Mortality and the Rituals of Infinity


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Mortality and the Rituals of Infinity

by Richard D. Engle

Preface

Prelude: Last night, I finally decided to perform a few edits on this piece. A few hours into the work, I received a phone call from my sister, who had just come back from travel, having spent a week studying with the Dali Lama. The purpose of her phone call was to inform me of the unexpected and sudden death of my step-sister Michelle. There is little to offer, but I dedicate this essay to her. Some say that God takes his favorites first. I suppose, in a way, I see some truth to that. I also dedicate this piece to Nathan Hawking, who was also waiting to see it, prior to his recent passing.

Rich Engle, September, 2006

This piece was written as a companion to my article
The Challenge of Understanding Mysticism
,
edited by Nathan Hawking, and first published on his website,
www.wethethinking.com.
It was specifically written for publication on www.objectivistliving.com. Credit goes to science fiction author Michael Moorcock, from which the title was derived and the preface quote was borrowed. My deepest thanks go to maestro-of-many-talents Michael Stuart Kelly for encouraging me to write on the topic, following a number of correspondences between us covering many subjects,, including this one. I am convinced the subject of death is the most difficult one available, and I offer my writing in the spirit of rationality, reverence, and freedom.

Rich Engle,

December, 2005

* * *

When the entire world dissolves,

And every creature shall be purified,

All place shall be hell that is not heaven.

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

incarnate
: embodied in flesh; given a bodily, esp. a human, form.
A devil incarnate.

Into this pervading genius we pass, forgetting and forgotten, and thenceforth each is all, in God. There is no higher, no deeper, no other, than the life in which we are founded. The One remains, the many change and pass; and each and every one of us is the One that remains… This is the ultimatum…

Benjamin Paul Blood: The Anaesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy (1874)

No one here gets out alive.

Generally attributed to singer/songwriter Jim Morrison

I don't do ultimatums. We all get issued one by default when were born, and I'm still a little sore about that. The rest pale by comparison; I can't take them seriously.

Rich Engle

Philosophy, William James wrote, is largely a clash of temperaments. In the battleground of ideas, I have never found a statement truer. There is more to be seen by examining the temperaments themselves.

This involves looking for commonalities in humans, which can (and must, for purpose of discussion) be reduced to a handful or less. My favorite one is this: happiness is something that anyone can understand, feel. It is the brass ring of human existence. To be generally happy in constitution, even when it is tested; when working through the thin places that life will inevitably bring forwardto be happy over the long haul. There are others.

The esteemed author and anthropologist Joseph Campbell wrote about such commonalities, and he reduced it to three, in sequence. The first is that we are born into this world, without choice, without prior knowledge of the occurrence. The second is that we are aware that there are others who have had the same thing happen to them; some of them have died, some are alive, and we can see what they are doing or have left behind. This is all inclusive, anything you can do that stays after you die (unfortunately, this is not limited to positives, or merely art, but things like totalitarian governments, bad religion, bad philosophy, in short, an epoch-ranging passel of human errors-in-action that somehow manage to outlive their creators). The third, realized somewhere down the line, is the self-knowledge that death will take us, as it did to everyone else before us (at least as far as we can figure, if you reject certain popular accounts).

When you boil it down, tha'ts pretty much it, as far as the truly major issues go; living on earth, both personal (existential), and interpersonal. That is what everyone has to run with, like it or not; any other baggage is optional: additional charges may apply.

Of those three, the third one, our pending demise, remains constant, because it is last. It is just barely more controllable than the first, because we can attempt off-putting, but it always remains a piece of business, one that that has not yet been conducted.

Because of that fact, it occupies the catbird seat for all of us, whether we acknowledge it, or not.

It rides with us wherever we go, whatever we do. That's why it has made for some great works of art and entertainment. The looming presence of death is more urgent than anything else that exists in human experience, whether it is in our foreground, middle-ground, or background; it provides for the widest range of things that humans do, which mainly involve activities to pass their time before the hammer falls down. Often, this seems to involve making misery for others attempting the same pursuits, but on better days, it drives us to achieve the heights of glory.

