I am a fan of Sarah Bakewell, a London librarian who wrote "How to Live or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer". I follow her on Twitter. Since I write a blog most days and I use writing to look at my life from other angles, I am interested in Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) since he did much the same thing with pen and ink. Bakewell explains in her introduction that Montaigne's essays about his life and feelings and experiences has collected many fans and admirers over the centuries.
The question is "How to live" and his first answer in Bakewell's book is not to worry about death. Having listened to Thomas Hager's history of the development of antibiotics, I tend to divide human history into before and after 1940, which is approximately the year in which antibiotics were available to humans. Before that, any scratch could cause death. Dying was more associated with all parts of life equally, since it was not just an old age thing. That is, of course, true today, too but less so with more people living into their 90's and beyond.
However, since both innate biological forces and social forces point us toward fear of death, we resist death as a matter of course. A typical question that comes up with death is about what happens after death. Do we go to heaven, to some hot and tortuous place, or what? I have read that our minds are constructed in such a way that it is very difficult for us to imagine ourselves gone, absent, not present, missing, deleted, etc. We have ashes from some of our deceased relatives here in the house. I see dead and decaying animals around. I suspect that theological and eschatological speculations are off and that my atoms will dissipate into the earth and its atmosphere over time.
But what if we, as mammals, are just not capable of perceiving the extreme joy, the mirth and hilarity that atoms experience? What if our perpetual forms, which were collected momentarily into our bodies and brains, were already sentient and lively and quite happy? What if we discover that after having lived, we will be in different, smaller forms that are much more fun than bodies? What if we have the concept backwards, that life as a human is low and only a stepping stone to a higher, far more stellar existence?
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
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