The hardest explanation for theists to grasp, though, is the understanding that none of us have ever had this unlikely clot of vapor called a soul. If the soul is an imaginary fantasy, then Mozart’s music, Michaelangelo’s sculptures, Picasso’s paintings, the Wright brothers’ plane, every work of art and technology produced by people whose names have been lost to us, every child, every dream, has been created by us, mere mortal flesh unled by a magic puppeteer in the sky, unaided by angels or spirits. I find that wonderful.
PZ is clearly trying to jump on my bandwagon here, but that’s okay. It needs to be said, loudly and often.
I would add that it’s not just about the obvious examples of the artists, philosophers, musicians, and other cultural giants; this awareness should make everyone’s life, however nondescript, feel all the more vital. No one else is ever going to be where you are right now, doing the exact thing you’re doing, with the same thoughts in their head, looking at the same scenery outside their window. No one else will ever experience the same things you have from the same perspective or have the same reflections on them. No one else is ever going to have the same conversations with the same people that you do today. Chances gone are chances gone forever. That doesn’t mean you have to engage in a life of frenetic activity, though, trying to accumulate as many accomplishments as possible before the final whistle — just be mindful. Appreciate what you have when you have it, rather than living in the past or the future.
It calls to mind a passage I love from Sam Hamill’s poem A Rose for Solitude. Hamill is a Zen Buddhist, so when he uses a word like emptiness, he means in the sense of potential rather than nothingness, of contingent relationships rather than inherent essence:
We might never have met. The things you love might never have happened. None of it will ever happen again. Without meaning to veer into maudlin sappiness, every day can be meaningful if you care to see it that way.