Went to bed reflecting on the difficulty age has in pretending. It’s easier for youth & middle age to cheat despair, but after 60 life’s utter futility becomes cruelly obvious. The whole con is exposed & you see that there is not going to be any happy ending, contentment, or fulfilment… just a waiting for death as the final, sole, and only relief.
Kenneth Williams, The Kenneth Williams Diaries, London, 1993, p. 764
Estuve pensando que nadie me piensa. Que estoy absolutamente sola. Que nadie, nadie siente mi rostro dentro de sí ni mi nombre correr por su sangre. Nadie actúa invocándome, nadie construye su vida incluyéndome. He pensado tanto en estas cosas. He pensado que puedo morir en cualquier instante y nadie amenazará a la muerte, nadie la injuriará por haberme arrastrado, nadie velará por mi nombre. He pensado en mi soledad absoluta, en mi destierro de toda conciencia que no sea la mía. He pensado que estoy sola y que me sustento sólo en mí para sobrellevar mi vida y mi muerte. Pensar que ningún ser me necesita, que ninguno me requiere para completar su vida.
Alejandra Pizarnik, Diarios, Barcelona, 2003, February 16th, 1956
Qué importa que queden mis libros. Sobrevivir espiritualmente en la obra. Qué tontería. Voy a estar muerto, me dicen, pero seguiré viviendo. Mentira. No soy tan vanidoso como para dejarme engañar.
Adolfo Bioy Casares, quoted in Silvia Renée Arias, Bioygrafía: vida y obra de Adolfo Bioy Casares, Buenos Aires, 2016, p. 21
Any death prior to the heat death of the universe is premature if your life is good.
Nick Bostrom, in Curt Butz (ed.), The World I Dream of, Ropley, Hants, 2010, p. 26
[W]hen a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.
Samuel Johnson, in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, London, 1791, vol. 2, p. 152
If a Martian (who, we’ll imagine, never dies except by accident) came to Earth and saw this peculiar race of creatures—these humans who live about seventy or eighty years, knowing that death is going to come—it would look to him like a terrible problem of psychology to live under those circumstances, knowing that life is only temporary. Well, we humans somehow figure out how to live despite this problem: we laugh, we joke, we live.
The only difference for me and Arlene was, instead of fifty years, it was five years. It was only a quantitative difference—the psychological problem was just the same. The only way it would have become any different is if we had said to ourselves, “But those other people have it better, because they might live fifty years.” But that’s crazy. Why make yourself miserable saying things like, “Why do we have such bad luck. What has God done to us? What have we done to deserve this?”—all of which, if you understand reality and take it completely into your heart, are irrelevant and unsolvable. They are just things that nobody can know. Your situation is just an accident of life.
Richard Feynman, What Do You Care What Other People Think?: Further Adventures of a Curious Character, New York, 1988, pp. 33-34
All species reproduce in excess, way past the carrying capacity of their niche. In her lifetime a lioness might have 20 cubs; a pigeon, 150 chicks; a mouse, 1,000 kits; a trout, 20,000 fry, a tuna or cod, a million fry or more; an elm tree, several million seeds; and an oyster, perhaps a hundred million spat. If one assumes that the population of each of these species is, from generation to generation, roughly equal, then on the average only one offspring will survive to replace each parent. All the other thousands and millions will die, one way or another.
Fred Hapgood, Why Males Exist: An Inquiry into the Evolution of Sex, New York, 1979, pp. 44-45
No living man, or living men, shall stop me, only death can prevent me. But death–not even this; I shall not die, I will not die, I cannot die!
Henry Morton Stanley, How I Found Livingstone: Travels, Adventures, and Discoveries in Central Africa, New York, 1872, chap. 9
Un poco más tarde, cuando el trago de café que quedaba en el fondo de la taza estaba ya frío, Leto alzó la vista de las hojas mecanografiadas, y apoyando la nuca en el respaldo del sillón y contemplando el cielorraso, se puso a pensar en el hombre que tenía que matar. Esa atención al objeto que era el blanco de todos sus actos desde hacía varios meses duró poco, porque sus asociaciones lo fueron llevando, lentamente, a pensar en la muerte en general. El primer pensamiento fue que, por más que acribillara a balazos a ese hombre, como pensaba hacerlo, nunca lograría sacarlo por completo del mundo. El hombre merecía la muerte: era un dirigente sindical que había traicionado a su clase y al que el grupo al que Leto pertenecía hacía responsable de varios asesinatos. Pero, pensaba Leto como si hubiese ido sacando sus ideas del vacío grisáceo que se extendía entre la lámpara y el cielorraso, matarlo era sacarlo de la acción inmediata, no de la realidad.
