can choose to either believe that nothing matters and behave accordingly or that life is short and precious and behave accordingly. If you came from somewhere and go somewhere, then it is likely that there was either an intention or a decision behind this experience, and you’ll try to ascertain it and act accordingly.
This post might not have given you the answers you wanted, but I strongly believe that it has given you the answers you need. You need to live your life believing that it matters, and you need to see your choices as meaningful and your situation—however uncontrollable it was—as significant to you for you to have a meaningful, fulfilling life. People who choose to believe that their life matters, that their situation enables them to do great things within its constraints, and that they wouldn’t be who they were if it weren’t for those uncontrollable factors find more motivation, meaning, and resilience when they face adversity or setbacks in life. And if your life is going to get better, you first have to want it and believe it; there’s no way around that. So whatever you choose to believe about what happens before and after your life experience, I hope it helps you live your best life possible.