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Fear of Dying etc.: Weekly Readers Mailbag, September 18, 2016

What is my personal feeling toward death?  That’s the first of two questions in this weeks’ Readers’ Mailbag!

QUESTION:

How do you feel about dying? Is that not in some part terrifying?  And us losing our loved ones forever? How do you get over that?

 

RESPONSE:

Ah, how do I feel about dying?  In general, I’m against it.  🙂

But do I find the prospect terrifying?  I would say that over the years I have had different attitudes toward death.  I suppose when I was very young, I hoped I was a good enough person to go to heaven.  I was certainly terrified of going to hell.   When I had a born again experience in high school, I became absolutely convinced I was going to heaven, as would anyone else who did what I did (accept Christ as their Lord and Savior) and believe what I did.  Anyone else (i.e., most of the billions of people in the world): well, too bad for them.  They are going to roast forever in hell.

When, over some years, I became a more liberal Christian, I was not sure really what to think of heaven and hell.  But when I contemplated becoming an agnostic, that was one of the issues I was most obsessed about.  What if I left the faith and it turns out I was *wrong* to do so?  The fear of hell kept me wanting to believe.

But at one point, I simply couldn’t’ any more, and still feel true to myself and to what I really thought.  Still, after I became an agnostic, it was a gnawing thought that I regularly had:  What if I had blown it?  Would I be punished forever?

The way I overcame my fears was simply by forcing myself to be rational about it, rather than irrational.   I came to think that if there *is* a loving God in the world, he certainly is not intent on torturing most of the human race with horrible and unspeakable torments for trillions and trillions of years (and that would be just the beginning!).   That would make him worse – infinitely worse – than the worst Nazi the world has ever seen.  If there is a God, is he like that?  I don’t think so.

Now my view is that death is the end of the story.  We didn’t exist with consciousness before we were born.  And we won’t exist with consciousness after we die.  We can’t have consciousness without a (physical, functioning) brain.  And we can’t feel physical pain without a nervous system.  We will have neither after we die.

That thought does not greatly bother me anymore.  It’s the reality of life.  It doesn’t last long.  What the thought does do is make me more inclined to live life to the fullest, now, in the present.  This is not a dress rehearsal for something that’s going to come later.  It is the one and only Act of a One-Act Play.  We should enjoy life every bit as much as we can now, and see that others can do the same, by helping those who are having a hard (or completely awful) time.   Doing so is part of what it means to be fully human, in my view.

On a slightly related note, I’m *thinking* about making my next book for a general audience about where the Christian idea of the afterlife (heaven and hell) came from.   I’ve gotten very interested in that question!

 

QUESTION:

Hi Bart, do you think the story about Barabbas is historical?  He is mentioned in all the gospels, but why would the authorities have been willing to set Jesus free if he was perceived to be a political threat to Rome? Was this story added to convince people that it was the Jews who were ultimately responsible for the death of their Messiah?

 

RESPONSE

I deal with this question in my recent book Jesus Before the Gospels.  Here is what I say there:

*************************************************************

Mark’s Gospel indicates that it was Pilate’s custom to release a prisoner guilty of a capital crime to the Jewish crowd in honor of the Passover festival.  He asks if they would like him to release Jesus, but they urge him to release for them Barabbas instead, a man in prison for committing murder during an insurrection.   Pilate appears to feel that his hand is forced, and so he sets Barabbas free but orders Jesus to be crucified (Mark 15:6-15).

This Barabbas episode was firmly set in the early Christian memory of Jesus’ trial – it is found, with variations, in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 27:15-23; Luke 23:17-23; John 18:39-40).   I do not see how it can be historically right, however; it appears to be a distorted memory.

For starters, what evidence is there that Pilate ever released a prisoner to the Jewish crowd because they wanted him to do so, or because he wanted to behave kindly toward them during their festival?   Apart from the Gospels, there is none at all.   In part that is because we do not have a huge number of sources for the governorship of Pilate over Judea, just some highly negative remarks in the writings of a Jewish intellectual of his day, Philo of Alexandria, and a couple of stories in the writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus.   These are enough, though, to show us the basic character of Pilate, his attitude to the Jews that he ruled, and his basic approach to Jewish sensitivities.  The short story is that he was a brutal, ruthless ruler with no concerns at all for what the people he governed thought about him or his policies.  He was violent, mean-spirited, and hard-headed.   He used his soldiers as thugs to beat the people into submission, and he ruled Judea with an iron fist.

