Take an experience like carrying your child. You pick your child up hundreds of times a day, it seems. At a certain time, your child is going to get too heavy to pick up. At a certain point you will have picked up your child for the last time. We tend not to go through life thinking in these terms, but if we did – if we realized it’s as though we were standing in front of a ticket machine at a deli counter and we’re just pulling tickets not knowing how many are in there. At a certain point you pull and you’ve got the last one in hand – for every experience. There will be a last time you pick your child up. And you will not have noticed. That makes life very precious. Certainly death – the final ticket – makes it all incredibly precious. It could not be more precious.
– Sam Harris, replying to the question “If there is no heaven and hell, isn’t life pointless?”
Nothing’s good, ’cause nothing lasts.
– The Avett Brothers in the song “Down with the Shine”
In “Down with the Shine,” The Avett Brothers give voice to the rough philosophy underlying the belief that our lives are rendered meaningful only by virtue of our supposed immortal souls, but stated so nakedly in this lyric as to make the notion seem as absurd and incoherent as it actually is.
Sam Harris’s atheism forms the basis for the above beautiful and touching Stoic sentiments about picking up his daughter. A clip of his full answer to the question, and a clip of the Avett’s singing “Down with the Shine” are embedded below.
Sam Harris’s discussion of eternity and the meaning of life runs from 0:42 – 4:43.
“Down with the Shine” begins at 7:23.
Footnote: “Down with the Shine” has been a staple of the Avett’s concert set lists beginning well before the release of their most recent studio album. But, for whatever reason, the song didn’t appear on I and Love and You or on the subsequent Live, Volume 3. So I look forward to its inclusion on their forthcoming studio album which is, according to rumor, already in the works. Until then, we must get by with the above performance of “Down with the Shine” from NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series.
Addendum: Here’s an unbeatable performance of “Down with the Shine” (retitled “Down with a Glistening Shine”?) from the recent Bonnoroo Festival: