Tuesday February 27, 2018
The Only Reason to Fear Death
I'm reading E.L. Doctorow's novel “The March,” about Gen. Sherman's across the South near the end of the Civil War, and the following passage stood out for me. Not just because it recalls Hamlet's soliloquy but because it matches my feelings about the afterlife.
The thoughts are Gen. Sherman‘s, as he stares, distracted, at the dead outside Fort McAllister:
What if the dead man dreams as the sleeper dreams? How do we know there is not a posthumous mind? Or that death is not a dream state from which the dead can’t awaken? And so they are trapped in the hideous universe of such looming terrors as I have known in my nightmares.
The only reason to fear death is that it is not a true, insensible end of consciousness.
Doctorow turns Hamlet's poetic vision into a horrific one, which gives power to that last sentence. George Bernard Shaw said something similar—something about not wanting to live eternity as George Bernard Shaw.