What Matters Most When All Is Said And Done – A Blast From the Past, October 2008

Thought out of nowhere — or perhaps not since I’ve “faced” this in many books and stories, from Tom in Draw One In The Dark facing the Great Sky Dragon and knowing there’s no way he walks out of there alive, to the girl in Something Worse Hereafter — in the Wings collection — who knows she’s dead, but there’s a second death and not how permanent, to probably countless others I’ve forgotten.

Those last few minutes fascinate me.  Oh, people die in their sleep, people die without knowing they’re going to die, but I suspect most of us are starkly wide awake for the end and we know there’s no return, that this time there will be no save.  We come into the world without knowing ourselves, and all the time we’ve known ourselves we’ve been alive.  How is it to face the undiscovered country?

This is wholly separate from religion, btw.  I’m one of those for whom faith requires and effort and a silencing of the mind.  I know what they say is on the other side, but is there?  Curiously I never doubt those I love or have loved go on, cats and dogs and people alike.  The world would have to be a nonsensical thing and life less than sound and fury for death to erase my beloved paternal grandmother, my flawed maternal grandfather or the childhood friend who died much too young.  It would have to be a strange place to have forever destroyed Petronius the Arbiter, cat from Hades.  No, somewhere I’m sure they’re alive and still integrally themselves, as is Pixel the “speaker to the humans” orange fuzzball I miss everyday.

But those people — yeah, cats are people too, got a problem? — were special individuals, in their own way saints of heroes or… bigger than life.  As for me, who am none of those, who can tell? I have a vague idea life continues in some form and hope there will be books and cats, if I’ve been very, very good, but the preferred outcome might be that there is nothing but oblivion.  Perhaps this makes me morbid, but my secret wish is that there is literally nothing on the other side.  Just… as though I’d never existed.  After life’s fitful fever (s)he sleeps well and all that.

Once I came  close enough to those final moments that it seemed a sure thing.  In fact, during an eleven day stay in hospital I came close to crossing that gateway at least twice.  (Might have been three times.  My blood ox was so low most of the time, that I don’t remember very clearly.  Brain damaged, I tell you.)  So… what was there?

Well, like the prospect of being hanged in the morning, coming face to face with your mortality at 33 does concentrate the mind wonderfully.  There are so many things I want, so many things I think, so many things I am.  And then when it all came to the end, in the silence at the eye of the storm, it all settled down and simplified.  I regretted leaving my husband and was sure if there was something on the other side, I WOULD miss him; I worried for my boys, then one and five.  But above all, around all, I felt as if the novels and stories I’d never written — at the time I was unpublished and had only written five? novels — were screaming at having to die with me.

Yes, my life changed after I got better and left the hospital.  At many times and places people have told me I need to close the office door.  I need to keep the kids out.  I must swat the cats off the keyboard.  I can’t stop in midst novel to go cuddle my husband.  Pardon me but… poppycock.  What comes after is a mystery, but one thing I know and that is that if any form of awareness or thought or memory subsists, I’ll miss my family and friends.  I’m not a good person, but those I love — and not just in terms of sexual love, but my friends too, those I refer to as being “within the magic circle” yes, even my e-daughters and other friends that I’ve only met online 🙂 — I love deeply and I enjoy their company and I will do so as long as I can.

The other thing is that I started taking the writing more seriously — without neglecting my family or friends.  It went from being a whishful, sort of hobby that might one day be a job, and it became a driving passion.  And the reason I write as much as I do.  I don’t want those stories to die unread, in my head.  Life is too important to waste, unlived.  And stories are born to be heard.

Other than that?  I don’t know.  I’ve faced it so many times in writing — what will it be like in real life, and how will I feel when it comes?  One thing I know — it will come.  It sounds like one of those sixties truisms, like “we’re all naked under our clothes” but life TRULY is a fatal condition, and everyone dies eventually.  To pretend otherwise robs our life of urgency and strength.

All I can hope is that if I’m required to face it before I expect to, I’ll do so with courage, because whether there’s nothing on the other side; whether the dreary dust-world of the ancients lurks; whether ressurection and eternal life looms…  in all of those, I’m sure that for those left behind the manner of one’s death will count.  For some reason — probably the movie — I’m thinking of the Greeks at the Hot Gates.  The manner of their death sure as hell mattered.

And for the rest, I’ll leave it in the words of one of those men long dead who I’m sure is alive and vibrant somewhere, and probably still writing:

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

174 responses to “What Matters Most When All Is Said And Done – A Blast From the Past, October 2008

  1. It would be easier if there was no other side – then what I do today would not matter in the least. That there is an other side ensures that I hold myself to a higher standard than I otherwise might. That there is an other side gives me comfort that I will one day see my sister, my grandparents, and my friends that were taken from this life entirely too early in theirs, and mine.

    That there is an other side where I might have to answer for what I have done, and not done, scares the ever living crap out of me.

    • It would be easier if there was no other side – then what I do today would not matter in the least.

