"Death Be Not Proud"

In his book, “Soul Dust” (2011), Nicholas Humprey notes that there are three strategies "of restoring meaning to life that are widely on display as human responses to anxiety about death:
"Discount the future–and live in the present
Disindividuate–and identify yourself with cultural entities that will survive you
Deny the finality of body death–and believe the individual self to be immortal
Would you find any of these ways of thinking comforting? If not, why not?

On the second comforting ideal Humphrey quotes Woody Allen: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in ther hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.”

My favorite Woody Allen quote is " I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens."

You read interesting books Ierrellus. And ask interesting questions.

That’s a given … and universally said. We all know the value of living in the moment but the past and future push their way in, and intrude on our consciousness. And they’re hard to stop. So we’re lucky when we can find time to live in the present. It requires an effort, even to stop effort and just be.

Just go with the flow you’ve been given. Don’t buck the long standing systems, that will survive you.

I was raised believing in the immortal self/soul ; that either goes to heaven or hell, depending on if you’re born again or not. I was born into once saved always saved. And I was born again at 8 yrs old, and am therefore in like Flynn.

Yes they are comforting. A little idealistic, but that’s okay I guess.

I don’t think it matters. I mean death is death. I can choose to fight it or accept it. I means yes do live in the moment and do accept yourself, but don’t do it because your afraid of death, do it because you know that one it will happen and when it does you will feel ready for it. You will be self-fulfilled.

And to answer your question… Kind of.

I believe in all three ideals–we need all the help we can get with consciousness of mortality–but especially in the third, with reservations. I do not believe in Plato’s notion of a soul imprisoned in a body and released at death. Every instance of life is precious and valuable. The body is not a prison; it is more like a chrysalis. The “I” of body consciousness does not age; its habitat evolves. It is the soul; and it outlives the shedding of the mortal coil. That this could happen is more in line with evolution as we understand it than it is with notions of a final oblivion. It is satisfying to note that my genes live on in my children. But I don’t think that was my soul’s reason for being born.

It’s just a space suit. When we look in the mirror we are only seeing our temporary space suit. We are not that. We are eternal spirits, wearing a temporary space suit.

So says my friend of long standing …

I agree with your friend. When I look in the mirror I see the “I” in its mortal form. When I look into the mirror that is my mind, I can see a reflection or a deeper constant. It takes a lot of inward looking to see the constant.

I don’t regard the body as a mere temporary shell and I don’t reject our physical existence. In fact, I find joy in nature and the natural world, an the life force that permeates it. After death I’m sure we move on, somehow, and may even be reborn here, though other things await us further on. These are just my instinctive feelings.

Thanks, Maia,
I tend to agree. Life is precious–every moment of it. Then we move on.

We need to live and enjoy life while we have it.

As he neared death in Concord, on 6 May 1862, an aunt asked if he had made his peace with God. Thoreau replied, “I did not know that we had ever quarreled.” A friend asked his thoughts on the afterlife, to which Thoreau replied, “One world at a time.”

By way of clarification–Humprey saw the soul as plush consciousness in thick time. He did not believe it was immortal. As an evolutionist he believed we evolved into this type of consciousness, a result of which was that we became aware that we would die, and another result of which was our ways of coping with this awareness.
Humphrey does not believe consciousness, our sense of self, can be reduced to physicality; yet he explains how this “illusion” can arrive through sensory feedback loops and attractors. It’s the problem in most scientific explanations of consciouness–there is a bottom up explanation for the phenomenon, but there is no top down explanation.
Voice, I’ve heard the “argument” quote attributed to Mark Twain.

Thanks for your post. When my mentor was in her eighties, having lived a productive life, I said I hoped she would live another score. She said that was a nice sentiment, but she was tired and wanted the rest. In Gulliver’s travels Gulliver meats a race of people who live on eternally, but they suffer from senility and all of the body failings that come with advanced age. They wanted to die but couldn’t. Science, currently is working on ways to get us to live past 100. Is it really worth the effort?

