The afterthoughts on the 2nd speech will deviate a bit from humanism; it’s more about personal thoughts but I do think they are connected to religion in a way – or in this case the lack of it.
Nope, this time it isn’t about Morpheus sweet sister. Talking about philosophers, Blom mentioned Diderot and his feelings towards death since he denounced his faith. And from what I’ve heard (and as Blom also said) I should read his work cause I have developed similar – kind of panic stricken – feelings. It is a weird, irrational fear that I find hard to explain – even though I have talked about it a lot with several people.
Many atheists who were christians before, tell me that they feel liberated from the fear of death since they stopped believing in god. For them death was a possibility of eternal punishment, something unknown that could – and probably would – be very unpleasant. For me that was never the case. Death was just the next step. This life would end – no it wouldn’t even end, it would change to something different but just as good. I now realize that I was always reassured by the idea of keeping my consciousness. No matter what would happen after death, I would still be me because I would remember this life, my memories, my ideas, my tastes; everything that forms my current personality would go on, existing forever.
Of course this idea about after life was totally arbitrary and it changed. In the slow process towards atheism I came to believe that there is nothing after this life. We die and that’s it. Nothing of ourselves remains in any form or way. For many people that seems to be relieving. For me it is terrifying. Since I find it hard to explain I will try to do so by answering several arguments I’ve heard against it:
«Since we won’t exist after death we won’t care about it, so we shouldn’t be afraid».
Well obviously, I don’t care about what happens after death cause I already think that nothing happens after it. I don’t even care so much about the process of dying itself – which of course can be scary and painful etc but it’s not my main concern at the moment. It’s missing now that bothers me. I love what I have now, with all its ups and downs, happiness and sadness, creativity and procrastination. I love being able to think, to challenge myself and my beliefs, to bond with people, to enjoy music, painting, computer games! It’s not a matter of doing important things, it’s just about living, whatever that means.
«Death makes life unique – otherwise we wouldn’t appreciate it» and that comes often with
«Death is natural, it’s part of the circle of life and if you love life you should also love death»
Ok, I understand the concept of appreciating a situation when you have faced (or there is a possibility of facing) the opposite one but first of all I don’t agree with that 100% and also I don’t see how is that supposed to make me feel better. I don’t need to go to the desert without rations to value water. Sure, I might appreciate it more then but I don’t need to go to that extreme to realize its importance. In general, I can think rationally and I can cherish what I have without constant fear of losing it. If I would treasure it more due to that fear I don’t really care, I don’t think that difference worth’s it. The price is too high for a bit more appreciation than what I already have. And sure, death is natural, unavoidable and all that but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it in order to be happy about life. I can accept it but it can still bother me. Death is not part of life, it’s not the final act, it’s the end of it.
At some point Blom said that Diderot found solace through art and I wonder if he meant that producing art soothed him. That I can very well understand, arts or anything that makes us feel good, helps us focus on now and kind of forget about what’s coming next. It is only rational to look for pleasures – let them be carnal, culinary, aesthetic or just Sunday evenings…
But he could also mean that the thought of producing art and leaving something behind made him feel better. Which brings me to another argument:
«We die but our legacy goes on, our actions affect life after us»
Well… «Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn«. It might be obvious by now that I don’t care about what happens after my death. My fear is founded on a selfish need to keep living. Sure I will be very happy if humanistic values are established on earth and even more happy if I help in any way towards that but still, that offers no comfort regarding death. Just the fact that we managed to be conscious of ourselves, to realize we exist and everything that comes with it, only to lose it someday is pissing me off a bit.
The final argument I will discuss is «since our time here is limited we should live our life in the fullest».
Again, no comfort against death. Apparently not wanting to die won’t make me sit at home all day, panicking and missing life. If anything it will make me try to live it in the fullest indeed – though I am not trying to fill every moment of my life with events and people just for that (as I’ve mentioned before I consider procrastination part of the pleasures of life :p) Still that doesn’t change the fact: this something that I am experiencing now I will eventually lose. It can be tomorrow or in 50 years, it will never be enough.