      Bullshit. Other side or not, what Leonidas, Washington, Lincoln, Chamberlain, Patton, and Pratchett did fucking mattered.

  2. Only the soul matters, in the end.

    (gee, what books am I re-reading? lol)

    • The more we learn about the workings of the soul’s material host — one of the symptoms of Type II Diabetes is irritability, Testosterone can cause uncontrollable rage, the effects of Oxytocin in a mother’s brain — cause me to wonder about the degree to which the soul is but a skiff on a storm-toss’t sea.

      Talk about being up hormone creek with no paddle – small wonder so many grasp for a meaning to Life!

    • Eh, that’s one view.

      Believing as I do in the resurrection of body, I can’t say that.

    • No; no pi for you. Pi are squared and you’ve been around.

      • I have knitted more than one of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Pie Shawls. I have yet to undertake her Pie Are Square shawl.

        http://www.knitpicks.com/Pie+Are+Square+Shawl_PD30342223.html

        Because.

        • Sara the Red

          Oooh…I may have to give that one a go!!!

          Does she have the pattern for her Pie Shawl up at Knitpicks, too?

          • Elizabeth Zimmerman died November 30, 1999 at the age of 89. She founded Schoolhouse Press in the 1950s. Her daughter Meg now runs the business.

            The pattern has appeared in both Elizabeth’s book Knitting Around and in Knitters magazine. (The original Pi shawl was published in Elizabeth’s book Knitter’s Almanac which has been republished by Dover Books.

      • There have been times I’ve wanted to make a round cornbread and a square pie. Haven’t done so – yet.

        • Cornbread muffins — an idea worth trying!

          • I have (or rather Mom does, which is very nearly the same thing) a round ceramic pampered chef baking dish. It makes the best crust on cornbread. I think it is technically a ten inch deep dish pie plate.

            I shouldn’t like to try a pie pastry with corners, but a shepherd’s pie does very well in a square pan, though mine generally end up in rectangular because two 11″x13″ pans hold about the right amount.

            • RealityObserver

              Took me a bit of blinking to realize you meant the Pampered Chef brand.

              I mean, I’m NICE to my baking dishes, but I don’t think I pamper them…

              • Not using steel wool on ceramic is about the most pampering my baking dishes get. (Estate sales are the BEST place to get Corning Ware and other high-quality baking gear. “Grandma/Mom cooked but I don’t. Fifty cents, please.” And thus I scored eight pieces of CorningWare, with lids. Mwa ha ha.)

    • Correction: 6.283185

      (See tauday.com/tau-manifesto for an explanation on why the correction is needed.)

  3. Had you died back when, think of all the friendships that would have never been. Think of the enemies you would not have made — to have never become the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess?

    Think of having gone to meet your maker without having ever come out of the political/moral closet cocoon.

    Some of us certainly appreciate your having the kindness to linger somewhat longer on this orb.

  4. Who is more moral, a human that adheres to a moral code because he as an intrinsic and well-defined sense of the good, or one that behaves out of fear of the big guy in the sky that will poke him with pitchforks in the afterlife?

    • Where did he get that “intrinsic and well-defined sense of the good”? Is it an ethos that would be universally recognized as “good” or might it be something more along the lines of Hannibal Lecter’s sense of good?

      What if adherence to the instructions of the “big guy in the sky” is motivated not by fear but by love of Him and a desire to be more pleasing to Him?

      Questions of “who is more moral” strike me as unproductive and unanswerable … except as self-flattery. Loaded questions have been known to blow up in the asker’s face.

      • William O. B'Livion

        There is, at least for non-psychopaths, an inbuilt sort of proto-morality seems to emerge as “theory of mind” is developed leading to a VERY narrow tribalism (immediate family).

    • SheSellsSeashells

      Put as courteously as possible, I’ve never personally met one of these people who behave out of fear. Even the most hamhandedly moralistic friends I’ve had have been trying to Do Right out of love or at least respect for the big guy in the sky. I fear people who adhere to their morals out an of intrinsic and well-defined sense of the good for the same reason I fear anybody else: humans are persuasive and so very good at talking themselves into a perception of the good that suits them. This is also a major, major reason why my politics are conservative.

      • William O. B'Livion

        >Even the most hamhandedly moralistic friends I’ve had have
        > been trying to Do Right out of love or at least respect for the
        > big guy in the sky.

        You mean like ISIS?

        > fear people who adhere to their morals out an of intrinsic
        > and well-defined sense of the good for the same reason
        > I fear anybody else: humans are persuasive and so very
        > good at talking themselves into a perception of the good
        > that suits them.

        You mean like The Lord coming down an scattering peoples to the ends of the earth and confusing their tongues means it’s ok to enslave them?

        • You mean like ISIS?

          Thus demonstrating the asininity of the original question. Who is “more moral” generally depends on the morality one advocates far more than on how one’s morality is sourced.

        • SheSellsSeashells

          …I did mention “friends I have had”, yes? 🙂 And ISIS activities, so far as I can tell or theorize, seem to fall more under “talking themselves into a perception that suits them”.