Death is broadband; it is omnipresent in the activities of humans, which, due to it, range out their activities from time-biding (shooting craps, say) to great works of expression (Pick anything, but for flavor, how about Mozart's Requiem?).

As much as I have attempted a circumscription of the topic, it must be said that writing, or any other form of expression, is not the main way, the visceral way that mortality is experienced by humans. It is truly, deeply felt, from the mind down to the bone. The pending loss of moments both simple and gross; the wink of an eye, the blink of understanding and recognition coming from a friend or loved one; some vision of nature, some active experience of which we partake, one in which we have become efficacious. Those are the kinds of things that will be missed. The little things of which we are aware add up. Even if we have not bothered to total them, we still have a feeling for the sum, at least if there is anything about us that is openly aware, if we have a sense of the things (not so much things, really, but people) in life that greatly please us, make us love being alive.

Each day, one way or another, we do things that affirm life, and at the same time, pee into the ocean, an ocean that will eventually bring us the final wave.

This is the situation, and we all have our ways of handling or non-handling it. As I go along more, it must be said: I am addressing all people. If I use religious terminology, or not, I am addressing all people, with no desire to persuade you into or change your existing individual consciousness. Mortality is the Big Kahuna of writing, and I have no choice but to go to my own roots.

I heard Princeton scholar and Unitarian Universalist shining star Rev. Nicole C. Kirk talked about it the morning after I began writing this piece, within her sermon. To hear Nicole Kirk speak is, I think, similar to what it would be like to hear someone like Emerson, or any other great preacher of that caliber. What she was talking about the different kinds of waiting, and by extension that would include all kinds of waiting, including waiting for death.

One way of waiting, she mentions, is whistling in the dark, and this struck me.

It is a particular type of waiting, one that involves a quiet, relaxed awareness. I believe that many people who are comfortable (as best can be) with mortality are those that know how to whistle in the dark. I believe that whistling in the dark is a virtuea strength, and it may well be my favorite way of beingwhen we talk of death. We must be comfortable enough in the darkness to whistle.

There should be said here a few words about those who have chosen or tried to take their own lives, to commit suicide. I have personal and secondary experience in this area.

For virtually all of my life, I was so fortunate as to never find myself in a place where I was so despondent as to consider taking my own life. There came a point, seconds, where the idea realized itself to me as a hard possibility, and I did not. I believe that my life force, my accumulated sense of life, prevented me from doing so. That is my personal experience. Additionally, I have lived through the successful life-taking of my own mother (blackly, the first dead body I ever viewed), and the nearly successful attempt by my then step-daughter, who came back and triumphed over the forces that first prompted her to do so.

The subject of suicide is vast. My only comments to it are that often, it is an accident, in the form of thinking, maybe an accident of too much thinking. Ultimately, it starts with disconnection. Suicide, to me, is a sickness of the soul, and the thinking preceding it is something very difficult to unravel; it is a cage of ones own design, and those are the worst, the most effective. If you do not believe in soul, then believe in the fact that you can think yourself into something that you will regret, if there is enough dark sentiment in back of it.

There are those who deny the existence of the stark sense of mortality that, on occasion, comes to any person who is of sound mind. Perhaps it is a survival mechanism that makes them deny those moments, or maybe they are just lying to themselves out of mistaken self-kindness. I have yet to find a person who, into deep conversation, has not admitted to a raw moment somewhere in their life where they have come to a state of full attention, where their sole concern and realization was the fact that they are going to someday die, probably sooner than they would prefer.

There are many distractions that keep us from these moments. In fact, humanity has made a business of distractions in general, and the reason distractions make good trade is because they offer value; namely, taking away, for a moment, the conscious presence of mortality. It is how many businesses have been built.

Philosophy is often used as such a distraction, although only the most honest of the most vigorous participants (at least those that I have ever known) would admit such a thing. So, perhaps in its own way, philosophy actually does bake some bread. I am not saying that philosophy does not have a higher purpose, but rather that the base accusations thrown at it now and again might be too severe: even in its lower moments, it is making people happy by distracting them from the thought of their death.

