My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is short, direct and to the point, a little like this review. Here are the notes I made:
The problem with death
Death is an appalling and scary thought. Its hardwired into your genes to be afraid of it. Additionally, your life, when measured against the life of the universe is meaningless. Your relationships, achievements, wants, desires and fears, mean nothing. This leads to existential despair especially as belief in an afterlife is just that, a belief and not a fact.
An alternative way of thinking
This small amount of time we have doesn’t make it meaningless. It’s no more or less important that the infinitive amount of time before we were born or after we’ve gone. And by considering a life as a finite event provides meaning and urgency to our day to day activities.
So, we exist in for a certain period of time. After I die people will, in the end, forget I existed but this doesn’t mean that I will disappear from history. As we progress through our time on Earth we will experience change. Some of this change concerns loss and death. Every old moment dies and new and different one replaces it. This a good thing as everything that makes like worth living depends on this. Thinking, music, reading, you name it, all need an ever changing passage of time. What’s the alternative? Time which stops, rather like a photograph. Nothing before and nothing after. Not only will this not happen, but this would devalue life. I for one wouldn’t want it.
The message the book promotes is that we should focus on the amazing fact that we are alive at all. We get a slice of time that is ours, with all its unique things which haven’t existed before or will exist in exactly the same way again.
Essentially, the book mirrors the Humanist Manifesto, albeit in rather blunt and direct language. This is as follows:
- Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.
- Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of evolutionary change, an unguided process.
- Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.
- Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.
- Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.
- Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.
- Respect for differing yet humane views in an open, secular, democratic, environmentally sustainable society.
In summary a short and engaging read. One which should leave the reader in no doubt that his or her life matters.
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