        • >Even the most hamhandedly moralistic friends I’ve had have
          > been trying to Do Right out of love or at least respect for the
          > big guy in the sky.

          You mean like ISIS?

          Do you really want to try to argue that ISIS is acting out of fear that “the big guy in the sky that will poke him with pitchforks in the afterlife” if they do not?

          • Is jihad a tenet of Islam or not?

            • Define Jihad. So far there seem to be some very different definitions of the word.

              OMG! Islam has sects!!!!! Good thing there’s nothing like that going on in Christianity!

              • So in those sects that teach jihad as a divine directive, yes some number of jihadis are acting out of fear of divine wrath.

              • “Jihad” is required, no matter which flavor of Islam you belong to. Now, is it “armed struggle” as is the traditional understanding of the word, or is it “interior struggle” aka “the Greater and Lesser Jihad?” That concept developed in South Asia in the 1860s and 1870s, following the exclusion of Muslims from British Colonial contracts and employment following the Sepoy Rebellion. As I understand it, if you were to ask the scholars at Cairo University, or the Ulema in Saudi, among others, they would say that the second meaning of “jihad” is a late, non-Koranic misinterpretation. Assuming you are not speaking to someone who is practicing kitman/taqiya.

            • If you’d like to make the case for ISIS is doing what they do out of fear of god, rather than trying to get me to make it for you, go ahead.

              Begging the question in the same way that the claim that started this did won’t do the trick.

              • ISIS doesn’t have motivations. The people who make up ISIS have about as many motivations as there are individuals, ranging from lust for power, through fear of the secular and/or divine, all the way to the joy of following divine will.

                • Which is not compatible with your statement (the assertion you’re supposed to be offering support for) that ISIS is doing it out of fear of eternal torment applied by old-guy-in-the-sky.

                  Now with added equivocation digression, since the thread up to now has not been suffering from a delusion that groups-of-people have motives totally separate from members-of-group.

                  • No, I said that some sects of Islam would have members motivated to jihad by fear of Allah. I never claimed anything for the motivations of ISIS. If you can’t debate my positions without misrepresenting them, admit defeat and move on.

                    • Conversation thread simplified to this specific topic and made easier to read, which is a sufficient response.

                      SheSellsSeashells | July 14, 2015 at 12:33 pm | Reply
                      Put as courteously as possible, I’ve never personally met one of these people who behave out of fear. Even the most hamhandedly moralistic friends I’ve had have been trying to Do Right out of love or at least respect for the big guy in the sky.

                      William O. B’Livion | July 14, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Reply
                      >Even the most hamhandedly moralistic friends I’ve had have
                      > been trying to Do Right out of love or at least respect for the
                      > big guy in the sky.

                      You mean like ISIS?

                      Foxfier | July 14, 2015 at 9:55 pm | Reply
                      Do you really want to try to argue that ISIS is acting out of fear that “the big guy in the sky that will poke him with pitchforks in the afterlife” if they do not?

                      Jeff Gauch | July 15, 2015 at 12:44 am | Reply
                      Is jihad a tenet of Islam or not?

                      Foxfier | July 15, 2015 at 10:15 am | Reply
                      If you’d like to make the case for ISIS is doing what they do out of fear of god, rather than trying to get me to make it for you, go ahead.

                      Begging the question in the same way that the claim that started this did won’t do the trick.

                      Jeff Gauch | July 15, 2015 at 6:09 pm | Reply
                      ISIS doesn’t have motivations. The people who make up ISIS have about as many motivations as there are individuals, ranging from lust for power, through fear of the secular and/or divine, all the way to the joy of following divine will.

                      Foxfier | July 15, 2015 at 6:56 pm | Reply
                      Which is not compatible with your statement (the assertion you’re supposed to be offering support for) that ISIS is doing it out of fear of eternal torment applied by old-guy-in-the-sky.

                      Now with added equivocation digression, since the thread up to now has not been suffering from a delusion that groups-of-people have motives totally separate from members-of-group.

                      Jeff Gauch | July 15, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Reply
                      No, I said that some sects of Islam would have members motivated to jihad by fear of Allah. I never claimed anything for the motivations of ISIS. If you can’t debate my positions without misrepresenting them, admit defeat and move on.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      This may be more into theology than Sarah prefers but humans have a “bad habit” of coming up with reasons to violate their own moral codes.

      Belief in a God who will judge us doesn’t completely stop that habit but those do so often stop themselves by asking “will God buy this excuse?”

      IMO your question fails to account for those who violate their own moral codes because of “it’s ok if nobody catches me doing so”.

      • Maybe if I use a not explicitly religious example folks won’t get so twistified in the panties.I suppose the best analogy I can give y’all is this: I was in the Marine Corps for eight years. Marines have a code, call it a theology if you will. A trivial, petty, example of one of the rules is that when on liberty in your dress blue uniform, in public, don’t get sloppy drunk, start fights, be crudely aggressive to women, do anything else that would reflect poorly upon the Corps. Who is more true to the “theology” of the Corps? The Marine that behaves correctly while on base and around his buddies and chain of command, (God is watching) but acts like a jackass while on liberty at home, or the one that is a perfect gentleman all times even when no one is looking?

