Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Examined Life

A gentleman and a scholar

Death is always serious news, the serious there is; the death of a relative in her twenties in an eccentric accident takes things up a notch. I only meet the deceased once and briefly so, and therefore this post is not going to be some sort of a sophisticated eulogy. What I will discuss is the process of coming to terms as seen from this vantage point on the other side of the world. In other words, I'll be talking about myself.
News of the tragedy was first provided through Facebook. With all the antagonism I have towards Facebook, I have to concede this is good use of the tool: instead of burdening the family with the choir of notifying everyone, it allows the network to do its work. I’ll put it this way: when I am the first degree relative who needs to inform family and friends, I will seek the easy way out. I argue the impersonal nature of the message’s delivery is well worth its benefits. It’s a pity Facebook has to be such a bad social networking tool, though.
Human nature almost dictates that when a person dies some justification is required. The younger the victim is the worse the need for such consolation. Obviously, deep down we all know there is none; there is no great gig in the sky. Instead, all we have is this single life of ours that wears out its welcome with random precision. We may try to pretend otherwise, but death lurks behind every corner of this cold and indifferent universe.
We then turn to look at the life that was and look at its achievements instead. I have a problem some of the tendencies there: I do not consider the life of, say, a climber of the Everest to be any more worthy than the life of someone who played video games all day. The climbers may be engulfed in their solipsism while I prefer to look elsewhere. I agree with Socrates on this matter when he said “the unexamined life is not worth living”. The way to live a meaningful life, by Socrates and I, is to read, learn and actively ponder about this world and this life.
Perhaps I don’t examine as much as I should, but then again who does? I do dedicate a significant portion of my life to examining this world and this life of ours. My point is that if I were to die today, I would like the world to consider it the death of a person who felt content and fulfilled with his work (and no, I do not refer to the work that brings me my income here; at least not exclusively). It wasn't always the case but now I consider myself lucky; lucky to be able to do my examining and lucky to do so in the company of people that I love. Please direct your post death concerns and worries should be directed at the living left behind.
The five year old of the house could not avoid hearing the phone calls and ensuing conversations. Not that he really paid attention to what was being said; he was trying his usual attention seeking moves, always refusing to accept that people may talk to other people about subjects other than him. I used the initiative to discuss some of these serious matters with him, and although I doubt he even glimpses at understanding the meaning of death I have to say this conversation may be one of the more memorable ones I ever had with my son.

Image by Unhindered by Talent, Creative Commons license

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