Thursday, April 27, 2006

The happy humanist

“Let’s suppose I’m working late in my Princeton home one fall evening, and even though it’s 2 a.m. I decide to take a walk to clear my head…I don’t plan a long walk but go down the hill to Carnegie Lake. At 2 a.m., Princeton is very still. There is music from a few dorm parties in the distance, but houses are dark and there are not streetlights. Now let us suppose I trip on a root as I walk along a steep embankment, fall forward, strike my head on a limb, and plunge into the lake. Unconscious, I sink to the bottom; my coat snags on a branch buried in the mud, and I drown.”

“No one sees me fall or hears the splash. The circles soon disappear into the smooth surface of the water, and all is quiet again. Dark stillness pervades and time passes.”

“After fifty years almost no one wonders. This book and others gather dust in the library, and silence settles over all the activity I now so vigorously sustain and intensely value. The irony is deep and powerful. All this comes to absolutely nothing. Now this is probably not how it will happen. But it will happen to me—and to you. There is not the slightest doubt that the two-dimensional world you and I now so intently sustain will come to nothing at all. This is the perfect statistic, one death per person every time in a material universe that is ultimately destined to silence. That, of course, makes our obsession with meaning, and the meanings by which we live, absurd.”

J. Loder, The Transforming Moment (Helmers & Howard 1989), 83-84.

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