Do you want to start the year with an encouraging line of thought - encouraging, at least, for the irreligious among us? Then, try the short video below (via), with a view from the physicist Lawrence Krauss. What Krauss says in it is that our insignificance within the universe and our miserable future are not things that should depress us; they make us more precious, we are the source of our own meanings and we should enjoy our brief moment in the sun since it's all we have. Krauss sees this as spiritually uplifting.
I kind of agree with him, I really do. In a different context and on a more limited scale I took something similar from Philip Roth's Everyman. And yet. (And sorry - sorry to make with the cold water on New Year's Day.) Isn't what Krauss says just a shade one-sided? For the unique, the fantastic, wealth that he urges us to celebrate in registering and enjoying humankind's brief moment in the sun is, by the very same token, the material of an enormous future loss. How could that not be a subject of regret, to put it mildly?
By analogy, we may celebrate an individual life when it has ended, as having been rich in experience, loving relationships, achievement and so on; but when it's over, that is a loss some people will grieve about and more people still will feel as being such. How much more true must this be if death is the future, even a remote future, for humankind? What a gigantic loss! We might accept - those of us who do - that it is both inevitable and irredeemable. But to treat the whole business, smilingly, as only spiritually uplifting seems to miss a certain tragic dimension in things.