More Quotes About Mortalityl

I've always thought that real wisdom can be found in short quotes. (Though it seems like slogans are usually a little too brief to have true smarts.) I collect quotes in a journal I keep on my PalmPilot (and I date my thoughts; looking back at past years' entries helps me see how much I've been through, and prevents time from passing through without a trace.) I've divided my skepticism- and mortality-related quotes into 5 sections: Some of these quotes are really brilliant, and without their viewpoints, I might still be a nervous wreck.


As they say in my country, the only thing that separates us from the animals are mindless superstition and pointless ritual.
Latka Gravas in "Taxi"
Since God is silent, man is his own master; he must live in a disenchanted world, submit everything to criticism, and make his own way.
Peter Gay

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
Bertrand Russell
Uncertainty in the pressure of vivid hopes and fears is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales.
Bertrand Russell
The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.
George Bernard Shaw
Rationality tied to moral decency is the most powerful joint instrument for good that our planet has ever known.
Michael Shermer
There are two types of creation myths: those where life arises out of the mud, and those where life falls from the sky.
George Dyson (in "Turing's Cathedral")
I think art should be in the place in our culture where religion used to be. Where magic used to be, there should be art.
The question is complex and life is short.
b Protagoras on the existence of the gods
It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.
Thomas Nagel
One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as 'that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you're right.' If you don't have that, if you think you've got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated.
Saul Alinsky
Death avoidance is not an individual failing; it’s a cultural one. Facing death is not for the faint-hearted. It is far too challenging to expect that each citizen will do so on his or her own. […] Adults who are racked with death anxiety are not odd birds who have contracted some exotic disease, but men and women whose family and culture have failed to knit the proper protective clothing for them to withstand the icy chill of mortality.
Caitlin Doughty, From Here to Eternity
The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.
Carl Sagan

Meaning of Life

We are here for no purpose, unless we can invent one.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird
The meaning of life is that it stops.
Franz Kafka.
But I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn't frighten me.
Richard Feynman
There ain't no answer.
There ain't going to be any answer.
There never has been an answer.
There's the answer.
Gertrude Stein
I play it cool
I dig all jive
That's the reason
I stay alive
My motto
As I live and learn
Is dig and be dug in return
Langston Hughes
Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain, perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside-- that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff. We are the Universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out.
Delenn, Babylon 5
All the molecules in your body were formed inside stars. We are the future of ancient stars.
The 1997 Nobel Conference.
People and stars are made of the same stuff.
Bill Nye the Science Guy
We are star mud, just a little wet star dust.
(More on the history of this sort of "we are star stuff" sentiment)
The best break anybody ever gets is in bein' alive in the first place. An' you don't unnerstan' what a perfect deal it is until you realizes that you ain't gone be stuck with it forever, either.
Porky Pine, in Walt Kelly's "Pogo".
To feel that life is meaningless unless 'I' can be permanent is like having fallen desperately in love with an inch.
Alan W. Watts, "The Wisdom of Insecurity"
There is no certainty; there is only adventure. Even stars explode.
Roberto Assagioli
God made mud.
God got lonesome.
So God said to some of the mud, "Sit up!" n
"See all I've made," said God, "the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
Nice going, God.
Nobody but you could have done it, God! I certainly couldn't have.
I feel very unimportant compared to You.
The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn't even get to sit up and look around.
I got so much, and most mud got so little.
Thank you for the honor!
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud to have!
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
I loved everything I saw!
Good night.
from The Last Rites of the Bokononist faith (Vonnegut)
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
Walt Whitman
Life is a search for the truth; and there is no truth
Chinese Proverb
The most terrifying fact of the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death - however mutable man may be able to make them - our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live -- moreover, the only one.
E. M. Cioran
Death destroys a man: the idea of Death saves him.
E.M. Forster, Howards End
Yet, in a bizarre, backwards way, death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured. Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.
Mark Manson
People act as if death is contagious. It's not contagious, you know. Death is as natural as life. It's part of the deal we made.
It's natural to die. The fact that we make such a big hullabaloo over it all is because we don't see ourselves as part of nature. We think because we're human we're something above nature. We're not. Everything that gets born, dies. Do you accept that?

All right. Now here's the payoff. Here is how we are different from those wonderful plants and animals. As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on--in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.

