Religions all over the globe imagine an eternal, peaceful existence that follows the one we inhabit now. In Christianity, this eternal resting place devoid of pain and loss is called heaven and millions of the Christian faith mold their everyday behavior to meet the entry qualifications to this domain. They refrain from lying, cheating, stealing, murdering, lusting, and coveting all because these activities are sinful and would cause them to stumble in their walk with Jesus. All of these things should be avoided if you want to live an easy life, but avoiding them in order to gain access to an eternal world is bizarre in my opinion and not because this place may not exist. I think it’s bizarre because if this place did exist, going there would inevitably be torture for the perfect human mind (I say “perfect” because one could argue that an imperfect mind, ridden with a faulty and transient memory would play and enjoy this realm forever without ever being totally satisfied or saturated. I’ll discuss this later since this argument relies on several assumptions about how the biology of the human mind is preserved in an ethereal world).
What makes life worth living? The unpredictability. The newness. The mystery that conjures excitement and anticipation. Each of these concepts is inherent in all experiences that we can partake in for a temporary period. We only see the Grand Canyon once or twice in our life and it is magnificent, breathtaking even. But what would happen to that allure if you had eternity to not just view the Grand Canyon, but experience it. Let’s assume you spend 100 years hanging out along the top edge of the Canyon, pacing slowly, crouching, maybe even laying flat with your head hanging off the cliff so you are peering straight down into the expanse below. You take your time admiring the grains of sand and the striations in the rock walls reaching into the shadowy depths below. Each day you alternate which side of the Canyon you reside on and around year 50 you start to vary the distance between you and the drop off. 10 feet one day. 20 the next. Each day you walk down and back, all the while really focusing on the physical, details of the natural crevice. You mentally ingest the scenery from every angle possible and everything becomes familiar. At 560 paces there is a pale rock jarring out of the Earth at an odd angle. 7 paces later there is a patch of red clay a shade or two lighter than its surroundings. After the first 100 years, you decide to enter the Canyon and you spend another 100 years learning the interior of the beast. At some point you start realizing that you’ve taken the exact same route through the Canyon before so you step to the left and continue, now experiencing the Canyon from a slightly different leftward angle. All is good…until no matter how far left or right you step, you have taken that path before. There is nothing new for you to see. All of a sudden, the unpredictability is gone and the newness has rapidly aged. As great and wide and incredible as the Canyon is, it has lost its ability to entertain you.
This is a small example of the larger problem I see with an infinite realm like the one we live in. Sure, you could leave the Canyon and travel anywhere on Earth to find another site but eventually the same saturation would occur. So you move onto the next site, and the next, and in this heaven simulation you are allowed to visit other planets and explore all of their wonders so for a trillion years you find new attractions rated highly on the Trivago of heaven and spend all of your time imbibing the natural world, exploring foreign galaxies and hopping from one space object to the next. A trillion years is actually negligible. Let’s say you spent a gazillion years on this trip and you’re having an amazing time…but then one day you realize that the bark on one of the alien trees of Gardos12 (a make believe planet) is pretty similar to the bark on the trees of Traddestine33 (another make believe planet)…not just similar but exactly the same. The random crisscrossing pattern of the bark here is an exact replica of what you’ve seen before. You brush this off. A trillion years go by and it happens again, this time with a rock and then again with a blade of grass. After enough time has passed, there is no creation of the natural world that you haven’t seen before. There is once again nothing new about the world. You’ve seen everything once. Then you’ve seen everything a trillion times. You’ve investigated every acre inside the box that is the universe and now you’re just trapped in the box.
This dystopic eternity can be created by assuming that the physical material within the universe is either finite or infinite. If the physical material is finite, it is easy to imagine how all locations could be discovered. If the physical material is infinite, the imagination must be strained slightly and more logical assumptions must be made:
- The different building blocks of all physical things are finite (An infinite amount of different building blocks is impossible since repeating patterns indicate a simpler component)
- It does not matter what an object’s scale is. At some point, the pattern must repeat (wait, as I’m writing this I’m remembering that the number pi exists…)
- The scale of things we can experience at one time is finite (for example, we can view a single page of a book, two perhaps, but we cannot view the entirety of the book at one time…unless all the pages are ripped out and laid out like a quilt before us. If this happens, we then become limited by the window through which we experience things. If we assume this is our eyes, then we are limited by our field of vision) (wait, this might counter the existence of pi)
- The things we experience can be rendered unique by the things we experience before and after them. Again, there must be a window of experience that these experiences are viewed through and at some point, the experience we experienced 7 million experiences ago stops impacting how we experience the current experience. Lol. If we assume this is not true and that we have a perfect memory in this eternal afterlife, then every experience would affect those that come after it in some way (LINK). In this case, experiences would only be rendered unique by those that came before it? I think I’m losing myself…
The point I’m trying to make is that even in an eternal realm with infinite physical material, you would eventually see and experience everything you could possibly consider “new”, and even if you couldn’t, the differences would be due to scale or sequence.
The argument that follows is that what we experience leads directly to what we think and so the physical box we would be trapped in would be extremely representative of the mental box we’d be trapped in. There would come a day trillions of trillions of years into this afterlife where you would think the last unique thought you could think and then a terrifying cycle would commence whereby you start repeating every thought you’ve ever had, spiraling into insanity.
This dreadful outcome relies on a few things, the first being a memory made perfect by God himself. If our memories remained imperfect after we reached heaven, we could continue experiencing finite physical material for infinite without realizing what we were doing…this could be a horror in and of itself but as they say, ignorance is bliss. The second thing we’d have to assume is that in this afterlife, our ability to take in information is limited by the same 5 senses we have now. If for some reason these gates are removed and information can flow in unhindered from all directions, the argument would need to be updated. For instance, what would it mean to experience something from all dimensions at once? Better yet, how many dimensions are there and how do they interact with consciousness? Would a perfect consciousness in the afterlife be sensitive enough to recognize changes in each of these dimensions? My heads starting to spin…