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          I’ve heard it said that the mark of a person’s morality is how he acts where nobody knows him.

          There’s a strong element of truth in that.

          But as others have said, there was an element of “self-righteousness” in your original statement toward people who believe in the God Of Justice.

        • Does it not occur to you that the phrasing “folks won’t get so twistified in the panties” might be needlessly inflammatory and derisive? And as such would not be conducive to initiating an open-minded discussion?

          Or perhaps you just can’t think of a more neutral way to express that?

          • I was merely trying to find a moderately humorous way to say “get upset,” as I know that discussions on topics like this can get a bit exuberant. I’m sorry if anyone took any other way. I’ll avoid it in the future.

            • I understood that as your intent, but in the specific context it seemed a counter-productive choice. I suggest you only avoid it in future when it constitutes shooting yourself in the foot. When it falls into the category of the “I’m sorry you were offended at being called a nazi” it is generally not conducive to convincing folk of the good faith of your arguments. Thus folks are likely to doubt your good faith when you use such phrasing.

            • Exactly why did you need a “moderately humorous way”? What in blue blazes was wrong with “get upset”?

              • Down in Texas you can tell someone “don’t be getting your panties in a wad,” without them, well, getting their panties in a wad.:-)

              • Nobody ever “needs” to be funny. For some strange reasons, humans seem to enjoy a bit of it. Sadly humor is not universal.

                • I, for one, was greatly amused. The Brits say, “Don’t get your knickers in a twist (or something like that).”

                  • Does that make the remark less dismissive of opposing viewpoints?

                    • I think you’ve been over-reacting a bit here RES, It’s called discussion or debate and always involves some degree of disagreement with opposing viewpoints, and outright dismissal on occasion. Lighten up!

                    • I don’t think he was over reacting at all. There is a very heavy handed ‘poor deluded fools’ in everything this gentleman has said about Faith every time the subject came up, including out right dismissing evidence of an effect as pure placebo (In so many words, there by calling everyone who believed self-deluded) without anything anywhere to back it up other than his very dismissive word.

                    • I think you’ve been over-reacting a bit here Old Surfer. All I did was point out that deliberately asking an asinine question in a way calculated to load the dice was a non-effective way of initiating a discussion. Funny that point gets over-looked by people eager to get their knickers knotted up over my calling him out.

                      P’haps it is you what needs to lighten up.

                    • Ah, Old Surfer, don’t get your pants in a twist.

                • Funny, isn’t it, how being mean-spirited under the pretext of a joke doesn’t always pass muster.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Favorite line of a sadist “Can’t you take a joke?”. [Frown]

                    • “Humour is for them the all-consoling and (mark this) the all-excusing, grace of life. Hence, it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame. If a man simply lets others pay for him, he is ‘mean,’ but if he boasts of it in a jocular manner and twits his fellows with having been scored off, he is no longer ‘mean’ but a comical fellow. Mere cowardice is shameful; cowardice boasted of with humourous exaggerations and grotesque gestures can be passed off as funny. Cruelty is shameful — unless the cruel man can represent it as a practical joke. A thousand bawdy, or even blasphemous, jokes do not help towards a man’s damnation so much as his discovery that almost anything he wants to do can be done, not only without the disapproval but with the admiration of his fellows, if only it can get itself treated as a Joke.” C. S. Lewis

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Yep, C. S. Lewis got that right.

          • Are you seriously harping on a Jarhead for an infelicitous turn of phrase?

            • I think the correct term for it is “calling him out.”

              I understand that even Marines do that, when appropriate.

              • Not over “get your panties in a bunch.” That just makes you look like a prude, and would probably get you teased for the rest of your time in the unit.

                • I think I’ve already stated that it wasn’t the phrase to which I objected, it was the contradiction with his claimed attempt. See: “I’m sorry you were offended at being called a nazi”.

                  As with so many things, it is the thought that counts.

                  • Neither his original question nor his use of “panties in a twist” was offensive. You are overreacting and reading in things that simply are not there.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Sorry Jeff, his original question can be offensive when you understand that too many atheists think religious people are moral only because they are afraid of being sent to help.

                      Since, atheists don’t believe that hell exists, they are obviously more moral than religious people.

                    • It can be read that way, but it’s a stretch. He was merely comparing two extreme categories and made not claim that everyone fell into one of them.

                    • Ah, don’t get your panties in a twist.

                    • What makes you think that isn’t something I would enjoy?

                    • Curious. What is the basis of your authority on what I should find offensive?

                      For that matter, why do you disregard my repeated statements that the phrase was not offensive, simply likely to be counter-productive?

                      As for “his original question” please review — I never said it was offensive, I said it was asinine. I am not generally “offended” by asinine questions, but I do find them tedious.

