The story of my recent life.' I like that phrase. It makes more sense than 'the story of my life', because we get so many lives between birth and death. A life to be a child. A life to come of age. A life to wander, to settle, to fall in love, to parent, to test our promise, to realize our mortality- and in some lucky cases, to do something after that realization.
Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.
The night before brain surgery, I thought about death. I searched out my larger values, and I asked myself, if I was going to die, did I want to do it fighting and clawing or in peaceful surrender? What sort of character did I hope to show? Was I content with myself and what I had done with my life so far? I decided that I was essentially a good person, although I could have been better--but at the same time I understood that the cancer didn't care.I asked myself what I believed. I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, I wished hard, but I didn't pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organized religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking, and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn't a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I'd been baptized. If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn't say, 'But you were never a Christian, so you're going the other way from heaven.' If so, I was going to reply, 'You know what? You're right. Fine.'I believed, too, in the doctors and the medicine and the surgeries--I believed in that. I believed in them. A person like Dr. Einhorn [his oncologist], that's someone to believe in, I thought, a person with the mind to develop an experimental treatment 20 years ago that now could save my life. I believed in the hard currency of his intelligence and his research.Beyond that, I had no idea where to draw the line between spiritual belief and science. But I knew this much: I believed in belief, for its own shining sake. To believe in the face of utter hopelessness, every article of evidence to the contrary, to ignore apparent catastrophe--what other choice was there? We do it every day, I realized. We are so much stronger than we imagine, and belief is one of the most valiant and long-lived human characteristics. To believe, when all along we humans know that nothing can cure the briefness of this life, that there is no remedy for our basic mortality, that is a form of bravery.To continue believing in yourself, believing in the doctors, believing in the treatment, believing in whatever I chose to believe in, that was the most important thing, I decided. It had to be.Without belief, we would be left with nothing but an overwhelming doom, every single day. And it will beat you. I didn't fully see, until the cancer, how we fight every day against the creeping negatives of the world, how we struggle daily against the slow lapping of cynicism. Dispiritedness and disappointment, these were the real perils of life, not some sudden illness or cataclysmic millennium doomsday. I knew now why people fear cancer: because it is a slow and inevitable death, it is the very definition of cynicism and loss of spirit.So, I believed.
Let not the rash marble riskgarrulous breaches of oblivion's omnipotence,in many words recallingname, renown, events, birthplace.All those glass jewels are best left in the dark.Let not the marble say what men do not.The essentials of the dead man's life--the trembling hope,the implacable miracle of pain, the wonder of sensual delight--will abide forever.Blindly the uncertain soul asks to continuewhen it is the lives of others that will make that happen,as you yourself are the mirror and imageof those who did not live as long as youand others will be (and are) your immortality on earth.
Tell me something. Do you believe in God?'Snow darted an apprehensive glance in my direction. 'What? Who still believes nowadays?''It isn't that simple. I don't mean the traditional God of Earth religion. I'm no expert in the history of religions, and perhaps this is nothing new--do you happen to know if there was ever a belief in an...imperfect God?''What do you mean by imperfect?' Snow frowned. 'In a way all the gods of the old religions were imperfect, considered that their attributes were amplified human ones. The God of the Old Testament, for instance, required humble submission and sacrifices, and and was jealous of other gods. The Greek gods had fits of sulks and family quarrels, and they were just as imperfect as mortals...''No,' I interrupted. 'I'm not thinking of a god whose imperfection arises out of the candor of his human creators, but one whose imperfection represents his essential characteristic: a god limited in his omniscience and power, fallible, incapable of foreseeing the consequences of his acts, and creating things that lead to horror. He is a...sick god, whose ambitions exceed his powers and who does not realize it at first. A god who has created clocks, but not the time they measure. He has created systems or mechanisms that serves specific ends but have now overstepped and betrayed them. And he has created eternity, which was to have measured his power, and which measures his unending defeat.'Snow hesitated, but his attitude no longer showed any of the wary reserve of recent weeks:'There was Manicheanism...''Nothing at all to do with the principles of Good and Evil,' I broke in immediately. 'This god has no existence outside of matter. He would like to free himself from matter, but he cannot...'Snow pondered for a while:'I don't know of any religion that answers your description. That kind of religion has never been...necessary. If i understand you, and I'm afraid I do, what you have in mind is an evolving god, who develops in the course of time, grows, and keeps increasing in power while remaining aware of his powerlessness. For your god, the divine condition is a situation without a goal. And understanding that, he despairs. But isn't this despairing god of yours mankind, Kelvin? Is it man you are talking about, and that is a fallacy, not just philosophically but also mystically speaking.'I kept on:'No, it's nothing to do with man. man may correspond to my provisional definition from some point of view, but that is because the definition has a lot of gaps. Man does not create gods, in spite of appearances. The times, the age, impose them on him. Man can serve is age or rebel against it, but the target of his cooperation or rebellion comes to him from outside. If there was only a since human being in existence, he would apparently be able to attempt the experiment of creating his own goals in complete freedom--apparently, because a man not brought up among other human beings cannot become a man. And the being--the being I have in mind--cannot exist in the plural, you see? ...Perhaps he has already been born somewhere, in some corner of the galaxy, and soon he will have some childish enthusiasm that will set him putting out one star and lighting another. We will notice him after a while...''We already have,' Snow said sarcastically. 'Novas and supernovas. According to you they are candles on his altar.''If you're going to take what I say literally...'...Snow asked abruptly:'What gave you this idea of an imperfect god?''I don't know. It seems quite feasible to me. That is the only god I could imagine believing in, a god whose passion is not a redemption, who saves nothing, fulfills no purpose--a god who simply is.
Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud-Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Pride and power fall when the person falls, but discoveries of truth form legacies that can be built upon for generations.
To be the father of growing daughters is to understand something of what Yeats evokes with his imperishable phrase 'terrible beauty.' Nothing can make one so happily exhilarated or so frightened: it's a solid lesson in the limitations of self to realize that your heart is running around inside someone else's body. It also makes me quite astonishingly calm at the thought of death: I know whom I would die to protect and I also understand that nobody but a lugubrious serf can possibly wish for a father who never goes away.
Thine are these orbs of light and shade;Thou madest Life in man and brute;Thou madest Death; and lo, thy footIs on the skull which thou hast made.
It goes without saying that even those of us who are going to hell will get eternal life—if that territory really exists outside religious books and the minds of believers, that is. Having said that, given the choice, instead of being grilled until hell freezes over, the average sane human being would, needless to say, rather spend forever idling in an extremely fertile garden, next to a lamb or a chicken or a parrot, which they do not secretly want to eat, and a lion or a tiger or a crocodile, which does not secretly want to eat them.
The bitterness of joy lies in the knowledge that it cannot last. Nor should joy last beyond a certain season, for, after that season, even joy would become merely habit.
Come here, let me share a bit of wisdom with you.Have you given much thought to our mortal condition?Probably not. Why would you? Well, listen.There's no one alivewho can say if he will be tomorrow.Our fate moves invisibly! A mystery.No one can teach it, no one can grasp it.Accept this! Cheer up! Have a drink!You can let the rest go. Am I making sense?I think so. How about a drink.Put on a garland. I'm surethe happy splash of wine will cure your mood.We're all mortal you know. Think mortal.Because my theory is, there's no such thing as life
Most sane human beings’ chances of being alive in a thousand years’ time are a hundred times higher than their chances of being sincerely happy for at least ten consecutive days.
Accepting death doesn't mean you won't be devastated when someone you love dies. It means you will be able to focus on your grief, unburdened by bigger existential questions like, Why do people die? and Why is this happening to me? Death isn't happening to you. Death is happening to us all.
Whenever you see flies or insects in a still life—a wilted petal, a black spot on the apple—the painter is giving you a secret message. He’s telling you that living things don’t last—it’s all temporary. Death in life. That’s why they’re called natures mortes. Maybe you don’t see it at first with all the beauty and bloom, the little speck of rot. But if you look closer—there it is.
In the end we all come to be cured of our sentiments. Those whom life does not cure death will. The world is quite ruthless in selecting between the dream and reality, even where we will not. Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting. I've thought a great deal about my life and my country. I think there is little that can be truly known. My family has been fortunate. Others were less so. As they are often quick to point out.
Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.
We suddenly feel fearful and apprehensive, naked in our perishable flesh, and for just a moment we wish we could go back to being stone—crumbling in death rather than rotting, trapped inside an immobile prison of stone rather than reduced to immaterial souls like those that now rattled within our skulls. The moment passes. There is no point in regretting irreversible decisions—one has to live with them, and we try.
Now every mortal has painand sweat is constant,but if there is anything dearer than being alive,it's dark to me.We humans seem disastrously in love with this thing(whatever it is) that glitters on the earth--we call it life. We know no other.The underworld's a blankand all the rest just fantasy.
And now let us love and take that which is given us, and be happy; for in the grave there is no love and no warmth, nor any touching of the lips. Nothing perchance, or perchance but bitter memories of what might have been.
To Suspect your Own Mortality is to Know the Beginning of Terror, To Learn Irrefutably that you are mortal is to Know the End of Terror.
[A] right understanding that death is nothingto us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not because it adds to itan infinite span of time, but because it takes away the craving forimmortality. For there is nothing terrible in life for the man who hastruly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living.
He'd learned something. Life was booby-trapped and there was no easy passage through. You had to jump from colour to colour, from happiness to happiness. And all those possible explosions in between. It could be all over any time.
Puis il réfléchit: la réalité ne coïncide habituellement pas avec les prévisions; avec une logique perverse, il en déduisit que prévoir un détail circonstanciel, c'est empêcher que celui-ci se réalise. Fidèle à cette faible magie, il inventait, pour les empêcher de se réaliser, des péripéties atroces; naturellement, il finit par craindre que ces péripéties ne fussent prophétiques. Misérable dans la nuit, il essayait de s'affirmer en quelque sorte dans la substance fugitive du temps. Il savait que celui-ci se précipitait vers l'aube du 29; il raisonnait à haute voix; je suis maintenant dans la nuit du 22; tant que durera cette nuit (et six nuits de plus) je suis invulnérable, immortel. Il pensait que les nuits de sommeil étaient des piscines profondes et sombres dans lesquels il pouvait se plonger. Il souhaitait parfois avec impatience la décharge définitive qui le libérerait tant bien que mal de son vain travail d'imagination.
Many writers, especially male ones, have told us that it is the decease of the father which opens the prospect of one's own end, and affords an unobstructed view of the undug but awaiting grave that says 'you're next.' Unfilial as this may seem, that was not at all so in my own case. It was only when I watched Alexander [my own son] being born that I knew at once that my own funeral director had very suddenly, but quite unmistakably, stepped onto the stage. I was surprised by how calmly I took this, but also by how reluctant I was to mention it to my male contemporaries.