Is Pilate the sort of person who would kindly accede to the requests of his Jewish subjects in light of their religious sensitivities?   In fact he was just the opposite kind of person.  Not only do we have no record of him releasing prisoners to them once a year, or ever.  Knowing what we know about him, it seems completely implausible.   I should point out that we don’t have any evidence of any Roman governor, anywhere, in any of the provinces, having any such policy.

And thinking about the alleged facts of the case for a second, how could there be such a policy?  Barabbas in this account is not just a murderer, he is an insurrectionist.  If he was involved with an insurrection, that means he engaged in an armed attempt to overthrow Roman rule.   If he murdered during the insurrection, he almost certainly would have murdered a Roman soldier or someone who collaborated with the Romans.   Are we supposed to believe that the ruthless, iron-fisted Pilate would release a dangerous enemy of the state because the Jewish crowd would have liked him to do so?   What did Romans do with insurrectionists?  Did they set them free so they could engage in more armed guerilla warfare?  Would any ruling authority do this?  Of course not.  Would the Romans?  Actually we know what they did with insurrectionists.  They crucified them.

I don’t think the Barabbas episode can be a historical recollection of what really happened.  It’s a distorted memory.  But where did such an incredible story come from?

We need to remember what I stressed earlier, that these accounts of Jesus’ trial repeatedly emphasize that Pilate was the innocent party.  It was those awful Jews who were responsible for Jesus’ death.  For the Christian storytellers, in killing Jesus, the Jews killed their own messiah.  That’s how wicked and foolish they were.  They preferred to kill rather than revere the one God had sent to them.   That is one key to understanding the Barabbas episode.  The Jews preferred a violent, murdering, insurrectionist to the Son of God.

There is even more to it than that.   We have no evidence outside these Gospel accounts that any such person as Barabbas existed.   It is interesting to think about the name of this apparently non-existent person.   In Aramaic, the language of Palestine, the name Bar-abbas literally means “son of the father.”   And so, in a very poignant way, the story of the release of Barabbas is a story about which kind of “son of the father” the Jewish people preferred.  Do they prefer the one who is a political insurgent, who believed that the solution to Israel’s problems was a violent overthrow of the ruling authorities?  Or do they prefer the loving “Son of the Father” who was willing to give his life for others?   In these Christian recollections, the Jewish people preferred the murdering insurrectionist to the self-sacrificing savior.

It is interesting to note that in some manuscripts of Matthew’s account of the Barabbas episode there is an important addition.  In these manuscripts – which may well represent what the Gospel writer originally wrote – Barabbas is actually named “Jesus Barabbas.”  Now the contrast is even more explicit: which kind of Jesus do the Jews want?   Which Jesus, the son of the Father, is to be preferred?   In this account, of course, the Jews are remembered as preferring the wrong one.  But for the Gospel writers that’s because the Jews are always doing the wrong thing and always opposing the true ways of God.

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When Men Became Gods: My Lecture in Denmark
The Divine Realm in Antiquity

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    randal  September 18, 2016

    I hope you write the book on the the beginnings of the idea of the afterlife. I have also been interested in this.Chalk me up for a couple of preorders on that one.

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  September 19, 2016

      I agree with Randal. I’d like to know the beginnings of the idea of the afterlife in addition to the origin of the Christian idea of the afterlife. Although, I still think you should write a book about both the Old and New Testament prophecies, as in, the misunderstandings associated with them. You could write both books at the same time! ?

  2. Avatar
    Stephen  September 18, 2016

    Is it possible the Barabbas story was intended as a Markan commentary of some sort on the First Jewish Revolt?

    thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  September 19, 2016

      I’m not sure how that would work. But it does (in case this is what you mean) seem to function to show that “the Jews” prefer a violent solution to their problems rather than God’s solution (so that it is an anti-jewish text)

