Christian resurrection ? Buddhist reincarnation ? Sorry, but pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die, or the rat-race of rebirth, waiting for Godot or Nirvana, are both literally incredible exercises in wishful thinking that feed on the fear of ceasing to exist. Eulogies based on either myth are an insult to intelligence. But we can live on, after shedding this mortal coil. Many will, for better or for worse, leave the legacy of children (which is the only real purpose, dixit Darwin, of our existence, “non obstante” the celibate Catholic clergy), real estate, books, works of art or of engineering, enterprises of whatever type or dimension, or at least the mark we will have made on memories as celebrities of world or local renown, or nobodies, remembered by just one or two survivors who knew us, waiting their turn to die. In this sense, Napoleon lives on. So do Hitler, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, St Vincent de Paul, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jesus and Mahomet, as do deceased parents, siblings, husbands, wives, children, dear friends and hated enemies. Whether six feet deep or housed in an urn on the mantelpiece, or like Clementine, lost and gone forever, without a trace, like soldiers and terrorist victims, blown literally to smithereens, the faithful and other departed – all the above are no more. We may never understand why from dust we came and to dust we must return, why we emerged from non-being to go back, after more or less four score and ten, to non-existence. But once we realize that this is it, that the life we now live is the only life we will ever have, we may learn to make the most of it. Carpe diem !
P.S. Artificial Intelligence promises us not immortality but indefinitely renewable extensions of life. I’ll not be around to see whether anybody will actually achieve this aptly named new lease on life. Those rich dreamers who pay a fortune to be frozen solid, in expectation of a cure for the disease that killed them, have Buckley’s chance of another crack at life. Given the opportunity for either, I would not be tempted. People have been asking me for years to give them a break . . .