We are wont to say, following the death of a loved one, or even an enemy, that they died too soon or if it resulted from an accident that maybe, had they been somewhere else, they wouldn’t have died. While this maybe comforting, Aurelius, the Roman statesman dissuaded us from this kind of thinking when he said we must see our lives as part of a play, each person with their acts before they take their bow.
In appointment in Samara (as retold by Somerset M), the speaker, Death, dissuades us from thinking if we acted differently, we probably wouldn’t have died.
The story is here below
There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samara and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samara.
For those studiously inclined, there is a study guide.
Epicurus would say no. In one of his famous letters, he writes death is nothing to us, for when we are, death is not with us and when death is come, we are not. Lucretius is of the same view; before we were, it didn’t bother us, after we stop being, it should likewise not bother us.
I generally believe death, sometimes, is a great good, for it is a release from suffering. For example, for those terminally ill and in pain, death is a release, even though most people even in such circumstances want to prolong their lives.
Benatar, in Human Predicament, argues that there are ways in which death is not a good, to the person who is dead. Death, he writes, deprives us of meaning, if for example, our life had meaning because of our associations or the projects we were doing.
Death, he adds, is also bad because it obliterates us. Annihilation that comes with death is a bad in the whole. It is here also that he disagrees with Lucretius. The argument by Lucretius proposes a symmetry between not having been and not continuing to being. He says the two are not symmetrical. Not having been born doesn’t cause you harm. But to stop being, as a result of death, is not a good for one, it deprives you of possible goods you would have continued to experience, among other things.
Is death a good or a not?
Suppose you had the power to choose who dies, when and how they die by simply writing their name on a paper or saying it loudly, would you do it?
This is the theme of a movie by the same name as the title of this post.
The main antagonist kills a guy who beat him up and rapidly graduates to killing bad guys across the continents and gets a girl he admires in school involved.
A detective comes to town to help local police identify the mysterious killer and this is where everything gets interesting.
The moral question, here, is can we decide that a pedophile or a thief deserves to die? Especially where we know they really are guilty? Can it be up to us?
Or is this the problem with human beings as Satan in Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain concludes.
Or is one better off with a noose around their necks
Every word men speak, you may presume
Is more or less a fraud because, my dear,
You’ll find us humans at our most sincere
Wrapped in our nappies, later in our tomb.
Then we are wise at last, and all is plain,
We join our fathers down below the ground
And with bare bones we rattle truth around
Though some would rather lie and live again
by Herman Hesse
Reminds me of that sage, Solon, who said
He who unites the greatest number of advantages, and retaining them to the day of his death, then dies peaceably, that man alone, sire, is, in my judgment, entitled to bear the name of ‘happy.’ But in every matter it behoves us to mark well the end: for oftentimes God gives men a gleam of happiness, and then plunges them into ruin.”
12 years ago, today, you left us. Does time fly in the land of the dead as it does here? We have all left the nest or about to. One of your sons will soon be a priest. I have told him it is not a good idea, but he says there is free food and opportunity for travel so I think he is doing alright. Life is never that serious and besides, I think he can have a girlfriend on the side.
What do you do in the netherworld? Are you busy? Do you have meetings with other ancestors? You know uncle Dam left us not so long ago. Have you met grandmother? Do you know who is coming next? And when they are coming? I hope it ain’t I because I still have some books to read, life to lead, places to visit and family to raise. If you should have any news, let me know.
Mom, there has been an internet revolution. Now information is at our fingertips. In fact it is so much, we don’t know what to do with it. Tell me mom, do you now know all, have you stopped asking or is there nothing to know?
Mom, so many things have changed since you left. I have grown tall, I have grown fat. I have lost weight and now I am just here.
I don’t want to keep you long from ancestor duties. Just make sure you tell me when the angel of death is coming. I don’t want it to be a surprise. Try to see it is not like the Appointment in Samara. That would be too late.
I will write to you again soon.
We miss you.
PS: I didn’t know your current address, so I will just leave this letter here.
I hope you like this song
Why are we not nihilists?
We believed there was TRUTH™ we no longer believe in such an abstraction.
For ages, humanity believed moral edicts had come from the gods, not all of them, but most. We no longer believe so, at least the reasonable ones among us. WLC still believe in DCT and he has many minions supporting him.
For ages, humanity believed there was a grand purpose to life, tied to whatever deity was in vogue, we have realized life is absurd. No purpose. No deity. We live. We shit. We die. and in between we have sex.
Were they who codified our rules of behaviour right when they, for observance, argued they had come from the gods? If not, why haven’t we developed an earth-bound morality.
Our justice systems run on archaic principles.
What is to be done?