Within the philosophical community, and the world at large we sit in the midst of a polarized battle. It is a battle between religion, and science. Much has been written about this, and the main thing I agree on is the urgency of finding a way to allow them to exist together, in a way acceptable to each.

Moderns, atheists, scientific materialists, and so on have an answer for the mortality question, and it is simple: when it is over, it is over, game, set match, blank out and done. I find that depressing, because I like it here. Also, I find it intellectually dishonest, because they have no proof of it, being that proof is not possible. I find it odd that these folks who use a simple proof for the non-existence of God (and mind you, I am not a deist) would be surprised at the simple logic provided by the fact that no one really knows what happens after death; it is not possible, not even as accurately as we can ken things that occurred before we came into being; at least in that case we have a few epochs of accounts to work with. Try as science will, we are not, er, granular enough to talk about what goes where when life leaves us. Science says we are a piece of dead meat on a slab, and it will weigh the same, more or less, and I agree. But, it is a change of state from life to matter, and there has been very little done to look at the difference. Science, as always, as is its job, provides nothing but truth here, not meaning, and even so, only empirical data is to be had.

Traditional religion folks have answers that involve some form of afterlife; heaven of some sort. They find this cheery (assuming one ends up in the right place). I do not, because the various renditions involve things like meeting dead relatives I do not want to meet, and other oddities involved with yet another existence that partially resembles our own.

A point to be made, then, is that very few people are truly comfortable with their own mortality. It seems some do exist, and on the whole they are eminently sane, evolved folks. The rest of us who profess otherwise are liars. It is appropriate and natural to have fear when considering death.

On a raw evolutionary level, there are things that prevent us from being comfortable with death. We are engineered to not like death, and that is one reason we survive.

Philosophically, spiritually (if you believe in Spirit), it points to a simple thing, and that is to be in a place where we are comfortable with knowing that we do not know what death is. Modernists do not know, they can only postulate or chop logic. Modernists often create a logical string that gives them a comfort level that they think will make them impervious to the omnipresence of death, and it usually does not stand, despite their objections to the contrary. Religious folk generally project an unproven next world, and say this gives them comfort, but when death comes knocking, there is no comfort for them. Put a choke hold on either of them, and notice how both stances crumble as they feel their life slipping away from them.

Even a reasonable explanation such that death is part of the cycle of life gives little comfort.

Are there suggestions, are there remedies? Maybe a few passing ones. One is that more than a few of us consider the fact that we were not put here, in the first place, by our own design. So, we should already be partially comfortable with the situation of the unknown, the mystery of being. Modernists find comfort in the stark truth that science provides. Religious folks focus on meaning. Both are at odds, not only with each other, but with the fact that their own schools (if they are honest to themselves) do not 100 percent satisfy all users, when it comes to contemplating the fact that someday they will die. Perhaps this is the common ground if these two factions are to ever stop arguing. As a participant and an observer, I look to that common ground because, maybe, if more people think on it that way, they will waste less time in adversity.

Death is the ultimate mediator/negotiator. There is no negotiating with Death; it is a one-way transaction.

In Taoist thought, it is said that the warrior considers his death daily. There are two ways to live that saying, one being affirmative, and the other just damn depressing. That is the struggle; that is the paradox; that is the challenge. In the meantime, while you are figuring it out for yourself, I hope you have a warm blanket and some living creature of one kind or another close to you every night when you go down to sleep, when your mind shuts down, when it goes to the other side. That when (if) you wake up, you will be happy, and if you dont, you will die with friend(s). That last is all I have ever really gotten from contemplating mortality; that the special people in our lives are what make it not only bearable, but beautiful and loving. Truly, it is that simple for me anymore.

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Moderns, atheists, scientific materialists, and so on have an answer for the mortality question, and it is simple: when it is over, it is over, game, set match, blank out and done. I find that depressing, because I like it here. Also, I find it intellectually dishonest, because they have no proof of it, being that proof is not possible.

