“You need to realize that death is nothing to us. Everything that is good and bad in our lives comes from the experiences of our senses. But death brings an end to our senses/experiences. And so having the right understanding – that death is nothing to us – makes our mortality enjoyable, not because we will live forever but because we don’t pointlessly long to live forever. For there are no terrors in life for the one who fully understands that there are no terrors in not living.
It is absurd for people who fear death — not because it is afflicting them now but because they expect it will be horrible when it comes. For this allegedly most awful thing – death — is actually nothing to us: when we exist, we are not dead, but when we are dead, we no longer exist. And so death is completely irrelevant – both to those who are living and to those who are dead. Those who are living are not experiencing it and those who are dead no longer exist.”
These are not my words – just my idiomatic translation of the words of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, in his letter to an unknown person named Menoecus (taken from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers). Epicurus has had a millenia-long bad reputation as a complete “hedonist.” But almost all his bad reputation is ill-deserved. He was a great philosopher with a view of life and how to live it that has a LOT to commend it. In fact, it is a view that many of us have today, based on scientific views that are analogous to those most of us share (VERY different as well, since he was living, well, 2300 years ago!).
Short story: Epicurus believed that