What is the meaning of death?

'Bagginns' writes:
I have spent some time considering the meaning of life and have no desire to further contemplate it, however I am intrigued by its opposite and would like your input. What is the meaning of death?

I don't think death has any intrinsic meaning per se. Like the worst kind of modern art, death is meaningless, repulsive, and often involves bits of bloody offal being thrown about the place.

Still, I don't think there is necessarily anything negative about death. Some sissies, I believe, are scared of death, but I have never been among them. To me, death is a mistress, a sweet lover who beckons me to embrace her and forget all worldly woes in her consoling bosom. On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for a long courtship and playing hard to get.

Death undoubtedly has a role in the great scheme of things. If there was no death, the world would be a very overcrowded place. Everyone would have at least a thousand generations of ancestors still living and it would take forever to buy Christmas presents for them all. And with the overcrowding, each family would probably have to live in one family house, and you'd have to stay there with every member of your family who'd ever lived, and you'd never get to the bathroom, and there'd be Viking great-great-etc. grandparents singing to Odin, and Celts worshipping the house-plants, and cavemen skinning the cat, (who wouldn't be dead, just nude and outraged), and Tudor people skipping round in strange hats, and Puritans calling the telly the devil's box and frowning at you if you ate crisps before your dinner, and it'd be a real mess.

The fact of death lends urgency and sweetness to life. Anyone who is fed up with their existence should contemplate its alternative and inevitable terminus for a moment. Lie down in a ditch with your eyes shut and a wooden board over your head. Nip yourself from time to time to simulate worms eating you. Not much fun, is it? This is what it will be like when you are dead. (Or if you plan to be cremated, stick your head in an urn and squat on someone's mantelpiece.) Now - arise, Lazarus! You are alive, alive! What a sweet and joyous thing, no matter what your problems! Unless you live in Wrexham or somewhere, in which case you might as well go back to the ditch.

It may be that some forms of death have more meaning than others. Marie Curie, dying in the cause of adding to human knowledge, or Admiral Nelson, dying in the cause of ridding the world of Frenchmen, may be said to have had meaningful, noble, even enviable deaths. (Not as enviable as dying in bed at the age of 103, perhaps, or expiring in a brothel of sexual overindulgence, or drowning in a big vat of chocolate, but you know what I mean.) By contrast, the demise of my foolish cousin George, who perished while attempting to cut his own hair with a hedge-trimmer, can be seen as an example of a 'senseless death'. (Actually, it was a senseless life and an entirely logical death which was a merciful release for those around him.)

A lot depends, I suppose, on whether or not there is an afterlife and if so what form it takes. Do you get lots of free stuff - cakes, palaces, helicopters, etc.? Is there any form of judgement - does anyone point out how crap you were during your life, or are they basically nice to you and understand you had a lot to put up with? Do they sort you out with a girlfriend if you haven't got one? If you have got a girlfriend and you like her, can you ask for her to be killed quickly so she can join you? And do you have to live in a house with every member of your family who's ever lived? Theologians have wrestled with these and similar questions for centuries.

Some religions teach that upon death we are reincarnated, each time coming back as a higher being. This is of limited interest to me as I feel I have pretty much attained perfection in this lifetime and so have nowhere left to go, but for the rest of you this means that death can be seen as a form of upward mobility.

In conclusion, 'What is the meaning of death?' is a very interesting question and I wish you had asked someone else.


(Addendum: the Chinese may have the most interesting concept of death. The following are extracts from this intriguing site I just found, apparently detailing the various different types of Chinese Hells:)

Hot water boiling to hand hell

For punishing souls who are thieves, swindle, robber, sign for springing cheque. Hot water will pour on their hand.

Oil boiling and splashing to body hell

For punishing souls who make white cover books (nude), nude photos. They will forced to stand near the boiled oil pan. Then the devils will splashing the oil to their bodies

Dancing floor hell

For punishing partners or someone who like to dance & sale themselves with others heating. The floor is iron which burning until red. The souls will pushing to "dance" on the floor.

Ice hell

For punishing someone who like to show their body, make bawdy house, boast for rich, embezzle. They will freeze until reach their period.

Gouge the eyes hell

For punishing souls who insult others, peer others, dishonest, see nude or white cover books or sex movie.

Mouth goring hell

For punishing souls who have "bad mouth". They will gored by sharp rod to their mouth.

Toxic bee hell

For punishing souls who dishonor to holy things. The bees are miracle bees.

Mouse bite & cut penis hell

For punishing mans who use their penis to generate sins

Car pulling hell

For punishing souls who violated traffic regulations and have accident. They will pull the car which contain more heavy rock in it from the top of hill down to the plain via narrow route for many times a day.

Mouth opening & suck pin hell

For punishing souls who have bad voice, take habit-forming drug, blood face. They mouth will forced to open and put a thorn-ball into mouth.

Barbed wire net & brain eating grasshopper hell

For punishing souls who injustice, knowing law but self-violated law, criminally. They will put into barbed wire net area and the grasshoppers are eating their brain.

Extra-cruel burned brick hell

For punishing souls who are honor-crazy, angryful (moody), stubborn. They need to walk across 300 li (About 90 km.) of burned bricks way to exit.

Car running over body hell

For punishing souls who are sexual robber, killed others, ungrateful. The car has rough wheels and driven by 4 mules.

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18 Jun 02