Thanks, Mike, for that post. I enjoyed it very much. I’d like to launch a few brief volleys on the topic of death.
First, I, myself, don’t make the leap to permanence when I think about how death bears on question of whether life is meaningful. I don’t think life would only be meaningful if it lasted forever—I believe that this is actually incoherent.
I do find myself thinking a lot about how many more dead people there are than living ones. And how narrow the way is for we, the living. Just a little nudge and we are nothing, just an infinitesimal voice in the cacophonous choir of the dead. And, being dead, the world just trudges on, full of the still living, the barely living waiting for their nudge. I am not even sure it factors into my thinking that the world forgets us; that we would be lucky to have our footprint in the world persist as long as it takes the flesh to come off the bone. That’s just talk, though. What really makes a difference to me is the thought that so much consciousness (culture, sound, fury) is so fragile. And that it couldn’t be any other way.
Here is Achilles on death and the meaning of life:
from The Iliad
by Homer, Tr. Richmond Lattimore
Fate is the same for the man who holds back, the same if he fights hard.
We are all held in a single honour, the brave with the weaklings.
A man dies still if he has done nothing, as one who has done much.
Nothing is won for me, now that my heart has gone through its afflictions
in forever setting my life on the hazard of battle.