Please do go on … I’m keenly interested …

Since Ryle most scientists and philosophers do not buy consciousness as a “ghost in the machine”. Since Nagel, most of them limit their discussions to “what it is like” to have our experience of consciousness. Humphrey is no exception. What it is like to have human consciouness is open to debate. Humprey would say that my cat is conscious, but not to the extent that the cat can realize he will die. No cats in the afterlife? If there are, what is there of catness that could travel beyond cat death? Do cats have a thick time, plush awareness of themselves? Mine seems to.

Only as to just what it is ; there’s no debate that it exits, or is, at this very moment … reading these words.

Reminds me of this verse :

Ecc 3:19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

As for the first, we can’t entirely discount the future as who we are to become is a part of who we are and how we live now. Being aware of a future helps us to remain in flux. At the same time, if we are living mindfully totally in the present moment, that will take care of the future.

For the second, that would not be natural for me. Whether there is life after death or not, what is important is only who I am and I am not the Borg. :evilfun: I do not want to wrap things around me like a coccoon to immortalize myself or to diminish my death - there is nothing that I wish to drag with me into death except ‘reality’ such as it. William James did say though That the greatest use of life is to spend it for something which will outlast it. That appeals to me greatly - but that would not immortalize me - I like the idea of making footprints in the sands of time for others but no one needs to know they’re mine. :laughing:

As for the last, I’m an agnostic, a skeptic, and pretending that there IS something after death, that I may continue to BE, when I really do not know, either way, if there is Something or Nothingness, does not work for me. I am too stubborn for Pascal’s Wager. If there is nothingness, then what is there to fear - we have no real control over what will be - and if we live totally in the present, isn’t that more than enough?

All three kind of dilute reality by way of belief.

I’ve worse at doing that than anyone.

Very unlikely, though of course there would be comfort if I knew my death would greatly benefit, as opposed to greatly hurt, the few family members I care about.

I agree with Maia in that I believe that in certain sense we can live on in nature. But, it’s very vague and far from being instinctual, it actually took many years of thinking to come to that conclusion.

So, not really. My outlook is somewhat similar to Serene Soul’s.

I go by the old idea of having an existential project. My project could be something unrealistic, such as immortality, but my project isn’t that at all. Lately it’s not even close. It’s very difficult to describe my project; I generally just have a sense of what it is. But, my project could very well be to have a career, kids, grandchildren, and then retirement. For a project like that as well as my more vague project, death is not a concern, if it comes after the project is fulfilled. I’ve never thought about having a conventional life, but I was raised, like almost everyone else, with the obvious fact that this life is limited, so all my thoughts on what life should be revolve around that.

If I suddenly found I was immortal I would have to adjust my project from one reflecting a limited life to one reflecting an unlimited one. But, I don’t know if that would be possible. I couldn’t just imagine my unlimited life as cyclical unless I would periodically forget everything instantaneously. It seems to me I would lose most of my serious disposition and just enjoy myself, but that wouldn’t last forever, after probably no more than 40 years I would become very depressed, not long after I would be in so much pain from the purposeless and redundancy of my situation, that my mind would just completely collapse. After all, one can imagine an omnipotent body, but not really an omnipotent mind. An omnipotent mind would be a mind incapable of emotion, which is not a mind at all. Since this is all hypothetical, maybe I would live on perpetually in a coma, or maybe my mind would reset, who knows.

Hi Ierrellus, does this mean that N.H. believes there are only three strategies or that these three strategies are most common.

Discount the future - I do not find this comforting as it is a necessity of being human that we plan for the future (have insight) and re-evaluate the past (have hindsight). But, I can do those two things in the present moment without any anxiety/fear. Getting attached to the present moment can result in a huge amount of fear when we realize there will be no more present moments.

Disindividuate - I am not sure why I would want to do this (although my siblings do). I like to identify myself as being dependent upon a culture that will survive me but this does not imply identity. I am dependent upon plastics and they will survive longer than all of us.

Deny the finality of body death - what is the individual self? I personally do not believe in such a thing.

I think fear of death is a necessary evil and those who claim they do not fear death have not considered it deeply enough. But having said that, I find it hard to conceptualize another strategy… I need to think about this.