Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Montaigne and Bacon on death:

My partner DR and I were last night talking about death. DR espoused the same view of Montaigne, the stoicism of which is evident in Montaigne's words about death here:

If you don't know how to die, don't worry. Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She'll do the job perfectly for you. Don't bother your head about it.

We trouble our life by concern about death, and death by concern about life. One torments us, the other frightens us. It is not against death that we prepare outselves - that is too momentary a thing. A quarter hour of suffering, without consequences, without harm, does not deserve any particular precepts. To tell the truth, we prepare ourselves against the preparations of death.

And here is Francis Bacon on Death:

It is as natural to die, as to be born; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as painful, as the other. He that dies in an earnest pursuit, is like one that is wounded in hot blood; who, for the time, scarce feels the hurt; and therefore a mind fixed, and bent upon somewhat that is good, doth avert the dolors of death.

Both men minimise death's power. One man says, in effect, that nature does death for you. The other man says that if any emotion or thought can take the mind of death, as it clearly does every day, then how much more so a purposeful focus on "an earnest pursuit" makes death seem a meagre thing.
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