Tuesday, 16 August 2005

The Comforting Thought of George Monbiot’s Death

I’m all for a noble serenity towards those regrettable but unavoidable facts of life, such as death. After all, there is no dignity nor anything else to be had by running around weeping and gnashing the ivories at the outward bleakness of life. Moreover, I should fain forbid all poetry on the subject, if only for the sake of decency and a good night’s sleep.
.....There are some persons, however, who claim not only to be untroubled by the thought of their own death, but also to be positively comforted by it. One such man is George Monbiot of The Guardian, who has this to say on the matter:

Darwinism implies that the only eternal life we have is in the recycling of our atoms. I find that comforting.
A Life with no Purpose”, The Guardian, 16th August 2005.)

I too must accept – as an agnostic – that life may well be no more than that which Mr Monbiot describes, but I fail to see how I could derive any comfort from this. Hot buttered toast is comforting. I dare say the thought of an eternity with seventy-two virgins promotes optimism. But the thought of personal annihilation in a cold, purposeless universe is hardly what I'd call heartening. Indeed, it strikes me as odd that a man might claim to take the prospect of his own utter annihilation as comforting.
.....Now, for all I know, this attitude might describe a perfect state of stoical ataraxia, but then again, it might describe a perfect state of numbness. But is it not more likely that it describes as perfect a state of pretension as one is ever likely to find in life? As a claim it serves well to display a supposedly dauntless, rational and no-nonsense attitude towards life and death; but I wager that it is a species of pretension that enjoys wide circulation amongst those who would have themselves seen as hard-headed; for who amongst them would dare first admit that he is not exactly chuffed at the prospect of his own death?
.....Perhaps I do the man a disfavour; for I must concede that I do not know what it is like to be George Monbiot. It may be hell, than which anything – even everlasting oblivion – is more agreeable. If that is the case, then I should like to join Mr Monbiot in finding the thought of his death quite comforting.


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Deogolwulf said...

Glad to hear it. This is something of a quiet backwater of blogland.

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Walking,Talking,Poison said...

Hello, I too found you by surfing aimlessley.
As a person with severe panic/anxiety attacks, I do find it odd that some people seem comforted by the fact that they will die. I have to agree, I dont know how anyone could possibly be comforted by their non existence. But at this point I have to admit, Im not sure which is worse, non existence or existing forever. I mean, theres only so many things you can do before youve done them all...its gotta get boring at some point, dont you think? Just my 2 cents =)

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dearieme said...

"a quiet backwater of blogland": sounds rueful. Mr Blimpish found that he got lots of visitors following a comment that mentioned penis jewellery. Perhaps that'll do the trick.

Deogolwulf said...

Dearieme, I shall see what I can do.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy this quiet little marsh; in the backwaters of the bloggosphere. Theres an old axiom, "If it's not broke, don't fix it". As far as death is concerned, I prefer existance.

Blimpish said...

Dearieme doesn't mention that it was his comment, for which I am of course eternally grateful.

Blimpish said...

... and this shouldn't be a quiet backwater of blogland.

Akaky said...

Damn it, no sooner than I find a quiet corner of blogland where I can sit on the beach and read the newspaper without listening to kids and their boomboxes than all the tourists start arriving by the busload and the prices go up and the waiters get snotty and I cant find a decent place to park. I knew this was going to happen, I just knew it. As for death, there's a good many things to recommend it; I am not sure what they might be, however.

Deogolwulf said...

Don't worry. I doubt whether even Dearieme's cunning will bring in the tourists.

Serf said...

I don't understand your confusion.

I personally find the thought of Mr Monbiot's death very comforting.

Michael B said...

As "perfect a state of pretension," yes, a benumbed moral pretension seems not unlikely. Whether a correct appraisal or not, it reminds, in a contrasting yet vaguely similar sense, of that benumbed and occluded "good German" conscience which acceded to the imprimatur of authority, despite what that authority had become - false, malignant and vicious. Monbiot's is not so, certainly not transparently or obviously so, but that benumbed quality, whether passively acceded to or more actively embraced, seems vaguely yet still uncomfortably, similar.