                    • You can find offense in “good morning,” the rest of us are going to look at you cockeyed.

                      And “I’m sorry you were offended at being called a nazi” seems to indicate that you find the question inherently offensive, not merely inane.

                    • I am inclined to share the opinion of “Good Morning” expressed by Sam Elliott’s character in :


                      But mostly it is a matter of who says it, ennit?

                      If you find “I’m sorry you were offended at being called a nazi” too strong (I opted for that in light of recent Torstorm discussions) perhaps “For a fat girl you don’t sweat much” or “For a conservative you hardly rant at all” better expresses the spirit which the “apology” conveyed.

                • That reflects poorly on the unit if said Marine uses the term in an equivalent context.

                  • No, his use of the term was correct, at least in enlisted Navy parlance – which I imagine is pretty close to enlisted Marine.

                    • I notice you say nothing about the context. I dare say even in enlisted Navy parlance, you would deem it an inappropriate thing to say to the President. Likewise, it is an inappropriate term to use in philosophical debate.

                    • I’ve used far worse language in philosophical debates on the midwatch. And let’s not get into the language I’d use with the current President.

    • Is the first guy patting himself on the back on grounds of his superior morality?

      • Can’t see how that makes much difference. Are you proud of being a moral person? Should you be? I’m proud of the fact that I am not a liar, a cheater, a thief, or a needlessly violent person. I’m not those because I think some hell awaits if I am, but simply because we humans are social animals, and we have come to broadly agree about rules for relating to each other. Morality existed before the concept of an afterlife filled with rewards and punishments did.

        • “Needlessly violent”? If I enjoy inflicting violence does that make it needless? What standard do you employ for defining “needless”?

          I can construct numerous scenarios where lying, cheating and stealing are highly moral acts [insert appropriate Miles Vorkosigan anecdote] as could every author here (is not writing fiction a form of lying?)

          Finally, “Morality existed before the concept of an afterlife filled with rewards and punishments did.” — evidence/argument to support/define this assertion? Admittedly, primitive human morality existed before concepts of an afterlife, but there the promise of reward/punishment did not wait until after life.

          • Needlessly violent? You mean like when I was in the Marines maybe? I also bounced in bars, and had to be pretty rough with some guys. But my mantra was if you could talk them out the door, that was the optimal outcome. I’ve been in Iduunohowmany brawls, hundreds at least, virtually all breaking up something started by drunken macho idiots.Maybe it would have been easier to say I don’t commit violent crimes? I did spank my daughter one time. Please don’t tell CPS. 🙂 That might be a crime now.

            Many concepts of afterlife don’t include punishment. That is not an assertion but a fact. I am actually kind of surprised you seem unaware of the Greek concept, where if you weren’t a one out of a million individual that greatly insulted a specific God (Prometheus, Tantalus, Sisyphus, as examples of those meriting special attention) the afterlife was just boring.One professor compared it to being fated to wander around in a bus station for eternity.This idea has been offered as explanation for the, to our minds, cruelty of Roman methods of execution.In their minds, the pain you felt as you were being burnt/crucified/eaten was the only punishment you get, as there’d be none in the afterlife.

            Fiction writers can’t be liars unless one subscribes to the outlandish notion that their readers think their stories are factual,and are presented as such.

            As for constructing scenarios where things normally consider immoral are in fact moral, I ‘ll simply agree this sometimes happens,while stating that has zero to do with any point I’ve made.

            • You haven’t propounded a standard, there.

            • The Greek/Roman mythos had an afterlife with rewards and punishment for all. As you correctly assert, the especially offending were punished. The particularly heroic went to the Fields of Elysium. The lukewarm were wiped and reissued to eventually attain Elysium of Tartarus. Not boring — oblivion and reincarnation.

              The Norse similarly had an envisionment of Valhalla and Hades, either to stand with the Valkyrie at Ragnarök or to fall into the wormpit of Niflheim.

              As for “needless” — that is a matter of moral opinion, isn’t it?

              Do the Maasai commit violent crime when they take cattle from those not of their tribe?

        • Pride is the first of the Seven Deadly Sins for good reason.

          • William O. B'Livion

            Much the same as the reason the amendment pertaining to speech and religion is the first. One had to be, might as well be one as another.

            • No, because Pride is the sin which enables all others, just as Courage is the virtue which supports all the rest. Is it not Pride that allows a man to imagine himself capable of defining morality?

              • William O. B'Livion

                I’ve seen the lists a couple times pride’s not always listed first.

                A quick google to verify winds up being most informative.