Death ends a life, not a relationship.
Morrie Schwartz, quoted in Mitch Albom's "Tuesdays with Morrie"
Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923)
A tireless French actress, Sarah went through more than 1,000 lovers in her colorful life, many of them famous writers and artists. She once observed, "It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich." Sarah often slept in a rosewood coffin lined with letters from her lovers.
World Sexual Records
I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don't respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.
Brendan Behan
Where was it ever promised us that life on this earth can ever be easy, free from conflict and uncertainty, devoid of anguish and wonder and pain? Those who seek the folly of unrelieved 'happiness'--who fear moods, who shun solitude, who do not know the diginity of occasional depression--can find bliss easily enough: in tranquilizing pills, or in senility. The purpose of life is not to be happy.
Leo Rosten
I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.
Rita Mae Brown
We are here to abet creation and to witness to it, to notice each other's beautiful face and complex nature so that creation need not play to an empty house.
Annie Dilliard.
No why. Just here.
John Cage, Life Magazine's "Why are we here"
There are no "facts"-- there is only the fact that man, every man everywhere in the world, is on his way to ordination. Some men take the long route and some take the short route. Every man is working out his own way and nobody can be of help except by being kind, generous, and patient.
Henry Miller, _Tropic of Capricorn_
Please pay attention carefully, because this is the truest thing a stranger will ever say to you: In the face of such hopelessness as our eventual, unavoidable death, there is little sense in not at least TRYING to accomplish all of your wildest dreams in life.
Kevin Smith
All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.
Ernest Hemingway
As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.
C. G. Jung
I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different.
Kurt Vonnegut

Simple Pleasures

Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.
Alice Walker
There's always a little bit of heaven, even in a disaster area.
Wavy Gravy
It's like Vegas. You're up, you're down, but in the end the house always wins. Doesn't mean you didn't have fun.
The Devil in "Deconstructing Harry", Woody Allen
I'm a good influence on everyone I meet-- but they don't realize until decades later. That's what I keep telling myself.
David Johnson, 1998-6-17
Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: This is the ideal life.
Mark Twain
The truly rich are those who enjoy what they have.
Yiddish Proverb
Thank you, God, for this good life
and forgive us if we do not love it enough.
Garrison Keillor
The next time you are contemplating a decision in which you are debating whether or not to go for the gusto, ask yourself this important question: "How long am I going to be dead?" With that perspective, you can now make a free, fearless choice to do just about any goddamned sneaky thing your devious little mind can think up. Go ahead. Have your fun. You're welcome. Go on. See you in hell.
Matt Groening, "So You Want To Have A Shameful Affair Yet Somehow Can't Justify It", Love Is Hell
Looking back on your life, what would you say satisfied you most?"
"...I'd say women.
Interviewer and Man Ray
There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.
George Santayana
So, if happiness isn't being rich, then it's probably not being middle class, which means you're just as likely to find it at rock bottom, which doesn't require all the effort, and hell, I'm already there.
Jake, "Staggering Heights"
Life can then little else supply
But a few good fucks and then we die
John Wilkes
I've had a pretty good lesson in human nature. It's more important to try to surround yourself with people who can give you a little happiness, because you only pass through this life once, Jack. You don't come back for an encore.
Elvis Presley
Look, I really don't want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you're alive, you got to flap your arms and legs, you got to jump around a lot, you got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death. And therefore, as I see it, if you're quiet, you're not living. You've got to be noisy, or at least your thoughts should be noisy and colorful and lively.
Mel Brooks
You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.
Woody Allen
O Mighty King, remember now that only gods stay in eternal watch.
Humans come then go,
that is the way fate decreed on the Tablets of Destiny.
So someday you will depart, but till that distant day Sing, and dance.
Eat your fill of warm cooked food and cool jugs of beer.
Cherish the children your love gave life.
Bathe away life's dirt in warm drawn waters.
Pass the time in joy with your chosen wife.
On the Tablets of Destiny it is decreed
For you to enjoy short pleasures for your short days.
Siduri, "Epic of Gilgamesh"
All the things we value, however rare, however small, that give point or meaning to our lives -- the friendships, loves and absurdities; those soundscaped memories entwined with shared passions and glances that magically ensnare and enfold; the intoxications of wines and words, and wayward musings and music, with which we wrestle into misty slumbering nights, our senses revived by sparkling waters, much needed at dawn; the seascapes of wild waves, mysterious moonlights and images and widening skies that stretch the eyes -- do indeed all cease to exist; and curiously the most enchanting are oft those which we lose ourselves and also cease to be -- yet they, and we, existed at some time remains timelessly true, outside of all time.
Peter Cave, from "Can a Robot be Human?", emphasis added.
When we gittee back from de funeral, tain nobody in de house but me and Seely. De house was full but now it empty. We old folks now and we know we ain' going have no mo' chillun. We so lonesome, but we know we cain gittee back de dead. When de spit goes from de mouf, it doan come back. When de earth eats, it doan give back. So we try to keep one 'nother comp'ny and be happy.
Cudjo Lewis, last known surviving man to have been brought to the United States from Africa as a slave, describing losing his two children in quick succession. Interviewed by Zora Neale Hurston in the recently published "Barracoon"
Life always has an unhappy ending, but you can have a lot of fun along the way, and everything doesn't have to be dripping in deep significance.
Roger Ebert.
Death may be knocking on my door, but I'm not getting out of this glorious bath to answer it.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Struggle of Life

