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Another Fatherly Ramble

27 March, 2008

Tomorrow I take my son out to Clarion so he can register for his classes.  I have a problem with the idea that he has a only a little over two months until he graduates.  Even though I lived in West Virginia for a little while, I don’t feel old enough to have a child in college. 

His pending graduation has gotten me thinking about my life (or, rather, what’s left of it).  Sometimes I almost (almost (note the qualifier here)) envy those with faith.  Mortality (pending (many years in the future)) can do that.

To a theist, death is the goal — when a theist dies, god and/or Jesus and/or allah and/or the ten thousand other gods and godlettes which have been created by the mind of man, he or she (if he have lifed right or believed exactly the right thing about exactly the right things) will get to meet the creator, find out the truth about everything (there are some funny parts about penguins), and spend the rest of eternity basking in the glow of ‘god’ (they better have some real good suntan lotion up (or down) there).  To a theist, death is the reward for a life of irrationality, prejudice, abstinence (from some things, not necessarily sex), and reading lots and lots of bizaare things.

For me, as an atheist, death is something to be avoided as long as possible.  I know that death is the end of my conscious existence.  That is buffered by the idea that my atoms will continue and will, eventually if not immediately, be used by other living things.  I also know that my death will not truly be the end of me — my children are (at the risk of sounding really weird) part of me.  So are the things I have done, what I have created, the laughter (or moans) from my jokes.  I know I will die, and I know that will be the end of the creative me.  My effect on others will live after me.

So as I contemplate a son in college, a daughter a few years away from college, and the fact that I am 42 years old (and have not found the answer to life, the universe and everything), I can look at it both ways.  My age frightens me, but I am happy with who I am.  I do, in a way, envy the child-like beliefs in a hereafter (though I bet for a creative person, it gets real boring real fast), but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna drink the KoolAid.

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10 comments

  1. Forty-two?! Fer chrissake, you’re still a punk kid. Who do you think you are, me? My brain is still bouncing around in my twenties. The body can’t always keep up, but it ain’t over, not by a long shot, not even if I drop dead tonight.

    And while dead is the end, hence dead end, because you won’t have any awareness of the before and the after, you’ll have lived the only eternity you could ever have. So get on with it. Jump the wife. Go hit some baseballs. Tell your kid how great he is, or might be someday if he happens to be a pain in the butt today. Drink some scotch. Smoke a cigar.

    Say, I’m looking for a date. Does your wife have a sister?

    As for the theists, if they’re so enamored of death, why aren’t they slashing their wrists when they hit their majority? (Oooh, it’s a sin – another myth necessitated by the need of the church dads to keep the parishoners alive so they could keep paying and paying.) Hell with them! Get out the scotch, kid.


  2. Ric: To some I’m a kid, but, as my 15-year-old daughter just said, “No, you’re not a punk. You’re a old man mister stinky farts.”

    I never said life is over. I just occasionally start to feel old (and it is generally one of the kids who makes me feel old).

    I am getting on with life. I did. I can’t. I do tell him how great he is. I do drink scotch. Lately, I’ve been smoking a pipe, not cigars. My wife has a sister down in Florida.


  3. I’m 28 and I still know how you feel. Once you’re conscious of your own mortality, it doesn’t matter how old you are; and the years seem to just keep going faster. It would be nice to know that when we die, we’ll go find the answers to all our questions, be with our loved ones, live in paradise, etc. Personally, I’ve always been partial to the idea of reincarnation, that always sounded pretty cool. But, we all die, most of the time I just console myself with the thought that an eternity of life is a curse for any sentient being. Can you imagine being alive (or undead, or whatever the myth is) forever and ever and ever and ever, etc.? I think you would start to go crazy, having nothing really to live for. I think its the fact that we know our time is short that gives our lives so much meaning, it gives us the desire to create, to immortalize, to make a difference. When asked about death, I always go to my favorite quote from Samuel Clemens. When asked if he feared death he responded that he had been dead for billions and billions of years before he was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience for it.


  4. () –

    ‘mister stinky farts’? No wonder you have mortality on your mind… On a sympathetic note, I started dealing with mortality thoughts when I was 12. So I do appreciate where you’re coming from, MSF.

    sabrina –

    The problem is that there are some nutcases like me who would love to live for eternity – not out of some desperate desire to cling to life, but I’d be happy to be 63 forever if I got to hang around and see how the whole damn mess turns out. I’d really like to know that. Unfortunately I’m stuck with having to imagine it.


  5. I’m 72, soon to be 73, and have come to terms with my mortality and that my life is nearing its end. Except for not seeing my friends and loved ones again, this doesn’t bother me. But when I’m dead, I won’t be aware of this loss.

    This became aware to me by an experience I had several months ago. I underwent a medical procedure, and for the first time in my life I was put under general anesthesia. When I awoke in the recovery room a piece of my life was missing. There was no recollection of anything during the time I was under; it was a total blank.

    Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. Normally when you wake from sleep you are aware that you had dreams, etc. during the time you were out. But this experience of a total blank was totally new. As I lay there, I suddenly realized that this is probably what death is like, except that you never wake up.

    So, even though I have a sense of loss now, when I’m dead, I won’t be aware of it.


  6. “…there are some nutcases like me who would love to live for eternity…”

    Waiting for those nanobots. Tick, tock…


  7. bullet –

    You’ve got some? Wanna sell? 🙂


  8. Frizz; Welcome to my blog. I’ve now had (about) nine operations on my knee. Only twice have I gone under general — I much prefer the spinal block. Your right, though. It’s strange to be that far under that its like being dead.


  9. Atoms whizzing around forever sounds like fun. I wonder if they might reform into something that will remember me. At 45 I’m ready for death. Not that I want to die, but you know you’re days are limited. In my 20’s I felt invincible. Now, I’m just out of breath. Great blog.


  10. Bruce: Welcome to my blog. I like the idea that my component parts have been around and will be around, but I have trouble with the idea that my days are numbered.



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