George Heym: Last Wake
Martin Greif: Stranger at home

Socrates on Death

  Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great reason to hope that death is a good; for one of two things, either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Gisante_esprit_de_sel_flickr Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain. For if a person were to select the night in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams, and were to compare with this the other days and nights of his life, and then were to tell us how many days and nights he had passed in the course of his life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think that any man, I will not say a private man, but the greatest king will not find many such days or nights, when compared to the others. Now if death be of such a nature, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead abide, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this?

Island_of_the_dead_boecklin_2

If indeed when the pilgrim arrives in the world below, he is delivered from the professors of justice in this world, and finds the true judges who are said to give judgement there . . . that pilgrimage will be worth taking. What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus  and Hesiod and Homer? Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again! . . . Above all, I shall then be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in the next; and I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not. . . . In another world they do not put a man to death for asking questions: assuredly not. For besides being happier than we are, they will also be immortal, if what is said is true.

    Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know of a certainty, that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly that the time had arrived when it was better for me to die and be released from trouble. . . .

   The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our separate ways, I to die, and you to live. Which of these two is better only God knows.

    --Socrates (ca 470 BC- 399 BC), cited by Plato (ca 427-347 BC). Translated by Benjamin Jowett (1817-1893) in The Dialogues of Plato, Volume 2, translated by Benjamin Jowett, 3rd Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1892), pages 109-135.

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