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns, and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.
James Baldwin
Don't take life so serious, son... it ain't no how permanent.
Walt Kelly's "Pogo"
As for those who so exalt incorruptibility, inalterability, I believe they are brought to say these things through their great desire to live a long time and through the terror they have of death. And not considering that, if men were immortal, these men would not have had an opportunity to come into the world. They would deserve to encounter a Medusa’s head, which would transform them into statues of jasper or of diamond, to make them more perfect than they are . . . And there is not the slightest doubt that the Earth is far more perfect, being, as it is, alterable, changeable, than if it were a mass of stone, even if it were a whole diamond, hard and impenetrable.
Galileo Galilei, Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi, giornata I
I am not in favor of immortality. I believe death for humans is the way of getting rid of accumulated errors - as in trial and error. Without death, the old folks would start to gang up on the babies (the new trials). Immortality ---> immortal mistakes.
Esther Dyson
Death is a tragedy until you realize lack of Death is also a tragedy.
Listen, when I was a kid, my mother said to me: 'Bruce, one day you're going to die. You're going to die if you worry or you don't worry.' I was brought up with that philosophy, so I don't worry.
Bruce Everiss
Man, as we know him, is a poor creature; but he is halfway between an ape and a god and he is traveling in the right direction.
Dean William R. Inge
Death is the lot of us all, and the only way that the human race has ever conquered death is by treating it with contempt. By living every golden minute as if one had all Eternity...
Robert A. Heinlein
We should think more about it, and accustom ourselves to the thought of death. We can't allow the fear of death to creep up on us unexpectedly. We have to make the fear familiar, and one way is to write about it. I don't think writing and thinking about death is characteristic only of old men. I think that if people began thinking about death sooner, they'd make fewer foolish mistakes.
It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.
Hugh Laurie
There's an old joke. Uh, two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of 'em says, 'Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.' The other one says, 'Yeah, I know, and such small portions.' Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.
Woody Allen, Annie Hall
Each day is a little life; every waking and rising a little birth; every fresh morning a little youth; every going to rest and sleep a little dearth.
Arthur Schopenhauer
It's a shallow life that doesn't give a person a few scars.
Mr. Blue, 1999-10-26
Everything summons us to death; nature, as if envious of the good she had done us, announces to us often and reminds us that she cannot leave us for long that bit of matter she lends us, which must not remain in the same hands, and which must eternally be in circulation: she needs it for other forms, she asks it back for other works.
Bossuet, Sermon sur la mort
All energy is borrowed, and someday you have to give it back.
It is not true that life is one damn thing after another -- it's one damn thing over and over.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Of course, degeneration is programmed into our DNA: Nature seems to want us to reproduce and then fall by the wayside. But your generation wants to hang onto its youth into its 90s, on the theory that if you stay around long enough maybe you can get your life together.
After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box.
Italian Proverb
I am not dying, not anymore than any of us are at any moment. We run, hopefully as fast as we can, and then everyone must stop. We can only choose how we handle the race.
Hugh Elliott
Life is so short, it's like a vapor. Here today, gone tomorrow. And there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing at all. So I don't have any advice for anybody except appreciate your loved ones around you--your family, friends, or whatever, because death is quicker than you think.
Beverly Valentine, Funeral Home Director.
Your life would be very empty if you had nothing to regret.
Sisyphus has a sense of playfulness [...]
you have to look at it from the rock's point of view.
Pointy Haired Boss, Dilbert (TV)
Today is the first day of the rest of your short, brutish existence as a sentient creature before being snuffed out into utter nothingness for all eternity.
Matt Groening
It's either mean or it's arbitrary, and either way I've got the heebie-jeebies.
I'll never make that mistake again, reading the experts' opinions. Of course, you only live one life, and you make all your mistakes, and learn what not to do, and that's the end of you.
Richard Feynman, "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"
What if it is for life's sake that we must die? In truth we are not individuals; and it is because we think ourselves such that death seems unforgivable. We are temporary organs of the race, cells in the body of life; we die and drop away that life may remain young and strong. If we were to live forever, growth would be stifled, and youth would find no room on earth. Death, like style, is the removal of rubbish, the circumcision of the superfluous. In the midst of death life renews itself immortally.
Will Durant
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything-- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. [...] No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.
Mr. Rogers
However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe--and I am dead serious when I say this--do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.
Against other things it is possible to obtain security, but when it comes to death we human beings all live in an unwalled city.
Logotherapy, keeping in mind the essential transitoriness of human existence, is not pessimistic but rather activistic. To express this point figuratively we might say: The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadmess that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? "No, thank you," he will think, "Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy."
Victor Frankl, from "Man's Search for Meaning"
Sure it mattered. When you get to my age you discover that everything mattered. Life isn't a series of good and bad choices. It's harder to steer it one way or the other than most people think. You just get pulled along. You look back and you wonder 'could I have changed the course of my life?' Maybe you could've ... but it would probably have taken a tremendous force of will.
Old Man in Seth's "It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken"
A realistic expectation also demands our acceptance that one's allotted time on earth must be limited to an allowance consistent with the continuity of our species... We die so that the world may continue to live. We have been given the miracle of life because trillions and trillions of living things have prepared the way for us and then have died--in a sense, for us. We die, in turn, so that others may live. The tragedy of a single individual becomes, in the balance of natural things, the triumph of ongoing life.
Dr. Sherwin Nuland
I've always had sort of an ironic view of life. My belief system is that when this is over, it's over. That you don't look down from heaven and wait for your loved ones to join you. There may be some soul activity, but I'm not sure about that. But what I am sure about is that your molecules continue and in due time become something else. That's science.