This is gratuitously insulting, I'm sure Nathan Hawking wouldn't have been happy with it. And it's complete nonsense.

I find it odd that these folks who use a simple proof for the non-existence of God (and mind you, I am not a deist) would be surprised at the simple logic provided by the fact that no one really knows what happens after death; it is not possible, not even as accurately as we can ken things that occurred before we came into being; at least in that case we have a few epochs of accounts to work with.

There are no proofs of the non-existence of God, as such a proof is impossible. Does that make the atheist who rejects the notion of a God "intellectually dishonest"? No one can prove that anyone's untestable fantasies, whether they concern God, fairies, unicorns, life after death or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, are incorrect, but that doesn't mean that we have to take those notions seriously. It would be intellectually dishonest to deny that we consider such flights of fancy to be nonsense as there isn't a shred of evidence for them. When we die there occur irreversible reactions in the cells of our bodies, so that they no longer will be able to function, including the cells in our brain which generated all the thoughts, feelings and memories. When we die the second law of thermodynamics finally overtakes us, and that is the end. That people throughout the ages have had fantasies about life after death may be an interesting sociological and psychological phenomenon. Probably part of it is an attempt to avoid the unpleasant truth of mortality by engaging in a fantasy that it isn't as bad as it seems, in other words, a cowardly evasion (you see, I can use loaded terms too). And it has no doubt been a punishment/reward system used by the priests and similar witch doctors to keep the people under control. Only recently the punishment part has largely silently been dropped, but the reward fantasy is still popular - talk about dishonesty!

There is no escaping the fact that nearly all people who are in good health don't like the idea that they will die one day. But I've also often seen that old people who are at the end of their life no longer have such an aversion against dying or even would welcome it, even if they have no debilitating illness and are not in physical or psychological pain. I've heard more than once such people say that they just have had enough, that they're tired of life, without implying that it has been bad, more like the tiredness after a good day, when we want to go to bed. They say in effect: let's call it a life.

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Dragonfly,

I expect all kinds of reactions to this piece. I was being honest in my opinion is all. If you don't like it, that's OK but there is little need for scolding. I should also mention that Nathan actually read an early draft of that essay before Michael saw it, and he had no issue with me personally. You will have to take my word on it, since he is dead.

I stand by what I said-- you can't make a proof from lack of evidence. At least, not on macro of all macro levels.

Also, I just decided, I will not debate. I will let the essay stand. If someone reads it and likes it, thank you, if they don't, I am sorry, no offense meant.

That it tripped your trigger is what I am mostly talking about- how contemplating the topic affects us all in different ways.

best,

rde

Edited by Rich Engle
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Ah, Rich, you renegade Objectivist. Spinning the “primacy of existence” on its head, huh? This is where I’m supposed to get all righteous on your ass, but I don't want to. Now I’m going to be in even more hot water with Damage. I'm obligated to push the "cause" you see. Thanks a lot! :angry:

Victor

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Some say that God takes his favorites first. I suppose, in a way, I see some truth to that.

Rich, I see you've ticked two people off already. :angry: Oy, you're too much, Rich. I haven't read your article so I can't comment on it, although I have a good idea of what it is about. You know what I think about this as do others I am sure. :angry: But I'm not here to get my panties all up in a wad and start throwing a hissy fit and ripping into you, etc. We've been friends for quite some time. I'm not into social meta stuff and being overly concerned about how you've decided to live your life. How you choose to live your life doesn't affect my life in any way. Just as how I've chosen to live my life doesn't affect your life in any way. What you've chosen isn't for everybody and what I've chosen isn't for everybody. But I do have to say this:

Wow, if the quote above is true, then my ass will be the last to go, donchya think? LOL Hell, my ass will be so old and shriveled up, I'll make a prune look like Marilyn Monroe. hehehehehehehe

Angie

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Death is not something dealt with too much in Objectivism, yet our own mortality is a reality we all must face. It would do us well to think about it at times, not to take the focus off living, where it should be, but to avoid evading reality. People who evade reality on something fundamental like death leave it up to their subconscious, and that usually spells lack of control and lack of serenity at critical moments in life.

