In no way do I like the idea of going in my sleep. Going away tranquilly, peacefully, tardily or otherwise.
There can be no thing that makes the departure all right. An earthly legacy does not make it all right. A five-star meal does not make it all right. Pottery classes do not make it all right.
Our looming annihilation marks and validates everything we do, and our reward is an endless nothingness either as long as or longer than the one that came before our birth.
I recently listened to two eminent scientists discussing the fact that some infinities are greater in scope than others. It sounds unusual at first, because after all we imagine all infinities by definition must be equal.
But even though infinity and infinity plus one are the same number, beyond such counting numbers there are irrational numbers that cannot be represented as fractions, and there are more transcendental numbers (those that are not solutions to algebraic equations, such as pi) than rational and irrational numbers.
There are various levels of infinity in classes of numbers, and transcendental and irrational numbers are greater in scope than the numbers that we are more likely to count day to day.
Death itself is composed of or finds its dissolution in an eternal quality, and the forgotten figure of the corpse of five thousand years ago can be said to have the same infinite nature as that which we ourselves, with considerable reluctance when it comes to the leaving of it, will inescapably inhabit.
Replacing the word fear with disappointment is nearer to the truth, but there must surely be no one excepting those somehow deluded and liars who will say they are not afraid of death.
This infinity or that one does not make death all right.
We are bound to the dead also in infinity by the substance of infinities while we are alive.
A life of three days has as many infinities as a life of one hundred years. We occupy a mere moment that stretches away in all directions of possibility (and inevitably the limitations); big and small things have similar places in infinity, and mindfulness and compassion are the greatest properties that our actions can hold, given that they echo in moments of eternity.
What good, some will say, is there in saving the life of a dog or a pig, when their awareness of death is less pronounced and their life is so much shorter and less ripe for meaning than ours? The reply is that kindness is a greater use of this moment and of infinity, and little infinities have as much scope as big infinities both in our lives and the lives of others.
We are all connected by death and infinity, and owe it to the exceptional (as distinct from rare) nature of life to offer dignity to all forms of life insofar as we are able.
Some animals experience grief and humiliation; few, I have read, will perceive the disappointment of death, and yet there seems to be something flickering in the eyes of all primates as well as, say, elephants and perhaps dogs. But most if not all of us on the earth will run from harm, and try with all our might to keep death at bay. If we take our existence and fears as shared, I can think of no nobler goal on earth than, in our rejection of death, not causing harm and death but promoting life and kindness, for the short span of our lives and under extremely difficult, often confusing conditions.
The life of the caterpillar or the horse or calf means as much to them as it does to us in its pure constitution of life, and all creatures reject death in their own way. Nothing makes death all right, and it’s tremendously hard to begin to describe why when the spark of life is gone.