And that works for me. So that if this is it, you better take it at its right proportion. That there are serious things, but most things are temporal and ephemeral, and you should cultivate that attitude. That joy and love and all the verities are what counts. So I try not to take too many things seriously, and if I find myself caught up in the seriousness of the moment, within a period of time, I'm able to cajole myself out of it.
William Shatner, from the History Channel documentary How "William Shatner Changed the World"
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.
Richard Dawkins
It's really amazing how incredibly fast life goes. Boom! You're born. You go through life, meeting troubles along the way, but you overcome those troubles, and you have a blast. And before you know it, you're dead. If that ain't beauty, I don't know what is.
Arjay Flecher
"By our age, Billy, we should have come to terms with this stuff."
"Have you?"
"I think so. It's like a nap, only you don't wake up and have to find your shoes."
John Updike, in "Rabbit Remembered"
Death is slotted for us all, and maybe it is years from now - in a soft bed, surrounded by the soft eyes of the people that we love - or, maybe, it is not so many years from now at all. And we have every reason to be afraid. But we also need to learn to put that fear aside, like a library book. Sometimes we need to check out our fear, and- and- and read it, and- and study it and peruse it closely, but at a certain point return it to its proper shelf and experience something else.





Spinal parasites.

And a great deal of love, of every kind.