                What is apparently the original list is only six, and it comes from the book of proverbs:
                “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

                These became a specific list in the 4th century (per wikipedia):

                Γαστριμαργία (gastrimargia) gluttony
                Πορνεία (porneia) prostitution, fornication
                Φιλαργυρία (philargyria) avarice
                Ὑπερηφανία (hyperēphania) hubris – sometimes rendered as self-esteem[7]
                Λύπη (lypē) sadness – in the Philokalia, this term is rendered as envy, sadness at another’s good fortune
                Ὀργή (orgē) wrath
                Κενοδοξία (kenodoxia) boasting
                Ἀκηδία (akēdia) acedia – in the Philokalia, this term is rendered as dejection

                They were translated into the Latin of Western Christianity (largely due to the writings of John Cassian),[8] thus becoming part of the Western tradition’s spiritual pietas (or Catholic devotions), as follows:[9]

                Gula (gluttony)
                Fornicatio (fornication, lust)
                Avaritia (avarice/greed)
                Superbia (hubris, pride)
                Tristitia (sorrow/despair/despondency)
                Ira (wrath)
                Vanagloria (vainglory)
                Acedia (sloth)

                So no, historically “Pride” wasn’t always first, and wasn’t always “Pride”.

                Also to assert that “Pride” is the one that enables the others is, well, I’m wondering how pride enables sloth and despair.

                I suspect that “Pride”, which in context is more properly called “Hubris” (because it’s not being proud which is the problem, it’s being excessively proud in certain ways).

                As to “defining morality”, defining is what humans do. It is how we related to and understand the world.

                I think it is more accurate to say that it is an act of hubris to think we can rewrite moral rules from first principles.

                • I’m wondering how pride enables sloth and despair.

                  Pride, in this case, means setting your own judgments as superior to G-d’s.

                  Sloth means you’ve placed your estimation of the importance of your time and energy above G-d’s expectations of you — an act of Pride.

                  As for despair, see James Branch Cabell’s exegesis of this in Jurgen’s visit to “The hell of our Fathers” (or Gaiman’s revisiting of the concept in his (Sandman series) to observe Pride’s expression as “My sins were too great to be forgiven.”

          • I believe it depends on what you’re proud of and why.

            • And what it leads to. For instance, being proud of one’s goodness (as evaluated by one’s self) can lead to being an arrogant braggart who holds other people in contempt.

              • There are two different kinds of pride, one positive, and one negative. The positive one is aimed at doing things right, no matter who they are for or how trivial they are. My father once told me he was just going to “slap some paint on the picket fence” because it wasn’t that important. When I saw him working at it later (I don’t remember why I wasn’t helping), he was being more meticulous and careful than a lot of people would be when painting a house professionally.

                The other type is aimed at showing how much better you are. It’s probably better termed “hubris” than pride.

        • SheSellsSeashells

          There seems to be some misunderstanding about motivation here. I…strive not to be a liar/cheater/etc. not because “eeek, God’s gonna fry me” but because I have down-to-the-bone experience of God’s love for me and I don’t want to disappoint him. In my clumsy way, my intent comes from joy and not fear, and my experience suggests that this is *far* more common than the other way around. Harder to talk about, admittedly.

          • That hasn’t been the case for the greatest part of recorded history.
            See Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

            • Sara the Red

              yes, but anyone with sense, religious or otherwise, knows that Jonathan Edwards was a friggin’ lunatic. I suspect God’s response to in the afterlife will be something like “Really? You thought going with THAT approach was a good idea? You’re embarrassing.”

              • Feather Blade

                It was a different age, requiring a different response to the sins that beset the inhabitants thereof.

                IIRC it was quite effective at the time.

                • Different ills, different medicines, as my grandmother would say. If you read more of Edwards’ sermons, letters, and writings, in addition to hellfire and brimstone, he also preached love, and kindness, and forgiveness, and at times got mystical to the point of sounding like St. John of the Cross.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Nod. That sermon was directed at “fat and happy” people who thought their wealth meant that God approved of them (and their actions).

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Well IIRC Jonathan Edwards was dealing with “fat and happy” people who decided that because they doing well financially that God must approve of them.

                Call it “tough love”. [Smile]

          • William O. B'Livion

            I strive not to be a liar, cheat and etc. because it’s just a bad f*king idea.

            Not only is it generally counterproductive in the medium and long run, it also builds a culture that is utter hell.

            http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4878

        • William O. B'Livion

          Yeah, but are you proud of those things because your *impulse* is to lie, cheat, steal and punch old ladies in the face, or are you proud that you don’t have those impulses?

          And yes, I know it’s EXACTLY the same question.

          • There is no virtue where there is no temptation. I I don’t feel virtuous because I don’t eat ice cream or punch old ladies in the face. Neither activity appeals to me. I do feel virtuous when I do something like work on my language ability, go to the gym, or write, as those are good things for me to do, though they are tedious, sweaty,and mentally exhausting, in that order. I don’t know about you, but my biggest challenge is to do the things I should be doing, not avoiding things that I should not be doing.

            • I’ve sort of come to the opinion that we make our own pitchfork pokers ourselves. That things are sins, not because God decreed them so, but rather because they ultimately do harm, and that both heaven and hell are to experience and fully understand the sum of your life, all it was, all it could have been, and all you did and did not visit on others.

              I also find myself wondering, if eventually there is no tomorrow, who or what, is remembering typing this?

