The above image is from the Philosophy of Death and Dying course I taught at MGS in 2011.
Quote of the day on board: “Don’t look forward to the day you stop suffering, because when it comes, you’ll know you’re dead.” – Tennessee Williams
Have scholars develop their own definition of happiness based on homework. Discuss answers.
Watch Epicurus video:
FIELD TRIP: CEMETERY
Two modern views of death: deny it exists and don’t think about it due to fear OR think it’s no big deal and you don’t need to worry about it. But BOTH are misguided. We can use our lives to prepare for death. Death is a mirror in which the entire meaning of life is reflected.
Read Thomas Lynch quote.
If we’re not conscious about how we live our life, it might end up empty. Technology is great, but I’ve seen it suggested that philosophy is dying because we never have time along with ourselves and our thoughts anymore.
Read Top 5 Deathbed regrets. Is it possible that living a limited life makes every moment that much more precious?
“Sunsets and orgasms mean more precisely because, like life, they are passing moments of joy. We love variety and structure and bite size realities: nothing is special without context and limit. When and for how long are central questions about everything we do.
Letting go is a difficult skill to master. Perhaps we could learn from children. They spend the day at the beach building things that will not survive the next tide. They enjoy the process, give themselves to their activity with total devotion, take pride in what they built, and then leave it all without regrets. Adults, by contrast, want everything saved, everything to last. We seem to forget that playing for keeps is not playing at all.
Anyone can be cheerful by forgetting about death or depressed by thinking about it all the time. Mastery of life is to remember death and live joyously.” John Lachs, In Love With Life
Meditation leads to understanding the nature of mind. We might fear death because we do not know who we are. We think of ourselves as unique, but if we dare examine ourselves, we find that our identity depends on an endless collection of things to prop it up: our name, partners, family, home, job friends, credit score…. Without our props we are faced with just ourselves, a person we do not know. Isn’t that why we have tired to fill every moment of time with noise and activity, however boring or trivial, to ensure that we are never left in silence with this stranger of our own? The pace of our lives is so hectic that the last thing we have time to think of is death. We smother our secret fears of impermanence by surrounding ourselves with more and more goods, more and more things, more and more comforts, only to find ourselves their slaves. All our time and energy is exhausted simply maintaining them. Our only aim in life soon becomes to keep everything as safe and secure as possible. And our lives just slip on, and away. We start to feel like we have no control. The key is to simplify our lives! Grasping is what causes our suffering. Meditation slowly purifies the ordinary mind, unmasking and exhausting its habits and illusions, so that we can recognize who we really are.
Look at 4 Noble Truths on Handout
Try meditation on death.
Talk briefly about history of cemetery. Read Poem.
Look around you. One day we will all end up somewhere like here. All of the wisdom seems to converge. Be compassionate to others. Love as much as possible. Be moderate. Stop grasping and accept change. Including death.
Activity: Write a letter to yourself about what you think it is important to remember about living life after having reflected on your own death. I will mail it to you in 1 year.
HOMEWORK: Record a time you were truly happy. What was it about this time that made you so happy?