Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Meaning of Death

The question of the meaning of death is also the question of the meaning of life, the greatest of all questions. Don Quixote is talking about this when he tells Sancho Panza about the look he saw in the eyes of the soldiers who lay dying in his arms; the eyes seemed to be asking a question. Sancho asks, “Was it the question ‘Why am I dying?” and Quixote replies, “No, it was the question, ‘Why was I living?’”

Because of death, the question of the meaning of life leads to one of two answers. Because death exists, because life ends in death, because the final fact about life is death, life is either startlingly more meaningful or startling less meaningful than we usually think. For if even death is meaningful, then life is startlingly more meaning-full; than we usually think; and if death is not meaningful, then life, is the final analysis, is not meaning-full. For death is the final analysis. If there is nothing at the end of the road, then the road leads nowhere, points to nothing, means nothing. No compromise is possible on this, the ultimate question: Is life as a whole, life in the long run, meaningful or meaningless? Life cannot be meaningful in the short run and meaningless in the long run, because the long run is the meaning of the short run. “One foot up and one foot down/ That’s the way to London Town” -if there is no London, or if it’s not worth going to, then there’s no reason to put one foot up and one foot down.

So life is either totally meaningful or totally meaningless, depending on what death is. Therefore we have better try to find out what death is. Peter Kreeft, Love is Stronger than Death

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