              • However, some people are so numb to that that they have to fear the dangers as if external to even be motivated to start to escape.

        • Can’t see how that makes much difference.

          Behaving morally so one can preen would mean that avoiding behaving badly so as to avoid a penalty.

    • I have yet to meet anyone with an ‘intrinsic and well-defined sense of good’. All those codes came from somewhere including the Honor of the United States Marine Corps.

      Is it any different to go ‘The Corps would be ashamed of me if I did this’ vs. ‘God would be ashamed of me’? Other than God tends to be far more forgiving than the United States Marines?

      • God also tends to be less susceptible to muddling from higher-up the chain of command.

      • The point was about doing the right thing even when nobody’s looking, which is not really an option if one subscribes to the standard notion of the Judeo-Christian deity.

        • If the person doing the right thing lives next door to me, why the heck do I care if he does it because he’s afraid of one or more supernatural entities or because he thinks it makes for a better, more smoothly running society?

          (Yeah, I know, love your neighbor . . . and I suppose I’ll get to answer someday for being pretty lousy at it.)

        • Sara the Red

          Not necessarily. At least for my own religious approach, in that sense God…doesn’t count? (That didn’t come out right, but you know what I mean.) In other words, I do right because God asked me to, and also because I choose to–whether or not my fellow mortals are watching or not. 😀

          I believe the idea is that if you “do the right thing” because you want to avoid censure/shunning/gossip from your fellow human beings, then that’s not really the higher path. (Although you still do get some credit for doing the right thing.) If you do the right thing even when you’re completely alone (ie, there are no other humans around to judge you), then you’re definitely on the right track, hooray for you.

          What’s that line from Bujold? “Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.”

        • Nonsense, it’s not really an option even if one doesn’t subscribe to them, unless it turns out they are false.

        • Actually it very much is. You’d be surprised how very few people THINK about God watching all the time, and to be blunt how much more immediate human observation is as far as moral pressure. Most people don’t show off unless the reward is immediate. It is an EFFORT to remember that there is someone whose standards you’re trying to live up to especially if they’re not in sight (the ‘mom’s not around even though I know she’s watching from the kitchen window’ phenomenon). The Almighty is almost never in physical sensing.

          To use the mom example again. “No we shouldn’t do that, mom wouldn’t like it.” The desire not to disappoint, the desire to live up to the good that is expected by someone loved and admired. For you, you wish to live up to what is expected of the United States Marine Corps. Or do you just wish to be SEEN doing so? It’s an inner thing and unless you can read minds (which I sincerely doubt you can) you have to make a much stronger case than ‘God’s always watching so all of you are just showing off, losers.’ Which is pretty much how you come across.

          On a side note: there are a huge number of things out there that by and large most people don’t or can’t sense. It doesn’t make them less real, nor does it make the dangerous ones less likely to kill you, nor does it make you any less dead if they do. “But I didn’t BELIEVE in it so it can’t hurt me!” (Yes, I have examples, I’m just not about to put them out in a public venue).

          • “I didn’t believe in it . . .” Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd vs gravity. “But I never studied law.”

          • You’d be surprised how very few people THINK about God watching all the time …

            For a Biblical example, consider Cain’s conversation with G-d best known for his “Am I my brother’s keeper?” question. Cain knew G-d, yet he still imagined he could hide his actions from Him. Like a child playing Hide ‘n’ Seek imagining that “since I can’t see you, you can’t see me.”

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              A few years back I saw a cartoon where a toddler is outside of the house sans clothing with his eyes shut.

              The caption is “Little Joey (?) thinks nobody can see him when his eyes are shut”. [Smile]

          • Example:
            some people can smell ketosis breath; some can’t. (neither are outliers, although I’ve seen claims both ways about which is more common)

          • When Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai (1st century C.E.; preserver of Judaism in the aftermath of the destruction of the Temple) was on his deathbed, the Talmud (Berachoth 28b) reports:

            His students said to him, “Master, bless us.”

            He said to them, “May it be God’s will that the fear of heaven shall be upon you like the fear of flesh and blood.”

            His disciples said to him, “Is that all?”

            He said to them, “If only that! For when a man wants to commit a transgression, he says, ‘I hope no man will see me’.”

            • Very much so. Probably ties into how most people have trouble with long term consequences rather than short term ones. I shall have to remember that and the reference! (I’ve got a copy of the Talmud somewhere so should be able to look it and some more of the surrounding up.) Thanks! 🙂

    • Which matters more: the actions or the reasons?

      If I refrain from harming you, why do my reasons for doing so matter?

      If my reasons matter, then is my “intrinsic and well-defined sense of the good” less mutable than my concern over a “big guy in the sky“?

      To debate “Who is more moral” we must first define the terms and how morality is to be measured, lest we find ourselves debating “which is longer: a minute or an inch?”

      • One house, two bathrooms, five people: the minute is much, much longer, especially for those outside the bathroom.

