The intent of this essay is to show that this present life is meaningless unless it is followed by eternal life.
The purpose of this essay is not to say that this life is not good. Quite the contrary. Life is good. Life is in fact excellent, and there are many splendid and noble goods to be had and experienced in it. The mistake to avoid, though, is to take this life as all the good there is.
Travelling though life, it's very easy to become entralled by all the goodness here. But, look are attentive to the reality behind the pleasures of the world, you will find hidden beneath the clang and din of all the wonderful things life has to offer, a subtle truth: that no matter how fair, no matter how overpowering, no matter how sublime are the goods of this world, behind them is always sadness. This sadness comes from the limitedness of the things in the world. They are limited in two ways, in their quality and in their temporality.
Let's examination of a couple of popular views of the world that claim to obviate the question of ultimate happiness and meaning.
It's worth noting that science, as such, doesn't tell us where the universe came from. It cannot. Science, in the modern sense, deals with things that can be empirically determined and confirmed by measurements. Science cannot deal with the world before the universe existed because there was nothing to measure. Nevertheless many scientists claim to speak scientifically about things that such science. It's an easy mistake to fall into, since every human being needs an explanation of how the world (which in this sense is more than the universe) is put together, and his place in it.
What is the place of humans--specifically you--in the `scientific' world? (Please keep in mind that this is only a schematic description, a sketch.)
According to the `scientific' world-view, before the universe there was only empty eternity. You might be tempted to picture vast empty spaces here, but the nothingness of which we speak is much less than your imagination can picture; the concept of quantity isn't even applicable here. Somehow out of this nothingness the universe came into existence, and for insane billions of years matter of the universe churned and grinded and somehow organized itself into the world of ``number, measure and weight'' that we see around us. Over millions of years of random (read: undirected, meaningless) interactions, lifeless soup somehow gives rise to animals. and through these same evolutionary processes, man arose from the beasts. Man existed for tens of thousands of years before the present day. Somehow this ``beast'' managed to bring forth civilization. managed to coordinate large groups of his kind to produce great works under the illusion that there was a purpose for it all. Then in the midst of human history, your parents chanced to meet and this touched off the sequence of contingencies that resulted in your coming into the world. You will live for a span of years-- we'll be optimistic and say a hundred years-- make your contribution to human history, and then die, as we all must. Human history will continue to sail on for some, say, tens of thousands of years, but eventually the human race will die out, if for no other reason than that the universe will have become unsuitable for life. The universe will continue to chug on for billions of more years, then the universe as we know it will also die out. Then nothing will be left, except empty eternity.
So, in brief, science gives us
The answer is, there is no point.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth, Act V, Scene V
What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains for ever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and goes round to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already, in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to happen among those who come after.
I have seen everything that is done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered.
But, yes, man in this world does have hope. The good things of this world are signs of the wonders of eternity, because all created things reflect the perfections of the Creator. The world also supplies the matter of man's struggle to attain happiness, as it is precisely through how he lives his life here on earth that man gains the eternal bliss of heaven: ``What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him'' (1 Cor 2:9).