  3. talmoore
    talmoore  September 18, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, it seems you were seduced by Pascal’s Wager for a time. I’ve noticed that Pascal’s Wager is very persuasive to those who don’t actually give it a serious thought. I mean, if it’s true that believing can lead to paradise if it’s true and to nothing if it’s false, but lack of belief can lead to an eternity of torment if it’s true and to nothing if it’s false, then that should settle the issue that believing is preferable. But, alas, the problem is in that word “believe”. What, exactly, is it that one must believe in order to assure salvation? What if the Catholics have it right? Or what if the Methodists have it right? Or the Greek Orthodox? Or, heck, what if the Muslims have it right?!? The problem is that there are as many ways to NOT believe as there are ways to believe! Everytime you put all your eggs in one basket, there are an inifinite number of other baskets that you are ignoring. This is the innate flaw in a wager that can only pay out AFTER you learn the actual rules of the game (i.e. after death). It’s like if I were to ask you to bet on either red or black, and you (rightly) asked me the odds of red or black, and I replied that you’ll find out the odds when they pay out. Of course, you wouldn’t take that bet.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 19, 2016

      Yes, I think “the wager” is irretrievably problematic, once you realize that there are more than just two religious options….

  4. Avatar
    rbrtbaumgardner  September 18, 2016

    Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death by Irvin D. Yalom is a very good on the topic of coping with anxiety about death and allowing it enrich our lives from the point of view of a non-believer. I am coming onto my 60th birthday in a few months and with far more time behind me than ahead of me I think of my death more often.

  5. Avatar
    Todd  September 18, 2016

    About life after death (or life after life):

    1. I would like to read a book by you concerning this issue as to how belief in an afterlife became so dominant in Christianity whereas no significant belief in such existed during Jesus time except for the resurrection of the dead.

    2. My opinion: I am agnostic on that. I think it is arrogant to proclaim that there is either a life after death or that there is no life after death in any absolute way. How do we Know? What do we mean by “life?” Is life after death consciousness separate from a physical brain or is such an entity or energy or a cosmic mind within us that survives, in heaven, elsewhere in the universe, or is reborn in some form back here, millions of times. It is all speculation, but I contend that our brains are so finite that we have no ways of knowing anything so beyond our intellectual ability.

    So, make happiness for ourselves here, be compassionate to others, and accept that we don’t know all things.

    3. I have a question for you to consider as a possible “reader’s question” in a future posting here:

    I assume that a first century view of the universe would be earth centric. The earth is all there is in the three storied concept of the heavens, the earth, and the underworld. Nothing else. God rules over all.

    As western science advanced, we know there is a vast universe with billions upon billions of potential earth’s and intelligent life living upon those earths. Such a view of the universe places an earth centric concept as expressed in ancient western writings and in biblical scripture as absurd. **QUESTION: HOW DOES CHRISTIANITY (OR ANY RELIGION) ADAPT TO WHAT CONTEMPORARY SCIENCE PRESENTS REGARDING THE UNIVERSE AS VAST AND NOT EARTH-CENTRIC IN ORDER TO REMAIN A VIABLE FAITH AS SCIENCE ADVANCES?**

    note … is there any stream of thought in Christian scripture that would even hint that God is a God of a much larger universe than the earth centric view the Bible presents (“For God so loved the world” … Greek: kazman or cosmos, meaning earth or world, not the vaster cosmos, as I understand it)

    • Bart
      Bart  September 19, 2016

      Ah, right. It’s a good question. But really only one a Christian could (and needs to!) answer!

      • Avatar
        SidDhartha1953  September 22, 2016

        It’s interesting to me that people who understand the philosophical problems with resurrection, disembodied consciousness, and continuity of identity from one body to another (reincarnation), but who cannot be at peace with the notion of personal extinction, will resort to agnosticism on afterlife. What is it they claim not to know? The “real” definitions of life and consciousness? Obviously we live in a universe that allows for both life in general and self conscious life in particular, so both are in some sense inherent in the laws of nature. But to claim that either, as we would understand them, could exist apart from a corporeal entity, has no basis in our collective experience. For myself, no insight has ever proved more liberating than that my death would be the end of all existence for anything that I can call “me.” Has it been so for you, Bart?

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  September 26, 2016

        Todd wrote:

        As western science advanced, we know there is a vast universe with billions upon billions of potential earth’s and intelligent life living upon those earths. Such a view of the universe places an earth centric concept as expressed in ancient western writings and in biblical scripture as absurd. **QUESTION: HOW DOES CHRISTIANITY (OR ANY RELIGION) ADAPT TO WHAT CONTEMPORARY SCIENCE PRESENTS REGARDING THE UNIVERSE AS VAST AND NOT EARTH-CENTRIC IN ORDER TO REMAIN A VIABLE FAITH AS SCIENCE ADVANCES?**

        note … is there any stream of thought in Christian scripture that would even hint that God is a God of a much larger universe than the earth centric view the Bible presents (“For God so loved the world” … Greek: kazman or cosmos, meaning earth or world, not the vaster cosmos, as I understand it)

        You replied:

        Ah, right. It’s a good question. But really only one a Christian could (and needs to!) answer!

