Why shouldn't one fear death?

Do not fear death

I stumbled upon a quote in a podcast episode on Michel de Montaigne: "The usefulness of life does not lie in its length, but in its application." At the age of almost forty, at Montaigne Castle near Bordeaux, he retired and wrote his three-volume essays, which do not represent a philosophical system, but actual self-reflections. During this time of denominational wars, the massacre of the Huguenots and their expulsion, he hated any radicalism. Montaigne is more of a diplomat than a Catholic. He is devoted to practical issues such as raising children, married life, impotence and dealing with grief and aging. His attitude to the big existential questions becomes transparent:

"All wisdom and all reason in this world ultimately amount to teaching us that we should not fear death."

This is not just the idea of ​​a desk abuser who has read a lot of Seneca. Montaigne himself had lost five of his six children, and the plague wiped out large parts of the urban population in Bordeaux. His time was closer to death than ours. To make death taboo was not an option. But he mustn't keep us under a spell! Because death, Montaigne is convinced, does not concern us at all. "Neither if you are alive, because then you are, nor if you are dead, because then you are no longer."

A mind game

But is that true? As a living person, I can imagine that I will no longer be, that death will mean my future and thus my end, which I cannot avoid. I understand Montaigne's thoughts as a thought game that is supposed to distract us in the fear of death - just like a game - so that we can even hear the following sentence: «The usefulness of life does not lie in its length, but in its application. Some who lived briefly lived long. "

This sentence can seem terrible: it could reduce the value of a human life to what someone does, how useful someone is, what he brings about. But I understand him differently. Montaigne does not say: "Some who have lived briefly have lived, experienced, achieved or accomplished a lot (!), But rather" lived a long time ". He must therefore think of the application of life as something that gives time.

Give yourself time

Life can be life in the waiting room. Waiting for the next vacation, the dream prince, the second child, paying off the mortgage and then of course, ultimately and accompanying everything: waiting for death. In the waiting room the waiting time is long and the vacation is too short, the dream prince quickly becomes a frog and the child worries, while the mortgage does not want to get any smaller. Anyone who is waiting for April 19, for the loosening of the lock down, for the society in which they lived five weeks ago, knows it all too well.

For some, the great wait for death, when it comes to an end, is a redemption. Of yourself. But there is also this other life that gives you time: Enjoying your first fall in love without having to buy a house, watching the child forget yourself and being so caught up in the moment that it doesn't matter whether you are in Florida or on sitting on your own terrace.

A matter of interpretation

Death is a matter of interpretation. "Teach us to remember that we must die so that we may become wise," prays the psalmist. One can torment oneself with it. Always having the end in front of your eyes, thereby making every decision unnecessarily difficult and losing sight of the small things that make life great.

But one can also live life differently: “Yes”, one can answer with the psalmist, “death is coming. I know. We can't change that. That is why I lose myself in my life that was given to me and I am happy to have awakened again today. " Death is an imposition. That stays. But he cannot prevent us from living long. «Teach us to remember that we must die so that we may live long. Every moment."


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