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We are a worldwide social network of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists.

From What Sources Do You Derive Strength and Consolation As you Face the Abyss?

After 70+  years where do you derive your strength and consolation as you approach the abyss. The question is more immediate to me now, after a recent comment  by my wife that approaching 75 I have 10 years of functional being if I am lucky. My approach to date has involved heavy physical exercise, reading widely in the political and financial world. Much of my past reading activity explored much of the available literature in eastern philosophy, the exploration of critical biblical scholarship to assure myself that the bible was as pure myth as I thought it was, and a final resort to the concept of "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die."

Unlike a number of respondents to this issue, I cannot bring myself to accept a  more or less existentialist approach, that I can intentionally create an essence by the power of positive thought. I am reminded of the Gertrude Stein remark when describing Oakland - there's no there -- there. Based on my studies, I am convinced that the universe is a meaningless cacaphony of noise, violence, destruction. That nothing happens for a purpose outside of ourselves (and ,probably, not even there). That in some sense we are the product of an inevitable determinism which moves to a meaningless stasis(is it the 2nd law of  thermodynamics writ large?).

Is hedonism the only answer? Is there any answer? Is there any question? Clinton was right "it depends on what is -is". Am I a bouncing ping-pong ball in a Colorado River cataract only moving through space at 5 million miles per hour or so. Do I live in but a virtual reality, experienced though energy impulses received by receptors, interpreted by my computer brain, and when the computer powers down, the screen goes blank? Are both the physical universe and the quantum physical world unavailable to me now -- and, forever?

  

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Comment by Marianne on May 30, 2013 at 9:09am

@Michel, I agree entirely that death doesn't exist for the one who's dying or in his final seconds.  But it may leave a big whole for people close to him-her and a lot of sadness and anguish..

Comment by Neal on May 28, 2013 at 7:01pm

I am eternal; until I am not.

Comment by Michel on May 28, 2013 at 6:31pm

@Marianne - Death certainly does not exist for the subject concerned. In a way, death does not happen, it's you who ceases having thing happenings. Death is a survivor's problem.

Comment by Matttammar on May 25, 2013 at 10:01am

I'll go with "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die." I don't see any reason for me to fear or mourn my inevitable death; I'll just do my best to enjoy myself as much as I can before it’s too late and just try not to do things that might shorten my stay.  

Comment by Marianne on April 18, 2013 at 11:32pm

@Onyango Makagutu  You have to explain why you believe death doesn't exist, that is if you want to.  From an abstract point of view  I can imagine all the atoms continues to fly around freely in different shape. But  for me death exists.  I grieved for the lost of loved ones;  maybe a bird grieves for his fellow companion who just died ?

Comment by Neal on April 6, 2013 at 5:54pm

I'm an eat, drink and be merry guy; enjoying the journey while I can. I moderate enough to hopefully survive some time. I keep moving. Though I have spent some time considering end of life scenarios, it seems to be a useless endeavor. Either you wake up tomorrow, or you don't; no other alternative do I see. 

Three gentleman that I worked with have passed in about as many years. The last yesterday from pancreatic cancer. He did not take his own life, even knowing it was over. I wonder if at the end, most of us will hang on hoping for a new lease, no matter how painful.

I don't think I've talked to anyone who wanted anything more than to die in their sleep. Guess it sounds peaceful.

Comment by Michel on April 5, 2013 at 8:40am

I was thinking that it's the "be merry" part of the admonishment that is significant, not how you get there. For me, now (I'm a tad younger than you,) it's curiosity that can still bring merriment. That and news from my estranged kids.

If that happens to fade before I do then I'll certainly consider self-deportation - to quote an infamous US politician.

Comment by Robert Joseph Jagiello on April 5, 2013 at 6:42am

For the moment, I have chosen the easy route of afternoon oblivion with my specialized martini and selected buds. Blot out the reality which contains the insufferably boringness of existence.

Comment by Robert Joseph Jagiello on April 5, 2013 at 6:38am

I find that the yellowing of time makes a number of ideas more penetrable than when I first encountered them in my youth. I don't claim any expertise in what follows, but I can tell you "my truth from 74 years on earth."

I have confronted the meaninglessness and absurdity of life, which Camus used to launch the seminal question - is suicide the only question worth considering? Given the human condition that everything is permitted, Camus tells us that it does NOT lead to relief or joy, but simply a bitter acknowledgment of the condition of meaningless and absurdity.

Was he right when he said that acknowledment leads some (Kierkegaard) to return to a mythical god rooted in history, or the creation of a bloodless abstract god by raising the product of reason to a new god-like creation.

Does a person REALLY obtain contenment (as allegedly did Sisyphus) by recognizing the futility of his life and the certainty of his fate.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately. And, maybe Sisyphus, instead of enjoying the instant of freedom as the stone rolled down, should have followed the example of Hemingway and said essentially f--- it.

 

Hemingway,perhaps, hit the nail on the head when he said: "What do you think happens to a man going on 62 when he realizes he has lost (his potency to act)... if I cannot exist on my own terms, then existence is impossible"(parenthetical material added).

I live in a world of reverse "Cacoon". A bunch of the old guys go into our heated thermal pools every morning and, decry the loss of potency - in every possible dimension - every damn morning. I feel like I'm in the Emergency Room at Eisenhower general hospital as we gather to discuss our aches, pains, joint replacement. No one is as YOUNG as Hemingway was when he went to the barn to meet Gary Cooper. No further experience of the joy at the end of a marathon, intense, ferocious love making has turned into companionship, fast bikes (Harleys etc) have given way to recumbent exercycles to avoid injury, a couple hundred push-ups turn into modified push ups.From our collective experience 70 is the marker. Everything starts gumming up then. Forget the passing pulchritude of young ladies, the focus shifts to bowel movements, bladder scrapings for cancer, punishing efforts to walk without a walker. (Lucky a lifetime of athletic activity has left me in better shape than I might otherwise be - but, still, a 40 mile bike ride (which none of my companions can equal) now takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours - used to be under 3. I've computed that I've jogged around the earth 1 3/4 times in 40 years of running - can't walk more than 2 miles now without joint pain(doesn't occur on the bike - thank me).

So, is Camus right - the issue of suicide is the only relevant question. Did Hemingway go through the easy door. Do I have the cojones to follow him, or will I remain pushing that damn stone up the hill. Because I sure as hell do not agree that I will experience contentment from the process.

Comment by Robert Joseph Jagiello on April 5, 2013 at 5:33am

@Michel: Thanks for the different perspective on Epicureanisam. I had been using what I thought was the functional definition of the phenomenon - " a person devoted to sensuous pleasures and luxuries." OAD. Could you expand a bit on what it means to assert that Epicurus is about results. Further what are the implications of an "awareness - not means" flowing from an expanded conception of the concept. Plainly put, what different behavioral patterns might I expect to see from an epicure that goes beyond "eat, drink and be merry."

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