        That’s surely true of scripture. But both the present Pope and Pope Benedict, who preceded him, have acknowledged the reality of the Big Bang (taking it as God’s act of creation). I think they would be willing to acknowledge the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe.

    • Avatar
      dragonfly  September 20, 2016

      2. It sounds like you’re asking…
      When we die do we haunt the sky?
      Do we lurk in the murk of the seas?
      And what then? Are we born again?
      Just to sit asking questions like these?

      3. Firstly, denial. It was as recent as the 17th century that the good catholic Galileo was imprisoned for daring to suggest the earth moves around the sun, not the other way round.

    • Avatar
      Hormiga  September 20, 2016

      > As western science advanced

      As it advanced, at least through today, it left what is somewhat inaccurately called “Materialistic Reductionism” as the last paradigm standing for understanding reality. Democritus seems to have been, as far as we can tell at this point, right. There’s atoms and the void (quarks and leptons and the quantum vacuum etc) and nothing else discernible. No supernatural realm, no gods, demons, heaven, hell, etc. Pretty bleak, but, in a sense, liberating.

  6. epicurus
    epicurus  September 18, 2016

    Having left Christianity I went through the “progression” of first believing I was going to heaven, then that there probably was no heaven but what if I was wrong and maybe I wind up in hell, to where I am now, that we are probably alone in the universe, and that there is no supernatural being or at least not one that cares about us one way or another. What now makes me sad about death is the permanent nature of it. In a cold, impersonal, mechanical universe, I will never return, never know how everything with the human race works out, never know the reason for it all. And the universe will continue on as if I never existed, until it runs down, maybe to collapse and then perhaps begin again with another big bang for billions of years with no real purpose. After I’m gone, I won’t know or care about any of this, but while I’m alive it’s the concept of it that makes death a cold dark void for me. When it’s 3am and I can’t sleep, the thought of all this is sheer despair for me. Many atheists say they find lots of meaning in the world, and that’s great for them. I have yet to get to that stage. I certainly hope I get there soon.

    • Avatar
      JamesFouassier  September 19, 2016

      We spend a lifetime accumulating knowledge, skills, abilities, to say nothing of meaningful interpersonal relationships, and all those memories, both emotional (sweet, bitter, happy, sad) and physical (pleasure as well as pain) – and IN AN INSTANT they are completely obliterated by death. The very earliest homo sapiens seemed to have some concept of life after death, as evidenced by the apparent funeral rituals and artifacts found among even the earliest “cave people”. Why? The human ego, collectively as well as individually (at least for most of us), simply will not accept the finality of death. Our ego looks to our life experiences and tells us that humans are the epitome of creation (divine or natural) and so there must be more than death — there HAS to be. So we make it so. Joseph Campbell constantly reminded us that behind each myth is some fundamental human “truth” that transcends the particular legend, epic, or other metaphor that conveys the meaning of the message. Life after death surely is the biggest “meaning” in all of the different “messages” by which humans have delivered that most fundamental belief.

      • Avatar
        Newbhero  October 30, 2016

        I think the reason neandertal “buried” the dead was for more practical reason, such as keeping animals away, and keeping the smell away. It most likely only became a “ritual” after having been the norm for a long time.

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  September 21, 2016

      I don’t like the thought of death either, but I do believe there’s hope that we will live again. Here’s a study that’s being conducted right now: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/05/03/dead-could-be-brought-back-to-life-in-groundbreaking-project/
      There’s 20 brain dead subjects involved in the project right now.
      Scientists are also working on bringing back extinct animals; certain types of dinosaurs actually. How is that possible? It’s complicated, but it all comes down to our dna codes and mathematics that I’ll never understand.
      Another study–dead mice and fish were found to have genes that “turn on” up to 4 days after death. These genes were the type that create embryos, and they only activate when you’re dead. You can google any of this stuff. I really think it’s our evolutionary process that pushes us to manifest these things.