I would like to ask Objectivists and other atheists to read this article by taking the religious-sounding words and phrases as metaphors. There are not too many. Rand did this constantly, so it is not hard. This is a wonderful article to make you think and it is a shame to overlook the core message because of a bias against religion. Rich is not preaching religion. He seeks no converts. He is dissecting the way people face death from his own perspective. He has some very important things to think about.

So far, I am seeing that the point of this article is being completely missed by a focus on a tangent that is not essential.

Personally, I am glad I read Rich's article with attention. Despite the subject, which we all normally try to avoid, it somehow made me feel clean inside to face the issue of death with such simplicity, sincerity and depth. It made me integrate the big picture of the experience of living better.

Thank you for such good, pure and realistic thoughts, Rich.

Michael

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Mike,

Rich is my friend and I'm going to read the article when I get more time. It's just I don't have much time now or then when I posted but I saw the article and the quote I posted above. It wasn't made with disrespect towards Rich and I think he knows this. We both know where we stand on this issue of different beliefs, etc., and we respect each other's decisions, boundaries, etc. He's taken jabs at me before and it is no big deal. It's all in fun.

You make a statement about O'ists and death and I found it interesting as I have my own very very personal and unfortunate experiences with this aspect; that is, being close to death literally and being given a time frame as to when, not a specific time frame but was told very very soon rather than later. It could be 6 months or it could be 2 years, depending on which would fail next and that there was nothing they could do other than sit and wait for it to happen. They couldn't figure out the cause so all they could do is wait for the next to fail and then "try" to treat it. By far, not an easy thing to deal with and it gives you a whole new perspective on life, how appreciative you become of your life, what you have, etc. So many people take the smallest things for granted. When faced with the possibility of death, you quickly realize that life isn't to be taken for granted, even the smallest aspects of it. Talk about massive reflection on your life. It's definitely an eye opener. You quickly learn not to sweat the small stuff. Mike, you know I've been through a lot of shit. You knew this when I first started posting here at OL.

If Rich wants to talk about this in private and in detail, etc., I don't have a problem with it, you know, death coming from our different perspectives, what he is going through and what I went through. I can give him my own thoughts regarding it and my own experiences of being told that I was going to die soon and how I dealt with that whole issue.

Rich, if you want to talk about it in private and in detail, I am open to it and you know this.

Angie

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Thanks Rich. You always write from the soul. What you say is always authentically your own language. I am a physicalist who is deeply committed to spirituality. I am an atheist who looks for the deeper meanings in life. Thanks for stirring my spirit with your words. I would like to say more after the mixture of your words and my spirit has taken shape.

Paul

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I stand by what I said-- you can't make a proof from lack of evidence. At least, not on macro of all macro levels.

The whole notion of "proof" is here nonsense. Anyone can come up with some untestable fantasy and then claim that we have to take it seriously while we can't prove that it is not true, but that is complete bullshit, the burden of proof is on the claimant, and if he can't show any evidence for it we don't have to take his claim seriously.

And accusing someone who disagrees with a particular viewpoint "intellectually dishonest" is the kind of randroid insult that I'd expect on SoloP but not on OL. I'm disappointed.

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I stand by what I said-- you can't make a proof from lack of evidence. At least, not on macro of all macro levels.

The whole notion of "proof" is here nonsense. Anyone can come up with some untestable fantasy and then claim that we have to take it seriously while we can't prove that it is not true, but that is complete bullshit, the burden of proof is on the claimant, and if he can't show any evidence for it we don't have to take his claim seriously.

And accusing someone who disagrees with a particular viewpoint "intellectually dishonest" is the kind of randroid insult that I'd expect on SoloP but not on OL. I'm disappointed.