So put that fear in a place where you can find it when you need it, but don't carry it with you! Don't carry it with you.
Welcome to Nightvale, via
1991 is gone already! Time goes faster and faster! And every day, our lives grow shorter!"
"You're such a pessimist ... I like to think every day our lives get longer."
Arlo & Janis
It's all right, children. Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it.
Kermit as Bob Cratchit, "The Muppet Christmas Carol"

Death Ain't So Bad

Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going --
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.
Kozan Ichikyo, on the morning of his death (February 12, 1360, at the age of 77.)
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.
from Courage, by Anne Sexton
"i hope death is like being carried to your bedroom when you were a child & fell asleep on the couch during a family party. i hope you can hear the laughter from the next room"
lilies abounded @petfurniture
Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death--ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us.
James Baldwin, "The Fire Next Time"
Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.
From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
from Algernon Charles Swinburne, "The Garden of Proserpine"
"Your life's continual task is to build your death. You are *in* death while you are *in* life: when you are no more *in* life you are after death. Or if you prefer it thus: after life you are dead, but during life you are dying: and death touches the dying more harshly than the dead, in a more lively a fashion and more essentially."
Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.
Isaac Asimov
Nobody wants to die. People don't mind being dead. Being dead is great! But getting dead...nobody wants to get dead.
George Carlin
You've been dead before, remember. What was the first 15 billion years of the universe like for you? poster, responding to my fear of missing out on the Universe after I die
You may be gone tomorrow, but that doesn't mean that you weren't here today.
moriturism: (n.) a tiny jolt of awareness that someday you will die, which leaves you lying awake in bed whispering silently to yourself, *Oh, right, this is it*; an unsettling reminder that your life is not just a game you're playing or a story you'll be telling later, but your one and only glimpse of what the universe has to offer, like a kid waking up in the back seat of the family car at night, having just pulled into a bright neon gas station, looking around for a moment or two, before settling back in for the long road trip, sleeping for miles and miles off into the dark.
John Koenig, "The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows"
Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.
Orson Welles
Nothing lasts forever, not even the world. So patch the holes and change the parts while we've still got it.
Heather Anne Campbell, quoting or paraphrasing the game "Death Stranding"
Hey, what's the matter?"
"I'm sad because you're going to die."
"Yeah, that bugs me sometimes too. But not so much as you think... ...When you get as old as I am, you start to realize that you've told most of the good stuff you know to other people anyway.
Richard Feynman and Danny Hillis.
One thing I've absolutely noticed about myself, and which should be true as you get older: it's not that you want to die, but you are less attached to life. You're less panicked.
Fran Lebowitz
If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture -- that is immortality enough for me.
Edward Abbey
I think that the dying pray at the last not "please," but "thank you," as a guest thanks his host at the door. Falling from airplanes the people are crying thank you, thank you, all down the air; and the cold carriages draw up for them on the rocks.
Annie Dillard, from "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek".
At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens — that letting go — you let go because you can.
Toni Morrison, Tar Baby
I do not fear death.
I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.
Roger Ebert
Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.
Spent the first two days home kind of free-falling from the meds / lack of meds and the paralyzing realization that nothing matters. Luckily that was followed by the motivating revelation that nothing matters.
Sarah Silverman
If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life - and only then will I be free to become myself.
Martin Heidegger
I suppose it's time to go, though I would rather stay.
Abraham Lincoln (quoted in the movie "Lincoln")
No computer has ever been designed that is ever aware of what it's doing, but most of the time, we aren't either.
Marvin Minsky
Vision: Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won't be. But there is grace in their failings. I think you missed that.
Ultron: They're doomed!
Vision: Yes... but a thing isn't beautiful because it lasts. It is a privilege to be among them.
"Age of Ultron"
After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. You know the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all-- the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.
Dumbledore, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", J.K.Rowling
I think dead is really a thing just like alive except you have less choices to make.
Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig
Death would be much more terrifying if it was actually possible to live forever
I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.
You may look upon the future and behold: It will be boring.
Robert Gilmore
Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.
The Movie "Gladiator"
"How do you know I'd be afraid?" Lloyd said, "How do you know that would be the last thing I'd feel?"
"I don't know that." Shwartz *tick-ticked*ed the pen. "You can never know. That's what's terrible about death."
"Lots of things you don't know when you're alive. So what's the difference?"
