|"The Gravedigger Scene" by Eugene Delacroix (1839)|
One of the most wonderful things about mortality as a condition is that it makes you feel like you will live forever. You have probably seen elderly people who are totally incapable of taking a philosophical attitude toward a minor dispute. They’ll develop a grudge towards another elderly neighbor in the nursing home or assisted living community as if they had all the time in the world. And hope springs eternal even for those who’re on they’re last legs. For these creatures, the deus ex machina of Greek tragedy, is a reality. They live for serendipity. They may never have contributed to society or shown any talent for anything but there’s always the dream that they will finally be discovered. Isn’t that what happened with Pip? He thought it was Miss Havisham, but it was really the convict Magwitch who had never forgotten about his benefactor. Yes, perhaps there's some great deed you committed that even you have forgotten. Of course the most simple thing to say is that no one recognizes their mortality because it’s too upsetting so all the petty larceny that infects human relationships and which appears to hang on until the end is only a cheery diversion which helps humans avoid the awful truth, ie. they're no more significant than the ant that's stepped on. There’s no soul or eternal life. Nothing more awaits even the proudest products of the species than the prospect of oblivion in which all of mankind will one day be forgotten forever.