Like many atheists, my thoughts this morning are directed towards Christopher Hitchens. His passing has made for a somber start to the day for many. I can't quite find a word to express my emotions. I can't say that I am sad because I am overjoyed to see how many people were touched by one man and his ideas. The sentimentality is touching and inspiring. I am reminded of how amazing it is for someone to come into the world relatively alone and unknown, grow and develop an individual personality and thoughts, and leave with their characteristics, beliefs, and essence embedded in the minds and hearts of many. He will certainly be missed.
Deaths that seem to hit home, as Hitch's did, always leaves me contemplating my own mortality. The feelings are amplified when I actually bother to attend a funeral. Sitting in front of a dead body always makes me want to jump up, run out into the streets and start soaking up life (whatever that means). When I relayed the news of Hitch to someone she said that it must be difficult to know, as Hitch did, that you will die soon. I can't say that I feel exactly the same. If given the option of knowing when I will die as opposed to the random death that most people get, I would probably choose to know. I could potentially die before finishing this sentence or within the next year. Whew, I made it! As my friend expressed, if she didn't know when she would die then she would live her life normally. If she happens to die in a year, she lived her last year "normally". I believe if she were told that she would die in a year, she would actually start living and soaking up life (once again, whatever that means). It's like a sudden realization that life isn't granted and shouldn't be taken for granted. Still that fact is with us every second of every day and it doesn't affect most people. I recall an interview with Hitch in which he discussed his feelings since his diagnosis. If memory serves me correctly he said something along the lines of working more fervently to get work out because he knew that his time was limited. I can only imagine what I would accomplish in the next year if I lived as if it were my last year. I want to carry that mindset into 2012 with a tone of excitement instead of pessimism.
"Get used to believing that death is nothing to us. For all good and bad consists in sense experience, and death is the privation of sense experience. Hence a correct knowledge of the fact that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life a matter for contentment, not by adding a limitless time [to life] but by removing the longing for immortality. For there is nothing fearful in life for one who has grasped that there is nothing fearful in the absence of life. Thus, he is a fool who says that he fears death not because it will be painful when present but because it is painful when it is still to come. For that which while present causes no distress causes unnecessary pain when merely anticipated. So death, the most frightening of bad things, is nothing to us; since when we exist death is not yet present, and when death is present, we do not exist. Therefore it is relevant neither to the living nor the dead, since it does not affect the former, and the latter do not exist. But [most people] flee death as the greatest of bad things and sometimes choose it as a relief from the bad things of life. But the wise man neither rejects life nor fears death. For living does not offend him, nor does he believe not living to be something bad. And just as he does not unconditionally choose the largest amount of food but the most pleasant food, so he savours not the longest time but the most pleasant. He who advises the young man to live well and the old man to die well is simpleminded, not just because of the pleasing aspects of life, but because the same kind of practice produces a good life and a good death." -Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus
- What 5 things would you do if you knew you had one more year to live?
- What causes would you donate time to?
- Who would you make the effort to connect/reconnect with?
- If you were creating a box with a few items for people to remember you by or maybe get to know an unknown side of you, what would you include?