Juan José Saer, ‘Amigos’ in La mayor, Buenos Aires, 1976
Some people believe in an afterlife. I do not; what I say will be based on the assumption that death is nothing, and final. I believe there is little to be said for it: it is a great curse, and if we truly face it nothing can make it palatable except the knowledge that by dying we can prevent an even grater evil. Otherwise, given the simple choice between living for another week and dying in five minutes I would always choose to live for another week; and by a version of mathematical induction I conclude that I would be glad to live forever.
Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere, Oxford, 1986, p. 224
Consider the fact that, in a few years, I shall be dead. This fact can seem depressing. But the reality is only this. After a certain time, none of the thoughts and experiences that occur will be directly causally related to this brain, or be connected in certain ways to these present experiences. That is all this fact involves. And, in that description, my death seems to disappear.
Derek Parfit, ‘The Unimportance of Identity’, in Henry Harris (ed.), Identity: Essays Based on Herbert Spencer Lectures Given in the University of Oxford, Oxford, 1995, p. 45
Epicurus’s hedonism actually implies that death normally harms you. Epicurus thinks it implies the opposite, but he is mistaken. He is right that there is no time when death harms you, but it does not follow that death does not harm you. It may harm you, even though it harms you at no time.
John Broome, ‘What Is Your Life Worth?’, Dædalus, vol. 137, no. 1 (January, 2008), p. 52
Nun ist [Michele Besso] mir auch mit dem Abschied von dieser sonderbaren Welt ein wenig vorausgegangen. Dies bedeutet nichts. Für uns gläubige Physiker hat die Scheidung zwischen Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft nur die Bedeutung einer wenn auch hartnäckigen Illusion.
Albert Einstein, Letter to Vero Besso and Bice Besso, March 21, 1955, in Pierre Speziali (ed.), Albert Einstein: Correspondance avec Michele Besso, 1903-1955, Paris, 1972, pp. 537-538
If I am going to die, there’s no need to ‘make peace’ with myself, no reason to ‘compose myself’ for death. The way I face extinction is just as fleeting, just as irrelevant, as the way I faced every other moment of my life. The one and only thing that could make this time matter would be finding a way to survive.
Greg Egan, ‘The Walk’, in Axiomatic, London, 1995, p. 220
[M]y entire life is less valuable than the entire state of my being dead (which may be identified with the continued existence of the matter and energy that composed my body at the time of my death, even if this matter and energy no longer constitutes a corpse and breaks down into separated and distant atoms). My life can add up only to a finite number of units of value. But my state of being dead lasts for an infinite amount of future time. Even if my state of being dead at each time has the minimal value, say one (the value of the members of the set of particles that composed my body at the time of my death), my state of being dead will have aleph-zero units of value. My state of being dead is infinitely more valuable than my state of being alive. The same is true for any human and any living being.
Quentin Smith, ‘Moral Realism and Infinite Spacetime Imply Moral Nihilism’, in Heather Dyke (ed.), Time and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection, Dordrecht, 2003, p. 47
These may be the last days. We are taking them one at a time. My latest paralysis was the result of some bleeding inside the brain. My concern is that after my departure something remains of me, not papers, not final philosophical declarations, but love. I hope that that will remain and will not be too much affected by the manner of my final departure, which I would like to be peaceful, like a coma, without a death struggle, leaving bad memories behind. Whatever happens now, our small family can live forever—Grazina, me, and our love. That is what I would like to happen, not an intellectual survival but the survival of love.
Paul Feyerabend, Killing Time: The Autobiography of Paul Feyerabend, Chicago, 1995, p. 181
Probability is the guide of life, and of death, too.
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd ed., Cambridge, 1993, p. 197