Posts Tagged ‘mortality’

The Pessimism of Pre-Socratic Thought

September 16, 2009

We are like the leaves that shoot in the spring-time of the flowers, when they grow quickly in the sunshine. Like the leaves, for a span of time we rejoice in the flowers of youth, taught by heaven neither good nor evil. On either hand are the black Fates, the one holding the fullness of miserable age, the other of death.

Mimnermus of Colophon [circ. 650-600), frag. 2. Source

Not only is life without hope, others saw the pursuit of knowledge as vain:

We men know nothing, and our thoughts are vain;

Theognis, Elegies 133. Theognis is believed to have died
after 490 B.C.

Socrates and Plato began a tradition of attempting answers in hope of finding meaning to life. But by the time of Christ pessimism has set in again:

Soon, very soon, thou wilt be ashes, or a skeleton, and either a name or not even a name; but name is sound and echo. And the things which are much valued in life are empty and rotten and trifling, and [like] little dogs biting one another, and little children quarreling, laughing, and then straightway weeping. But fidelity and modesty and justice and truth are fled.

Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Chapter 5, 33


The last scene of the play is bloody

September 10, 2009

Imagine a number of prisoners on death row, some of whom are killed each day in the sight of the others. The remaining ones see their condition is that of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and despair, await their turn. This is a picture of the human condition…The last scene of the play is bloody, however fine the rest of it. They throw earth over your head, and it is finished forever.


Over 500,000 die every year in the UK.

If death ends all…

September 9, 2009

If one puts aside the existence of God and the survival after life as too doubtful to have any effect on one’s behaviour, one has to make up one’s mind as to the use of life. If death ends all, if I have neither to hope for good, nor to fear evil, I must ask myself what I am here for, and how in these circumstances I must conduct myself. Now the answer is plain, but so unpalatable that most will not face it. There is no meaning for life, and [thus] life has no meaning.

Somerset Maugham

Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

September 9, 2009

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but its sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but youre older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Time, Pink Floyd

Nothing Lasts

September 8, 2009

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual beyond the grave; that all the labors of all the ages, all the devotion, all the aspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins – all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

Bertrand Russell

You do not know life, how can you know about death?

September 5, 2009

How can one know about death before he knows clearly about life?

Confucius, Analects

Chi Lu asked about serving the spirits of the dead. The Master said,
"While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their
spirits?" Chi Lu added, "I venture to ask about death?" He was
answered, "While you do not know life, how can you know about death?"

Out, out, brief candle

September 5, 2009

On hearing of Lady Macbeth’s death, Macbeth comments:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19–28

Brief and meaningless – life without God.

I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark.

September 4, 2009

I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark.

Thomas Hobbes’ last words

Now comes the mystery.

Beecher, Henry Ward – last words

It is appointed for man to die once and then the judgement. Hebrews 9.27


August 19, 2009

When I was about twelve or thirteen, I used to lie in my bed on winter evenings, gazing out through my bedroom window at the night sky. I had become interested in astronomy, and knew the names of most of the majr constellations, as well as some facts about some of their stars. Although I was always impressed by the beauty of the night sky, I nevertheless found it made me feel rather melancholy. Why should something so beautiful make me feel so sad? Because I knew that the light from some of those stars had taken thousands of years to reach the earth. And I knew that I would be dead and gone long before the light now leaving those stars would ever reach thwe earth. The night sky seemed to me to be a powerful symbol of my own insignificance and mortality. I found it unbearable.

Alistair McGrath, Bridge-Building

Death and the desire for immortality

August 19, 2009

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.

Woody Allen