  7. Avatar
    Jana  September 18, 2016

    Personally I have no fear of dying … and I’m tested. I’ve come to realize too that it is impossible to convince others that there is a continuum unless they have their own let’s say even mystical experiences as personal validation .. something reincarnates. Others far more accomplished are better at describing the mechanics. Consciousness although it goes by other names migrates and migrates intact (a composite) after the physical brain et al dies. How does this knowledge (not belief or theory) affect one? It broadens the perspective on time and space. Does it alter behavior? Yes, I think so … impassions and intensifies actions including compassion.

    I appreciate your blogs Dr. Ehrman also for honing my own thoughts .. grist for the mill. Thank you.

  8. Avatar
    mjt  September 18, 2016

    Are there other parts of the crucifixion narratives that are questionable historically as well? If so, do the questionable facts cast doubt on the whole story–not that Jesus was crucified, but given the fiction making, can we start asking questions about whether this really happened under Pilate, whether there really was the horrible scourging, whether Jesus died rather quickly, etc?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 19, 2016

      Yes, I deal with a number of the problematic passages of the passion narrative in my book Jesus Before the Gospels.

  9. Avatar
    Wilusa  September 18, 2016

    “I’m *thinking* about making my next book for a general audience about where the Christian idea of the afterlife (heaven and hell) came from. I’ve gotten very interested in that question!”

    Great idea! I think that would be a terrific topic for a book. I keep reading things that may or not be true – for example, that various ancient Jewish writers said different things about Sheol, with one claiming the virtuous and the wicked deceased were “separated” there (no indication, where I read it, of whether they then had different *experiences*).

    And I’ve read that different cultures came to think of “shades” dwelling in the underworld because they buried their dead. Maybe, if you’re researching the topic, you’ll learn whether other ideas were held by cultures that *didn’t* bury their dead? (Cremated them, perhaps, but didn’t bury the ashes? Would they have imagined souls rising with the smoke?)

    Of course, there’s also the concept of reincarnation. Which isn’t irreconcilable with “heaven and hell”! I’ve read that there have been Christian and Muslim sects that believed people would go to their final reward or punishment after a *cycle* of lives.

  10. Avatar
    Tempo1936  September 18, 2016

    Religious people would say that w/o a belief in a higher being, life is just chemical reactions , just a random collision of molecules without meaning. I think Every human tries to find meaning for their life, some in scholarship, some in family, some in their religion, some lose all hope and turn to drugs , sex and alcohol to cover the pain.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 19, 2016

      If they say that, I hope they don’t mean it to be an *argument*!!

  11. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  September 18, 2016

    Wow! I really appreciate the honesty and thoughtfulness of your answer about death and I think the book idea about the afterlife is a terrific idea.

  12. cheito
    cheito  September 18, 2016

    DR Ehrman:

    Your comment:

    Still, after I became an agnostic, it was a gnawing thought that I regularly had: What if I had blown it? Would I be punished forever?

    My comment:

    When you meet The Lord Jesus face to face you’ll get your chance to believe and repent. If you humble yourself God will forgive you. Salvation is a gift.

    As for heaven and hell, that has to do with righteousness and wickedness. If a person is wicked and takes pleasure in sin then separation from God and being ousted from God’s kingdom is justified.

  13. Avatar
    Judith  September 18, 2016

    Isn’t it true that as a married couple, Paul says we are as one in the eyes of God? Therefore, my husband was not concerned about hell as I’m a believer. Your Sarah is a Christian. If it turns out you’re wrong, you still should be alright, Dr. Ehrman..

  14. Avatar
    LeRoy  September 18, 2016

    “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

    Mark Twain

  15. Avatar
    Hume  September 18, 2016

    You have to write that book on the afterlife!

    1. Also, is the Barrabas story also a play on Yom Kippur where Jews sacrifice one goat and let another go free?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 19, 2016

      I think the point of the story has to do with which goat they prefer…. (But note: on the Day of Atonement, it is not the one who is killed who carries the sins but the one who goes into the wilderness)

  16. Avatar
    dragonfly  September 19, 2016

    I don’t know why anyone would be scared of dying. I can understand being scared of going through a slow painful death. I can understand being scared of going to hell. I can understand not wanting your children to become orphans. And I can understand wanting to accomplish certain things first. But not being scared of death itself. Personally I’m looking forward to this finally being over. Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo.