I agree with Dragonfly on this point. I think it is his intellectual honesty ( and the intellectual honesty of the scientific community) that would lead him to conclusions contradictory to Rich's. I also think it is Rich's intellectual honesty that has led him to his conclusions. They are just two intellects working from essentially the same evidence but from different principles. Guess what: those are different causal principles. The question is: how can we find principles that integrate the worldview of materialist thinking with the worldview of spiritualist thinking without loosing the defining characteristics of each perspective? How do we find a view of causation that integrates agent-to-action causation with action-to-action causation in a common framework?

I'm sorry Rich, I didn't want to hijack your thread. Either antecedent events or the devil made me do it. This or I am just seeing the same patterns over and over again in so many discussions and I am choosing to express my own twist on things.

Paul

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Video clip interview with Richard Dawkins and his book "The God Delusion".

A 10 minute interview that is most interesting and pertains to the subject of Rich's post.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWL1ZMH3-54

"It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens."

Woody Allen

Edited by Victor Pross
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Just as a clarification, on the "intellectual dishonesty" thing, I don't see a real problem except a misunderstanding. I reread Rich's statement and Dragonfly's objections with attention and I think the following clarification will help.

To start with, I know for a fact that Rich does not think Dragonfly is an intellectually dishonest person. To be clear, he is talking about an assertion being intellectually dishonest, not a moral judgment against this or that person.

As to the assertion itself, I didn't see Dragonfly make the assertion in the manner Rich presented it. I did see Dragonfly get emotionally involved, but I didn't see the assertion.

To be clear, Rich was calling people who assert that there is nothing beyond death as a proven fact are intellectually dishonest. I agree. They have no proof. (I agree if they say "arbitrary" or "subjective" but that is not what Rich was complaining about.)

Dragonfly asserts that the notion of afterlife is an "untestable fantasy" that cannot be proven (since it cannot be tested), so it cannot be taken seriously on an objective basis. Setting aside his emotional reaction to what he perceived as an insult, I agree with that too. (I also think he mistakenly perceived the insult.)

Rich's whole point is that there is no proof for lack of an afterlife. Dragonfly's whole point is that there is no proof for the existence of an afterlife. They are both saying there is no proof, but from different angles.

Leaving aside heated forms of expression, Rich would call entertaining the notion of an afterlife "subjective." Dragonfly would call it "arbitrary."

Also, Rich says that those who assert lack of an afterlife as a proven fact are intellectually dishonest. Dragonfly did not say the following, but I am sure that he would agree that those who assert the existence an afterlife as a proven fact are intellectually dishonest. Thus, those who assert proof of fact regarding this subject (up to the present) on either side are intellectually dishonest.

In my evaluation, neither Rich nor Dragonfly are intellectually dishonest and neither has made any sort of intellectually dishonest assertion. It just seems that way when things get overly-emotional, but on looking at the actual words, it is seen that this is not the case.

Back to death...

Michael

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Let's be clear about something else, too.

Objectivism is an atheistic philosophy (not as a fundamental tenet, but as a derivative notion).

In case people haven't noticed, Rich is not an atheist. And he knows his way around Objectivism like few Objectivist do. And I am sure that many disagree with him.

Now that we've got that out of the way, now that we all understand fully, clearly, entirely, absolutely, wholly, perfectly, utterly, thoroughly, without a doubt that Rich is not an atheist but most of us are, the issue being clear and all so that people can use their own minds to judge, it would be interesting to discuss the article on what death means.

Suicide anyone?

:)

Michael

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Michael,

You make some excellent points in tempering and bridging an understanding between Dragonfly and Rich’s respective stands. I think that Rich’s take on the “no evidence” for life after death is taken to be a sign of “hope”—I say this taking a look at Rich’s own words: “Moderns, atheists, scientific materialists, and so on have an answer for the mortality question, and it is simple: when it is over, it is over, game, set match, blank out and done. I find that depressing, because I like it here.” Dragonfly, on the other hand, is taking the “onus of proof” stand-- seeing that there is no proof of life after death—and is properly dismissing it so as not to clutter up the intellectual landscape. So they may both be on a different page when they are able to flip the page—but they are on opposite sides of the fence when doing it.

Victor

p.s.

