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November 27, 2008


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Dear Brian,

Your statement that "life...[is e]ver so much existentially better than not existing at all" is just an opinion, is it not?

Robert Paul Howard

You said it well for how I believe. That we exist at all is the mystery and it alone is enough if there should be no more. Live like there is more and at the same that there is not and life will be lived most fully. One thing for sure, the man you are today, that man only gets this one shot at it even if your soul goes on.

Robert, yes, the proposition that existing is better than non-existing is an opinion. But it is an almost universal one, so I presented it as a fact (or quasi-fact).

People do commit suicide. However, since suicide is so rare this shows that for almost everyone on Earth, life is preferable to death.

Extreme suffering and pain can, of course, make non-existence look better than existence. I recognize and respect that, along with my fellow Oregonians (we were the first state to have an assisted-dying law; now Washington does too).

Again, I was referring to a general rule: people value living more than not-living, existing more than not-existing.

Rain, nicely said. You point to a problem with reincarnation being the antidote to death. If I lived before, I don't know that now. So it's as if this is my first and only life. Living a previous life, if this is possible, doesn't change anything in regard to the mystery (and anxiety) of death.

I came across this since I've recently decided that at least for starters it's better to face the fear of death (for me more precisely, the fear of extinction--not that the possibility of pain or other indignities of dying don't worry me, but at least they'll pass!--and have been looking for some good discussions.

One thing I'm wondering about is the legacy question. What good is a legacy? If there's no afterlife what difference will it make to one if one is remembered?

Fausta inquires: "What good is a legacy? If there's no afterlife what difference will it make to one if one is remembered?"

--As far as the universe is concerned I don't think it matters at all what ones legacy is, good or bad. Is it going to matter after a million years let alone billions of years? There once was a very nice tyrannosuarus rex who decided not to eat hapless triceratops and to dine on ferns instead. But do we know of this creature's kindness? Has its legacy of gentleness been passed down through the eaons?

Your legacy only matters to you and how you want to live your life..with accomplishment, generosity and kindness or something else. It is for your satisfaction now, because in ten thousand years nobody is going to care or remember and your offspring and the tall buildings you left behind will be nothing but atoms morphing into other forms.

Does anyone think people in the year 140329 are going to remember Donald Trump and Trump Tower or that his great to the sixth power grandchildren will have any idea of him? His genes will be so diluted that they will bear no resemblance to him at all. They may look more like Othello.

Fausta, I pretty much agree with tucson's take on this "legacy" question. Whatever we do in this life should give us satisfaction and meaning now. We can't count on a hereafter to make the present moment right.

I've pondered the same question you are. It makes me feel good to think that this and that, stuff I've done and stuff I'll leave behind when I die, will have made the world a somewhat better place.

But you're right: likely I'm not going to be aware of anything after I'm dead, including the effects of the life I'm living now. So this makes me more determined to make a difference here and now, because there and then is a mirage.

Here's links to a couple of other posts that deal with death and non-existence, in case you haven't come across them yet:



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