September 26, 2010

Meditations on Death: Prelude

Death_of_Marat_by_David.jpgI don't write very many posts without knowing whether I'll actually put them up on the blog. This is one of them. I wrote this after hearing about Mojoey's (Deep Thoughts) recent loss of his father. I found myself thinking that death is one of those things that really needs more attention in Western culture. We don't like to think about it, and as a result, rarely discuss it. I cannot help thinking that this reluctance has many adverse effects.

I'm every bit as guilty as anyone in not wanting to think about death. I know I'll die, and I know everyone close to me will die. But I tend to sweep thoughts like that aside. No point dwelling on something so unpleasant, I tell myself. I've got too much living to do, and I don't want to get bogged down with such thoughts.

But in the back of my mind, there is an awareness that I am not doing myself any favors by pushing thoughts of death away. It means I'll be less prepared when I inevitably lose more people close to me. It will likely make my subsequent grief worse. And it probably doesn't help with my approach to my own eventual demise.

As an atheist, I understand that death is a natural process and that it represents not a transition to another plane of existence but an end. The living person ceases to live, ceases to be a person at all. There is no afterlife, except for the survivors. There is no next chapter, except for those left behind. It is we who survive the deceased who have the transition, and it can be an extremely difficult transition because we are the ones who have lost someone.

If I was a religious person who truly believed in some sort of afterlife, I might be justified in refusing to think about death. But as an atheist, I must recognize that the temporary nature of our time here has implications for how we should live our lives. Such are the thoughts I hope to explore in this series.

Go on to Meditations on Death: Fear

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