Bucket List Item #8: Skinny dip in dead winter.
My breaths come out in small huffs. Wispy clouds of condensation form in the air, then dissipate as they fall to the ground. Goosebumps ripple up and down my body.
I stand, naked as a jaybird (whatever the hell that means), on a rock at the edge of the icy Susquehanna River in the middle of January. The air nips at my bare body, and I shiver. My clothes – heavy coat, mittens, scarf, and all – hang pathetically from a nearby tree branch. The river below is moving fast – frighteningly so. Small icebergs float along at a breakneck pace.
Nothing’s stopping me from putting back on my clothes and walking back home. At home, there’s hot chocolate. Ramen noodles. Central heating. Nothing’s stopping me from erasing this ridiculous, insane thing from my list – pretending it never existed, moving on. No one would ever know.
And yet, without I second thought, I fall forward and plunge into the water.
The liquid (metaphorically) tears through me like a thousand icy knives. Every single cell of my body screams in protest, my mind mortified at the thought of hypothermia. Within seconds, I begin to get numb – my fingers get numb, my feet get numb, various, um, other parts lose their feeling as well.
My hands sinks into mud, my legs do the same, and I begin to thrash. I want out, and I want out now. My mind begins to scold me, but against all intuitive thought, I begin laughing. Water gurgles down my throat, I cough it up, and then I resume my hysterics.
Before I freeze, I drag myself, exhausted, weary, and utterly ridiculously happy onto the shore. Stumbling and shaking, I begin to pull my clothes back on.
What the hell is wrong with me?
I’m an atheist. I’m alive.
My life – your life – is finite. We have a few decades in this wonderful, sparkling world, and then you know what? Ka-put. Nothing. We’re dead. Gone.
So you know what? I don’t give a shit if you’re scared. Trembling, shivering, crying, you must plunge into the water. You might vomit. Hell, you might die. Your entire being is reduced to one basic, primal instinct – survive.
That’s what makes it beautiful.
You know why? Because, in the end, that hot chocolate is so much more satisfying. You appreciate the ramen noodles that much more. Because, in the end, you do not want to be lying on your deathbed wishing you had experienced more in your life.
A lot of people look at atheists, and a few can even see where they’re coming from. However, they see their (the atheists’) existence as a sad, bitter one – one of emptiness, one of sadness. Because atheists think that when you die, you’re gone, that’s that, do not pass go, do not collect $200. You are tiny, you are forgotten, you are no more.
So, fellow atheist, let me ask you – what makes your life significant? What is the point of your existence? Most importantly, why do you live?