    • Avatar
      webattorney  October 6, 2016

      I think different people can have different reactions to the thought of dying. I don’t know why you would think otherwise. Depending on various circumstances (your health, whether you lost all your loved ones etc.), you can be either scared, relieved or hopeful — or all of them.

  17. Avatar
    Hickman777  September 19, 2016

    I’d like to pre-order that book on the afterlife.

  18. Avatar
    sladesg  September 19, 2016

    Bart, I hope there are many others out there that would also be interested in a book of yours on the transitions of thought regarding the afterlife, from early Judaism at least through the first century CE (perhaps beyond?). I think it may be a broad subject matter, but its understanding is certainly something that most modern (American) Christians take for granted, and most never really investigate the origins. Then, Dante’s Divine Comedy came along and made a mess of things…

  19. Avatar
    Wilusa  September 19, 2016

    “We can’t have consciousness without a (physical, functioning) brain. And we can’t feel physical pain without a nervous system. We will have neither after we die.”

    I assume you realize this in itself doesn’t rule out the possibility of an agonizing “hell”? If “God” exists – and is, as advertised, *omnipotent* – *of course* He could make someone experience eternal consciousness, and agony, without their having a brain or nervous system.

    The only good argument against “hell,” as I see it, is that there’s *absolutely* no good reason for believing *any* of the things we’ve been taught about this “God”!

    • Avatar
      Newbhero  October 30, 2016

      Why would god have made humans with brains the first time around then if they are t needed?

  20. Avatar
    godspell  September 19, 2016

    To me, the question of an afterlife isn’t really the same thing as the question of whether there’s a God, or whether religion is a good thing or not. As you know, many very religious people have not believed in an afterlife, or not believed that a specific type of religious faith will get you a better position in it, whatever that would constitute, it’s never really that clear.

    Karen Armstrong has gone on at length about this. In this article, she comments on the Bishop of Durham stating that belief in heaven and hell isn’t essential to being a Christian.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/oct/18/religion.uk

    There are dangers to not believing in it, though–well, there’s danger in almost any type of belief. Many atheist revolutionaries have committed horrible acts, in an attempt to change the world in such a way that they would create a legacy that would outlive them, keep their memories alive–the human desire for immortality can take many forms, and is not in any way dependent on a belief in God or the supernatural or any survival of the soul after death. Yes, live life to the fullest–people have different ideas about what that means.

    There’s no solution. We’re all different. But one thing almost all of us have in common is that we don’t want to die. My father had a DNR order–when he was in a crisis situation recently, he rescinded it. He’s almost 86 years old. He’s not ready to go. Many never are. He’s been a believing Catholic all his life. But that doesn’t seem to make him any more eager to depart this mortal plane.

    One thing I agree very strongly with–that I find in many of the ancients, pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim–how you meet death is the defining moment of your life. Montaigne (not really an ancient) wrote much about this.

    https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/12/12/montaigne-on-death-and-the-art-of-living/

    Montaigne was a devout Catholic, but in his own very individualistic idiosyncratic way.

    May we all learn how to die well. Like Klingons. I had to get that in there. 😉

    • Avatar
      Judith  September 19, 2016

      William Cullen Bryant (Thanatopsis) tells us how.: “…Like on who wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”

      • Avatar
        godspell  September 21, 2016

        And Dylan Thomas said, “Do not go gently into that good night–rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”

        I don’t know who’s right, but I know who the better poet was, and it wasn’t Bryant. “Wraps the drapery of his own couch around him”? Blech. 😉

        • Avatar
          godspell  September 21, 2016

          Ah shoot, misremembered the phrase slightly–gentle, not gently.

          https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/do-not-go-gentle-good-night

          My father’s getting close to that good night himself, and reading it again brought tears to my eyes. Again, there are different ways to react to the end, and we all have to find our own, but it needn’t be greeted as some sleepy anesthetic experience.

          • Avatar
            Judith  September 22, 2016

            Believe me, “wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.” can be longed for when illness makes getting through another day unbearably torturous. Glad you don’t know about that, godspell. .

    • Avatar
      Newbhero  October 30, 2016

      People say “there are no atheists in fox holes”, but there are no “believers” in fox holes either since christians seem to respond negatively to learning they are dying to some illness, instead of saying “yay heaven!”, and by their disgust of abortion
      clinics that would be “heaven terminals”.

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