Personally, I still need to get the tooth ferry out of my own belief system to clear some space. I have nothing to say about 'God'--I don't know what the hell people are talking about when they toss this word around...but I suspect I'm supposed to get all fuzzy over it. Anyone care to tell me what it means?

Edited by Victor Pross
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Also, I just decided, I will not debate. I will let the essay stand. If someone reads it and likes it, thank you, if they don't, I am sorry, no offense meant.

Well said; I hope you don't allow yourself to be tempted from that position! The piece stands well on its own. It's beautiful.

I am a physicalist who is deeply committed to spirituality. I am an atheist who looks for the deeper meanings in life.

I've often called myself an atheist who loves god with her whole heart and soul and mind and strength.

Judith

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In one respect, evidence does lean towards the fact that death does terminate life as we know it. Consciousness is destroyed by death because consciousness does depend on a physiological process: it is obviously—empirically—the function of the brain and it is thus conditioned by a collaboration of the nervous and vascular system. Death ends all of these vital functions and thus ends LIFE--and all the evidence leans toward this conclusion given the relationship between consciousness and physical matter: life—conscious awareness—depends on a living organism.

I like it here, too--but I'm not going to engage in a fantasy; I like it HERE—on earth—not some ghostly sojourn.

Victor

Edited by Victor Pross
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To be clear, Rich was calling people who assert that there is nothing beyond death as a proven fact are intellectually dishonest. I agree. They have no proof. (I agree if they say "arbitrary" or "subjective" but that is not what Rich was complaining about.)

No, that is not what he said, you should read more carefully. He said:

Moderns, atheists, scientific materialists, and so on have an answer for the mortality question, and it is simple: when it is over, it is over, game, set match, blank out and done. I find that depressing, because I like it here. Also, I find it intellectually dishonest, because they have no proof of it, being that proof is not possible.

He doesn't say that people assert it "as a proven fact", he says that people who just say "when it is over it is over" are intellectually dishonest because they have no proof of it, which is something quite different. The point is that people who say that "when it is over, it is over" don't claim at all that they have proof of it, just as atheists won't claim that they have proof that God doesn't exist, they merely say that there isn't any evidence for such notions. The whole notion that a proof is needed is absurd, and if anything is dishonest, then it is to claim that people who deny the validity of unprovable assertions claim that they have proof that those assertions are false. By exactly the same reasoning all atheists would be intellectually dishonest, and this is an arbitrary and insulting assertion.

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Victor: All you stated was a series of conclusions drawn from induction. Nothing like what Rich and Dragonfly were talking about (trial-and-error testing).

You keep harping on this point. Do you or somebody near you feel threatened by Rich's position? A simple "I disagree" is enough for most people after the issue has been debated publicly with Rich for 50 gazillion posts with a large number of people on a large number of forums over a couple of years.

Rich is an honest man. I will not silence him. Would you (or whoever) have me do so?

Dragonfly: I agree that it is poorly worded and thus becomes subject to your interpretation, but I am pretty sure that my meaning is what Rich meant. Why not ask him?

Judith: You are a poetess?

I've often called myself an atheist who loves god with her whole heart and soul and mind and strength.

What a beautifully stated sentiment!

Michael

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MSK: "Do you or somebody near you feel threatened by Rich's position?"

Yes, M, that's it! You got me! I'm threatened by the idea of lasting forever! Didn't you know that if one disagrees with someone it automatically means they are "threatened"? [i'm dripping now in the spirit of friendly sarcasm]. B)

MSK: "Rich is an honest man. I will not silence him. Would you (or whoever) have me do so?"

Yes, that's exactly what I'm calling for, yes, yes! Silence him! [i'm drowning now in the lake of perplexed sarcasm--all of it friendly mind you. I want to drown, I want to die!! I look forward to it!] :baby:

Edit: 50 gazillion posts? I don't know of them. I'm sure this subject has been brought up 100 gazillion times, but this is the first time I have had the chance to talk about it.

