Monday, January 7, 2013
Words to Live and Die by
I met Molly, a delightful octogenarian atheist, at a weekly philosophy seminar I’ve been attending. While chatting with her she proffered this wonderful phrase:
“I don’t want my soul saved, I want to spend it.”
Not just some throwaway line, Molly lives that motto to the fullest. It’s her creed, her modus operandi, her reason for living. The more I thought about it the more I realized how marvelously profound it is.
Molly patently rejects the supernaturalist’s promise of life after death, of a “soul” that lives on in some ephemeral state of constant praise and worship to some egotistical boogieman. She doesn’t want any part of some canned-corn childlike concept of living forever in some bodiless condition dangled before her as some kind of carrot reward for self delusion and denial or reality.
Molly lives her life to the max, even in her declining years and with great effort just to be ambulatory. She commits herself to spending her remaining life term expanding her knowledge; establishing new friendships; exchanging ideas; experiencing new challenges. To do less would be to squander the only life she’s banked on. She’s not going to let anything get in the way of exhausting every asset of the life she inherited, and plans to leave not one cent of it behind. Words to live and die by.
Humans are thought to be the only life form that can contemplate their own death. I have many times and in various circumstances: In combat; when diagnosed with cancer many years ago; after a close call while driving; or while empathizing with a friend or loved one whose relative was facing imminent death. On all of those occasions I never once contemplated what happens after that final act. Never fretted over “what’s next?” Never had a moment’s concern about what’s in store, what it will be like, where am I going and do I deserve it? Fact is, fear of death never enters my mind. To paraphrase Galileo: “I’ve loved the stars too fondly to be frightened by the dark.”
Now, fear of the actual process of dying…well, that’s a whole ‘nuther matter. It’s rare for the act of dying, the causal factor, to be a pleasurable experience. If it was, people would be dying to die. Thus, I tend to avoid dying like I avoid the plague. But I’ll waste not one precious second of this one and only life worrying about what happens when the light is switched off and I slip into oblivion. I’ve seen what happens to dead animals and vegetation and I’m fine with that. I’m just dyin’ to become star stuff ...but then, we all are, no matter how much the religionists, New Agers, and mystics hope and pray otherwise.
Let those who buy into the Ponzi scheme of death avoidance squander their precious bankroll of life groveling before statues, and praising their imaginary benefactor. Like Molly, I’ll have invested a lifetime in my existence and I plan to spend it all.