Friday, October 10, 2014

#284 / And Death Shall Have No Dominion

This Dylan Thomas poem is one of my favorites. Here is a link to the full text, for those who don't know it. 

I got to thinking about the Dylan Thomas poem after reading a review in the London Review of Books. This review, by Amia Srinivasan, was of a new book by Samuel H. SchefflerDeath and the Afterlife. Scheffler is a Professor of Law and Philosophy at New York University. 

In fact, I didn't come to the London Review of Books to read about Death and the Afterlife. Rather, I came to the September 25, 2014 edition of the London Review of Books to read about a book called No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State. This is a book by Glenn Greenwald. I recommend the review, and Greenwald's book, too, but I recommend Srinivasan's review, "After the Meteor Strike," as well:

What's really so bad about death? Unlike heartbreak, debt, public speaking or whatever else we may be afraid of, our own death isn't something we experience ... Death is not an event in life. If isn't, properly speaking, something that happens to us. It is, rather, the nullification of the self as experiencing subject ...  Scheffler insists that what really matters to us is what happens once we are gone. Our own lives matter to us less than the lives of those who will come after...

For Scheffler, the "afterlife" is not some heaven or paradise set aside by God, to welcome us (or at least the "good" ones of us) to eternal bliss. It is the life that goes on "after" we are no longer here. 

It seems to me that there is something in that. Death is the rule in the World of Nature. We yearn and pine, even in advance, for the world that we ourselves have made. 

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