Hello Fellow Philosophers!
One of my students recently asked me about death and how philosophers view death. There are many different answers and I will restrict myself to sharing my own thoughts about death.
I was taught to think about my death every day. While this can come across as morbid, it’s actually a way to enhance your life. To remember you are going to die, you are more likely to waste less time. You are more likely to see the importance of forgiveness and love. You are more likely to behave in ways that increase your vitality and presence rather than in living life on auto-pilot.
As a philosopher, I’m agnostic about what happens after we die. I do not think it is bad. I have two thoughts about it, and I am not sure which one appeals to me more. One thought is that a baby about to be born must on some level feel it is being squeezed to death. To the extent it can think, I imagine a baby saying “Well, this is it. My life is over.”
However, the baby comes out of the womb to find an entirely new world awaiting it. While we can’t remember this experience, I think death might be similar. It seems we are losing everything, only to discover a far greater world than we can now imagine.
My other thought is that my individual ego is like a drop of water. My True Self is all water. But my ordinary experience is that I am a drop of water, separated and alone from the other drops around me. One drop may be rich and one poor. One may be beautiful and one not so much.
But it is not important because the drop of water has a short existence as a drop before it returns to the sea. When that happens, it loses it sense of being alone and isolated and returns to its true source — water itself and not just a drop.
Question everything! My thoughts are not to be believed, but a simple offering of what I think today.
William Shakespeare wrote: “We know what we are, but not what we may be.” I take comfort in this idea that while the future is unknown, it may be very exciting. Growth in wisdom and compassion — love — in this life points toward a continuation of unlimited growth.
It is interesting to me that a student asked me to write this, because I am in the process of having a friend of mine create a skull ring for me. This will serve as a reminder that each day is precious and that I can’t count on any future days, even as I hope I still have many to come.
Boethius wrote: “Contemplate the extent and stability of the heavens, and then at last cease to admire worthless things.” When you think of the countless generations before us, let alone the life of the cosmos, you see that our lives, even long ones, are very short, like the blink of an eye. This can help us remember what is most important and not worry so much about what is quickly passing.