Schwartz's fingers stopped, and he stared at Lloyd as though he had seen him purely and for the first time.
Thomas H. McNeely, from "Sheep"
Like everyone else, you want to learn the way to win, but never to accept the way to lose, to accept defeat, to learn to die is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes, you must free your ambitious mind, and learn the art of dying.”
Bruce Lee
Consider the fact that, in a few years, I shall be dead. This fact can seem depressing. But the reality is only this. After a certain time, none of the thoughts and experiences that occur will be directly causally related to this brain, or be connected in certain ways to these present experiences. This is all this fact involves. And, in that description, my death seems to disappear.
Derek Parfit
Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.
George Bernard Shaw
You are a beautiful person, Doctor. Clearheaded. Strong. But you seem always to be dragging your heart along the ground. From now on, little by little, you must prepare yourself to face death. If you devote all of your future energy to living, you will not be able to die well. You must begin to shift gears, a little at a time. Living and dying are, in a sense, of equal value.
Haruki Murakami, "Thailand"
I'll tell you a secret. Something they don't teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we're mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.
Achilles, the movie "Troy"
I often dream about falling. Such dreams are commonplace to the ambitious or those who climb mountains. Lately I dreamed I was clutching at the face of a rock, but it would not hold. Gravel gave way. I grasped got a shrub, but it pulled loose, and in cold terror I fell into the abyss. Suddenly I realized that my fall was relative; there was no bottom and no end. A feeling of pleasure overcame me. I realized that what I embody, the principle of life, cannot be destroyed. It is written into the cosmic code, the order of the universe. As I continued to fall in the dark void, embraced by the vault of the heavens, I sang to the beauty of the starts and made my peace with the darkness.
Heinz Pagels, physicist and quantum mechanics researcher before his death in a 1988 climbing accident
Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything.
Saul Bellow
As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.
Leonardo da Vinci
Tennessee Williams once wrote, "We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it." In a certain sense, the playwright was correct. Yes, but oh! What a view from that upstairs window! What Tennessee failed to mention was that if we look out of that window with an itchy curiosity and a passionate eye; with a generous spirit and a capacity for delight; and, yes, the language with which to support and enrich the things we see, then it DOESN'T MATTER that the house is burning down around us. It doesn't matter. Let the motherfucker blaze!
Tom Robbins, "Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates"
That's not going to get better.
Doesn't seem so.
Bad way to go. Haven't you had enough?
Of what? ...I know. Time to go. Take matters into me own hands. The thought has occurred to me.
So why go on?
Nothing could be worse than this.
Maybe nothing is worse than this.
Nothing isn't better, or worse, than anything. Nothing is just nothing.
Game of Thrones, "Mockingbird", when Arya and The Hound meet an older man, griveously wounded and bleeding out through his belly.
Aging well is largely a process of recognizing what you don't need to worry about, one thing at a time, until, presumably, you winnow it down to life itself and find you can easily let that go too.
My grandfather was a painter ... was looking at me and he said "Harry, there are two kinds of tired, there's good-tired, and there's bad-tired. Ironically enough, bad-tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people's battles, you lived other people's days, other peoples agendas, other people's dreams - and when it was all over there was very little "you" in there, and when you hit the hay at night, somehow you toss and turn, you don't settle easy. Good-tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost. But you don't have to tell yourself, because you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days, and when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy - you sleep the sleep of the just, and you can say "take me away". Now, Harry, all my life I've painted... God I would've loved to be more successful, but I have painted and I have painted, and I am good-tired, and they can take me away.
from Harry Chapin's Gold Medal collection

Related Links

  • Dead Man Talking: A Dialog with Tom Parmenter. In 2013, Tom Parmenter died. But, he got better. He lived - and is still living - a rich life, with journalism and music and his lovely wife Ann. In 2016 we met over dinner and had lovely conversation. I recorded it and had it transcribed.
  • A cool Buzzfeed piece I Asked Atheists How They Find Meaning In A Purposeless Universe... some great answers here, even if I think "purpose" is an emergent property, not something that has to be added from outside the system.
  • David Cortesi has made the entire text of his book Secular Wholeness online, including the chapter Dancing With Mister D. Cortesi offers a way for skeptics to find a kind of spirituality in their lives.
  • People interested in this kind of topic may want to check out Regrets of the Dying... even if you have accepted the concept of death, there are certainly things you may wish you did during life -- do things now while you still have the chance!
  • I considered using this photo by J.S. Drewnicki on the front page of this guide, but couldn't quite figure out how to rearrange the page. Still, it's the most evocative graveyard photo I've ever seen.
  • This Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic emphasizes the idea that you're going to die, but you can squeeze a lot of lives in there.
  • Jean Charlot's Dance of Death consists of 50 comics and captions, and is now available online.