Vonnegut: The Tralfamadorian view of death

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The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral....It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.

The narrator in Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007)

 

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay


Saint Columba: Today is truly my Sabbath

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Scripture calls this day the Sabbath, which means "rest." Today is truly my Sabbath,
for it is my last day in this wearisome life, when I shall keep the Sabbath after my troublesome labours.
 
Saint Columba on his deathbed, according to The Life of Columba, by Adomnán of Iona, tr Richard Sharpe
 
 
Picture by William Ballengall (1874), from the British Library

Confucius: We do not know life, how can we know death?

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Ji Lu asked about the best way to serve ghosts and spirits. The master said, "You have not yet served humans well, how is it you wonder about ghosts and spirits?" Ji Lu ventured to ask about death. The master said, "We do not yet understand life, how could we understand death?"

  --Confucius (ca 551–479 BC), as quoted in The Analects, 先進 (Xian Jin). 

季路問事鬼神。子曰:「未能事人,焉能事鬼?」敢問死。曰:「未知生,焉知死?」


Mary Frye: Do not stand at my grave and weep

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Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

       --Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004). According to Wikipedia, she wrote this poem when a young German-Jewish woman who was staying with her family in Baltimore, Maryland, in the 1930s, when Nazis had taken over Germany, told her how sad she was that when her mother died in Germany, she could not be there to "stand by my mother's grave and shed a tear." The poem has been put to music many times.