[ 3 min read ]
In your commencement speech for the graduating class of 2005 at Stanford University you said (I quote):
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
This is what you believed was true about us, all human beings. You said that because this was your way of looking at life. That’s how you saw things. And you assumed, as we very often do (erroneously!), that this is how we all look at life. And you were wrong.
Which doesn’t surprise me because I don’t believe there are people in this world who are always right, who always have only great (flawless) thoughts or ideas, who will be able to always tell us what will happen and when, etc. In my opinion such people don’t exist.
No matter how smart someone is (was), or how successful, he or she can still say things which will not be the truth or will not hold water, he or she can fail to predict the future, or can share an idea / theory which (for some reason) is flawed.
I think the first part is not how it really is. Some people want to die, especially those who want to go to heaven or some other place which is being advertised to them as a better place, or who believe that they will meet their loved ones there. That’s probably the only way we can persuade someone to sacrifice his life, to leave this place and travel to this other destination. Very sick and / or very old people also sometimes want to die.
The second part I agree with (“death is the destination we all share”). From what I see I conclude that death is the destination we all share. I can’t (I don’t have any reason) to conclude that death is not the destination we all share. Not with the set of beliefs that are in my head right now. I see all human beings as mortal because I see what happens with humans all over the world — they die (of diseases, old age, in accidents, from the hand of another human being, etc.). Of course, I can disagree with how we call it (we called it death — it’s death only to us human beings; death as a word, no matter the human language, doesn’t exist beyond our human world, we invented that word and only we use it) and thus say that I don’t agree with you that death is the destination we all share. If I don’t call it death I will not agree with what you said. I could agree if you made a silent animation about dying without mentioning the words “death” and “to die”. I would see the story and nod my head in agreement and think “Yes Steve, you’re right. That’s the way it is.”
“Nobody has ever escaped it [death]”? I can agree with that too. There is nothing currently which would even hint to me that this might not be how it is in this world.
“And that is as it should be”. I don’t know how it should be. How should I know such a thing? It would mean that it is planned (someone designed it to be a certain way). Even if I believed there was a plan what guarantee do I have (can I have a guarantee?) that what I know (about the plan), what I bought into, is the truth? I can’t.
“Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” This is brilliant! I love the way you put it.