Edited by Victor Pross
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Michael

I can’t account for Rich’s extremely exotic and highly idiosyncratic beliefs--and I don’t really have anything against Rich—if that’s what you are suggesting. I like the man. A lot! Keep in mind, I was an atheist before I was an Objectivist. I am discussing the topic. The topic is death, right? My post above is dealing with the subject at hand. Take a look again.

Victor

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Victor: All you stated was a series of conclusions drawn from induction. Nothing like what Rich and Dragonfly were talking about (trial-and-error testing).

You keep harping on this point. Do you or somebody near you feel threatened by Rich's position? A simple "I disagree" is enough for most people after the issue has been debated publicly with Rich for 50 gazillion posts with a large number of people on a large number of forums over a couple of years.

"Keep harping?" I think he just gives a valid opinion, if that is not allowed, what is then the use of this forum? If Rich doesn't want to debate it, then he shouldn't post his opinions, since when are we only allowed to say "I disagree" and not give our own opinion?

Rich is an honest man. I will not silence him. Would you (or whoever) have me do so?

Has Victor given you any indication that he wants you to silence Rich? I haven't seen it, so why are you so extremely defensive?

Dragonfly: I agree that it is poorly worded and thus becomes subject to your interpretation, but I am pretty sure that my meaning is what Rich meant. Why not ask him?

Why should I? He can read this thread too, so if I wants to comment on my post he'll no doubt do that. Why the special treatment?

I've often called myself an atheist who loves god with her whole heart and soul and mind and strength.

What a beautifully stated sentiment!

You'll find me probably an old curmudgeon, but I see nothing beautiful in it, it is in my view an incoherent statement. Is this an example of bellum quia absurdum?

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"I've often called myself an atheist who loves god with her whole heart and soul and mind and strength."

My god, I’m on the same page with Dragonfly! Look, Judith is a good gal, I’ve read some of her posts and she commands my respect just like Rich does. But I have to agree with Dragonfly regarding the quote seen above---I don’t get it. And yes, I’m taking the intended romance out of the thought. [What a bastard I am!;] But, truly, I don’t get it. I mean, I get the idea that we are supposed to feel gushy over it, but it just strikes me as incongruent. Now back to the topic: death—and the related subjects: is there life after death; suicide; the SLOP site. :)

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Dragonfly,

My point is that the article is about death, not about God. Of course people can discuss what they please. But I think it is obvious by now that Rich isn't going to change, neither are you or Victor. So why the belittling and mocking? An itch? Especially on an issue that is not even the point of the article.

I am so very enlightened that you gentlemen don't like Judith's pronouncement and can belittle that, too. I guess this shows something good that I am missing. Of course, you didn't even try to understand it. Anything else productive on your minds you want to tell Judith while you are at it?

For the record, to help with the understanding, I will give a Rand quote. This is from the "Introduction" to the 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead:

Religion's monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meaning and connotations of a rational view of life. Just as religion has preempted the field of ethics, turning morality against man, so it has usurped the highest moral concepts of our language, placing them outside this earth and beyond man's reach. "Exaltation" is usually taken to mean an emotional state evoked by contemplating the supernatural. "Worship" means the emotional experience of loyalty and dedication to something higher than man. "Reverence" means the emotion of a sacred respect, to be experienced on one's knees. "Sacred" means superior to and not-to-be-touched-by any concerns of man or of this earth. Etc.

But such concepts do name actual emotions, even though no supernatural dimension exists; and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or ennobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions. What, then, is their source or referent in reality? It is the entire emotional realm of man's dedication to a moral ideal. Yet apart from the man-degrading aspects introduced by religion, that emotional realm is left unidentified, without concepts, words or recognition.

That is what Judith was trying to convey. That is what you guys are refusing to even look at so you can have a sacred right to belittle God whenever the word pops up.

How much life gets missed like this! Dragonfly, shall we now mock Bach's Masses because they were written for the glory of something "absurd" and "ridiculous" - a perfect example of bellum quia absurdum? Or shall we listen to that glorious music instead?

Judith, that was a beautiful sentiment and I know exactly what you meant.

Michael

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