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Location: New Delhi, India

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Matter of Life and Death

We have to fear death somewhere. This is because if we don't, I doubt if we would attribute any value to life. In other words, one of the main reasons we fear death is precisely because we value experience. A complete attitude of indifference to death might reduce any value whatsoever, and might produce a kind of nihilism which would justify not only the reduced worth of our own lives but also of others, thus producing a kind of psychopathic attitude, logically speaking (that is, if the principle of non-value is applied consistently.)

And again to fear death too much would be another extreme, the consequence of which is all too obvious, and here life might be valued to that extent that living itself would be paralysed because of the fear that one might lose it. In this picture I would bring in the value of comedy, or rather the comic view of life. In the latter case, the comic view of life helps because one can laugh about death, life and everything, knowing that one ought not to take it all too seriously and be willing to let it go when time calls.

But to counterbalance it, one must take the tragic view of life as in the first case, knowing all too well that death is inevitable, there is nothing one can do about it, and there is much sorrow at the loss of this grand wonder called 'life'. That's why especially we feel sadder at the death of a younger person with 'potential' because he or she hasn't ' experienced 'life ' to the uttermost. So comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin, and I say this especially to those to whom this comes as a surprise. The greatest comedians are those who are aware of this. To find out why this is so, just try telling yourself "I'm gonna die" in a funny Donald Ducky voice!
What's really interesting here is that Woody Allen explores all these themes in his movies, i.e. death, comedy, tragedy and fascism (the psychopathic mentality?) in a very fascinating way. Charlie Chaplin's done it too and for that matter all great long-lasting comedy has been doing it till now. And there's always the clown in Shakespeare's tragedy. So, in the light of all this history and histrionics, the only thing that can be said right now is, "Take my advice, adopt the tragic view of life!?...Huh!"

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Blogger Madhav said...

"Thus that which is the most awful of evils, death, is nothing to us, since when we exist there is no death, and when there is death we do not exist"--Epicurus

I think that this view of death is the best one to adhere to. It allows for one to live life as one wants to [hopefully morally] and then "face death bravely", to use the oft-used cliched. Comedy certainly should play a role in the journey that is life, but I still think that Epicurus had it spot on when he made his observation apropos death.
Then again, as far as I know, Eastern philosophy is built around what Epicurus enunciated. The theory of reincarnation and rebirth presuppose and indeed, ask for, death to be welcomed as a "liberation" for the soul before it embarks on its next corporeal journey.
That's my two cents anyway.

7:35 am  

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