The Purpose of Death
1. Death improves others' life.
Death is part of life cycle; it's a change that life needs from time to time, to improve:
Death ends a life, to give place to another, that is to be later ended too. Only for this we respect it, although we don't love it. Thus, one thinks:
2. Death relieves us from life sometimes.
The Meaninglessness of Death
Death has no meaning, because it's nothingness, and dying is returning to nothingness. Those who give it a meaning live a mostly meaningless life. They make up for their failure in life by finding a meaning in death.
Death is not an experience to try or be curious about, because it's only passing into nothingness. Death is not the opposite of life; it's the opposite of birth, which is coming from nothingness. Nothingness is the opposite of being, and life is a form of being, a conscious one in the case of our selves.
However superior man is, he just vanishes like all life forms. Humans are superior because they are highly conscious; above all, they are conscious of their end—other animals aren't. People who delude themselves, refusing to be conscious, devolve into animals' rank.
Life is all about being vs. nothingness, and all our questions derive from the fundamental one "To be, or not to be?" – that is, from yes-no questions:
The skeptic may say there isn't a thing in life whose existence we are fully certain about, including life itself, and ourselves. The faithful will answer, that's why faith is needed, else we go mad. And the hedonic relativist casually answers both: "Whether this life is an illusion or not, better enjoy it while you have it, idiots!"
Whoever's side you're on, a believer or not, a priest, scientist, or layman, enjoying life and letting others enjoy it is what connects people most—not their blood, beliefs, language, or birthplace. Whether you live to serve God, yourself or others, you know you must do it with pleasure. Even among believers, faith varies widely in quality and quantity, and so each one's opinion about God's ways: one thinks God has been kind to them, another too harsh, a third just forgotten them. They judge the Divine's ways with human methods, measuring the supernatural with the natural, the unknown with the known ... They'd better focus on that within their power, leaving what's beyond beyond.
One may even learn from those with different or no beliefs, ancient and modern, to many of whom it made no difference,
It doesn't make a difference, as long as we enjoy life. No one has yet uncovered the mystery of life, and perhaps no one will, but we know it's a beautifully intriguing mystery.
It's strange that there is a word for nothingness in our language, although nothingness means nothing. Similarly zero was invented in mathematics. We created both for convenience, to ease our contacts and transactions. Humans are clever in coining abstract words, and nothing is more abstract than nothingness itself: it's nothingness, that cannot be reached by senses or even consciousness like other entities. It's the only experience that cannot be experienced.
"Vanish" is the word to use instead of "die." I tried to imagine what death, vanishing, or nothingness is like. I tried to stop all my senses and all my thoughts: all the images, sounds, actions, and people's faces; all the smells and tastes ... I even tried to stop feeling my skin and my own breathing; I resisted falling asleep or staying awake. I tried to play dead, though I knew my mind would still be active in fantasies, dreams, comas or vegetative states; so I tried to imagine I have no brain or consciousness. I tried to imagine myself as nothing. But, I failed.
Death is neutral: it's not good or bad, not worth hating or loving, because it's unknown. All we know is that it ends life, and for this only we try to delay it, if not defeat it, by focusing more on life. We should love, hate and think of things we only know, minimizing known suffering and maximizing known pleasure.
Death is not worth the respect some cultures show towards; rather, it's the legacy of the dead we should pay respects to. Tombs are a symbol, and funerals are mainly held for the deceased's family to cherish that symbol, and not let it be effaced. We build graves and keep urns of those who died to preserve the last physical presence they still have, albeit lifeless. We show respect for other people's legacy, and appreciate the meaning and value of what they left us, by keeping their memory alive. We do all that for ourselves, not for them, to enjoy and benefit from them even after they are gone.
We are like heirs who enjoy the property of a deceased person, that can also be an emotional or intellectual property. Eagles and hyenas in the jungle may feast on dead animals, but we humans do not feast on our dead; rather, we feast on their legacy, because unlike animals, we have other needs to satisfy—intellectual, emotional and financial—and goals to achieve, that both the living and the dead can provide us with. Other animals have no such needs; they only occupy themselves daily with eating, mating and fighting.
Death is no rest and the grave is not a resting place; this is only a metaphor. We like to console ourselves by calling death a rest although it's a neutral state, because resting, in our minds, is connected to happiness: resting after suffering is a pleasure, by comparison.
Explaining such a connection is simple! Whenever we overwork or endure a hardship in our earthly life, we come to the point when we break or take a break. We willfully take a break by deciding to stop, or it is automatically taken by the brain, rewarding us with endorphins making us feel happy. It's how our systems are programmed, else they'll break down too: after surviving a high dose of stress hormones, the pleasure ones kick off. It's a cycle of pain, pleasure, boredom and pain again—while we are alive.
When we die, all brain cells die, and so the data stored on them, the hormones and endocrine glands secreting them, and so pain and pleasure and the rest of feelings: they no longer exist. Nevertheless, neutrality is better than pain when the latter is permanent and incurable. Compared to a life of suffering, death is definitely a relief. But when life is beautiful, as it mostly is (statistically speaking), then why call death a rest? No. By comparison, death is always ugly, even if it happens after a million years, and life is beautiful even if it lasts for a few seconds. Each second is worth living, till we run out of time.
There is no reward in dying. It's too simplistic to call life a painful experience, death a relief from it, and heaven the reward awaiting us after we die. It's both pessimistic and unrealistic to think this way, because life, by nature, has both pain and pleasure. We only work to maximize the pleasure part ... rather than refuse the gift altogether!
Nobody in the obituaries we read says that someone is going to hell (God forbid, for social convenience, even if it was Hitler's or Diocletian's obituary). We love others more when they are gone, because we don't have to express that love. They all go to heaven, they were all jolly good fellows—and if they were not, God will forgive them and let them into His kingdom.
Best rewards are those given on the spot, after a good work is finished and proven to be good, not those delayed, long overdue, posthumous, or un-given rewards! The sooner the better, to appreciate "the work and him who did it." They deserve to enjoy the fruit of their work, if not immediately at least while they are alive and able to enjoy. Religious or not, it's our duty as humans to reward the good we know done by a fellow human; the good we don't know—the unknown—is for Heaven to decide on. Good people should be honored while they are here, not after they are gone. Posthumous rewards (a dedication to "the soul of someone," a place named after them, an acknowledgement of their works … and other forms of "compensation") are like apologizing for not saying "thank you" when they were with us. It's too late, they are dead now, they can't hear our thanks or receive our tributes.