Meaning in Death

“To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.” — Hamlet
Continuing a recent theme, we must pause to question whether there is any meaning in death. Death — that closure of possibilities; Death — that last enemy to be defeated. Whether it is embraced in a stoicism or a philosophical release of the soul from the body (à la Socrates) or it is shuddered at and avoided (à la Hamlet), it is the inevitable end of humankind. It is experience throughout life in the deaths of others. Is it darkness? Can one die with dignity? Is avoiding death the purpose of health and modern medicine? These are just a few of the questions.

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Politics and Hope

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Man is a political animal. — Aristotle

The great political question, according to the philosophers of the enlightenment, was why would the individual give up her inherent liberty to another body, to an institution. Different theories arose, the social contract being the most dominant. But I think there is another reading possible: we come together, because we are hopeful, because we hope for a better life, a better world, a better future.

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The Gift of Hope

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“The nuns taught us there are two ways through life … the way of Nature… and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy… when all the world is shining around it… when love is smiling through all things. They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace… ever comes to a bad end. I will be true to you. Whatever comes.” — Mrs. Obrien in The Tree of Life

Does the world have hope? And how do we see it? To paraphrase the above quotation, which is itself a paraphrase of a quotation from Leibniz, there are two ways through life: the way of entropy and the way of hope. I use the word entropy because it captures the cosmic scale of how the way of nature plays out. Everything moves to dissipation, heat-death and ultimate darkness. But that is merely one way. There is another.

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