The end of the universe

This evening I was at dinner with some friends, one of whom talked about dealing with her five year old daughter’s reaction when their dog died. The topic turned to what such finality might mean to a five year old.

We started sharing different stories on the topic, and I told my friends that my grandfather had died when I was almost five, and that I could remember walking along a country road at my parents’ summer place right after he died, thinking about what it might mean to die. I still remember my thoughts at that moment very clearly. I realized that my grandfather no longer existed. I didn’t think of him as being in heaven, but rather as being in the past – except within my memories. My next thought was the realization that this would happen to me one day.

I remember wondering what, if anything, it would mean for other people to continue to exist after the point of my death. I thought to myself that in a sense the moment of my death would be, as far as I was concerned, the end of the universe, and so maybe it wouldn’t matter what happened after that. After all, it’s not as though I would care anymore about that or about anything else.

Looking back on this now, I am amazed by the self-centered thinking of the little kid that I was, but I guess that is the point of view of a five year old. Is that what religion is for? To protect us all from our ruthless little inner five year olds?

One Response to “The end of the universe”

  1. Doug says:

    For what it’s worth, I was raised in a very religious household and never really considered the possibility of ceasing to exist until I was in college and read a book by a philosopher about consciousness and death. I just took it as given that everyone continued to exist in another world and that people who thought otherwise were mistaken. I assumed that belief in eternal justice was necessary for ethical behavior (as opposed to just faking it when other people were around) until around the same time. When I watched news about the ice caps melting, something that had stood for thousands of years cracking up and vanishing in the sun, it brought to mind that day.

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