Existential questions have tortured human minds for millennia. Who are we? Where do we come from? What is the purpose of our existence?
If you are a deep thinker, you have probably asked yourself these and other existential questions. We are the only species on Earth that wonder about the existence. Unfortunately, these queries rarely lead us to a certain answer. They just leave us questioning and desperately trying to understand things that are bigger than ourselves. Sometimes it feels like these things are just not meant to be understood.
Today, let’s explore five existential questions which have only two possible answers. Moreover, the questions themselves are so terrifying that whichever answer is true, it is a scary thing to imagine.
1. Is there an afterlife?
You would certainly expect to see this question on this list. This is probably one of the first existential questions humans asked themselves. We all lose our loved ones to death and we all know that one day, we will die too, so it makes sense why we want to know what awaits us on the other side. So, is there life after death?
If yes, then there are so many scenarios of what exactly happens when we die. They start with the world’s oldest religions and end with fresh controversial theories like biocentrism. We humans have always feared the unknown, that’s why speculations about death make most of us feel uncomfortable.
What awaits us after death? The Christian Judgment Day? The Buddhist reincarnation? The scenarios are endless, but they all have one thing in common – our fate after death will depend on our deeds during our earthly life. And this is a pretty gloomy possibility for the majority of people, given all the meanness, greed and violence that we witness today.
If there is nothing after death and we just cease to exist, it may be even more terrifying. This scenario brings us to the materialistic view of life in which we are nothing but biochemical machines that simply stop working at some point. So our consciousness, along with everything that makes us who we are, just vanishes forever. This perspective also suggests that there is no deeper meaning in our existence and we are just a part of the natural cycle of life and death.
2. Is the universe finite?
This is a more recent but also ancient existential question. Since the humanity started to observe celestial bodies, more queries about our place in this world arose. Cosmological theories that asked whether the universe was finite or infinite first appeared in the ancient Greece and Mesopotamia. Since then, astronomy has advanced to an enormous extent and today we know so many things about our universe. Still, there is no conclusive answer to the question whether it is finite or infinite.
According to the popular theory of the multiverse, our universe is just one of the multiple ones. However, even if our own universe is finite, then does this bunch of multiple universes end? If there is such a thing as the multiverse, the problem of infinity still remains unsolved. And when you try to imagine either possibility, you probably find it difficult because our brains are not designed to capture the concept of infinity.
3. Are we alone in the universe?
The remarkable advances in astronomy and space exploration have made this question particularly popular. All kinds of people, from prominent researchers to sci-fi lovers, have suggested their theories and views on the matter.
The perspective that we are not the only living species in the universe brings more questions than answers. What are extraterrestrial beings like? Are they intelligent life like us? If yes, then why don’t they attempt to contact us? All these questions pave the way for further imagination and speculation.
The only thing is for sure – extraterrestrials will probably be nothing like us. And here I’m not talking only about the way they look – the very life form of alien beings may be based on a different element. If here on Earth, all living organisms are built of carbon compounds, an alien planet with a completely different environment could have silicon or ammonia-based life forms. Just imagining that one day we may encounter an unknown extraterrestrial civilization is exciting and scary at the same time.
On the other hand, if we are indeed alone in the universe, the very thought of it evokes the feelings of loneliness and fear. Just think about it – we are the only living beings lost in the depths of the vast and cold space… How lonely and frightening does it sound?
4. Is there a Higher power?
Another one of the most ancient existential questions humans asked themselves. A religious and traditional way of thinking gives a positive answer to this question. For centuries, this point of view was perceived as the only truth.
The existence of God was not questioned and people tended to think that their lives were in His pity. The absolute faith in God’s will basically removed a good portion of responsibility from humans as they believed He was the only one who controlled their lives. This belief also cultivated the fear of death, which was regarded as the most important moment in a soul’s journey as its eternal fate was decided.
With the development of science and materialistic philosophy though, more and more people started to believe that there is no higher power. According to this perspective, humans rule their own lives without any extra help from some supreme being. This means that our life is in our hands and we hold the full responsibility.
5. Is our existence just a product of a sequence of random events or is this all meant to be?
Continuing with the previous existential question, if there is no Higher power and humans have a full control of their life, then why do bad things happen? No one wishes bad things for themselves, yet, they often happen even to good people. According to one point of view, our life is just a sequence of random events which have no deeper meaning. So if tough times come in your way, you shouldn’t look for any hidden lessons in them.
On the other hand, people tend to seek a meaning in everything that happens to them. It hurts to realize that our existence in this world means nothing and serves only for biological and evolutionary purposes. For this reason, even non-religious people look for hidden causes of the events that happen to them and find the lessons of wisdom life teaches them.
Are you a deep thinker? What other existential questions have puzzled your mind? Please share them with us in the comments below.