      • I may not seem important for you, but it matters enough to some people that they fill college lecture halls debating it. The Christian debater an English archbishop, as I recall, was debating someone like Hitchens or Dawkins, arguing that an atheist could not could not have a true moral code.

        • Sara the Red

          Eh, I disagree with that–an atheist *can* have a moral code. But they still learned it from somewhere, whether it was childhood religious training, parental teaching, or whatnot. Though I also believe that, unless one is a psychopath, we are born with a basic sense of right and wrong. (My personal belief is that it’s down to the divine spark in all of us, but if one is not a believer I’m sure other reasons could be conjured.)

          Also something to remember: not all Judeo-Christians believe the same thing about the same things. 🙂 You will get a different answer from a Jew from a Catholic from a Mormon from a Baptist. Sometimes different answer from people who are technically the “same” religion. 🙂

        • What matters enough to some people that they fill halls debating it is irrelevant. They also fill stadiums in the tens of thousands to watch soccer. Any given Saturday in Autumn there are several million people in America filling stadiums to observe spirited debates over which colleges have the superior football programs.

          Whether Hitchens/Dawkins or [Whoever] won that debate had nothing to do with an atheist could have a true moral code.

          • William O. B'Livion

            Well, if you define “true moral code” such that it comes from God/Deity, then no, they can’t.

            But then that’s sort of a True Scotsman thing, isn’t it?

            • No. The “no true Scotsman” matter is an argument over definition, but a “moral code” exists or not regardless of how interested in it people are, nor how hotly that definition is debated.

              Of course, defined broadly, Sir Harry Paget Flashman had a moral code.

              • William O. B'Livion

                If you’re taking the position that what God Loves is morally Right, and what he hates is Morally Wrong, then by that *DEFINITION* an atheist cannot be moral because they don’t believe in God, much less what he loves or does not love.

                OTOH, if you take the position that God loves what is morally right, and hates what is morally wrong, then an Atheist *can* be moral as long as they’ve got a way of figuring out what a God would love and hate would God exist.

                (And yes, I chose those words specifically for historical context).

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  No. An Atheist could agree with what God Loves in spite of not believing in God.

    • William O. B'Livion

      How would you know?

    • According to the Guy who most of those in the US follow, neither of those are the correct choice– it’s the one that does it out of love*, both for Himself and for others and for self.

      *wishing that which is best for them– True Love, sacrificial love.

      • William O. B'Livion

        Most American’s claim to be Christian, this is true, but there is an incredible diversity and difference of opinion within that rather broad category about just why you should follow The Guy’s rules, if you travel back even a short while in time those opinions change rather dramatically.

        That we should follow what God says out of love for him is a rather recent phenomenon, and I suspect rather restricted to the Anglosphere and a few places in Western Europe where they haven’t abandoned the notion all together.

    • Silly question. You need to define your terms. By moral are you discussing quality of behavior?

      From dictionary.com:

      moral
      adjective
      1. of, relating to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or distinction between right and wrong; ethical; moral attitudes.
      2. expressing or conveying truths or counsel as to right conduct, as a speaker or a literary work.
      3. founded on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than on legalities, enactment, or custom: moral obligations.
      4. capable of conforming to rules of right conduct: a moral being.
      5. conforming to the rules of right conduct (opposed to immoral): a moral man.
      6. virtuous in sexual matters; chaste.
      7. of, relating to, or acting on the mind, feelings, will, or character: moral support.

      From the opening of your question I deduce you are referring to the fifth meaning.

      For example: Those in ISIS believes in deity, and think they are quiet moral in beheading infidels. On the other hand St. Damien DeVeuster, again a believer, choose to care for with those under government-sanctioned quarantine for of Hanson’s disease and eventually contracted the disease himself.

      Believing in or not believing in does not make one moral, morality is demonstrated by how one acts.

  5. Oof – this one hit right between the eyes! Don’t know what to come, nothingness or judgement; but you please keep those books coming. Comfort to know I am much older and will therefore hopefully never have to be without my Hoyts. (And all of the rest of you who post here.)

    • Don’t know what to come, nothingness or judgement …


      Those who come back to tell us what is on the other side are not necessarily honest reporters.

  6. I worry about my reunion with my parents, and that they might be angry with me for living a life in a way they wouldn’t. Also about being separated from hubby(from not dying at the same time. The only other thing I worry about is: Will my death be physically painful?

    The rest is unknowable here and now.

  7. This is a question I’ve stopped debating with atheists, because if I’m wrong I’ll never know it, and if I’m right schadenfreude is probably a bit declasse’ for an afterlife. After all, Mozart wrote the ‘Magnificat’, not ‘Shah na nah nah, Goodbye’…

  8. I’m going home. I’ve known it forever, but lost sight of it a few times. There is a short story by Ray Bradbury that does a good job of describing it for me; Douglas’ grandmother prepares for her death by giving away her duties (IIRC) and then goes to bed, and thinks “there was this wonderful dream I was having…”
    When I lost sight of death as going home, I treated Heaven and Hell as geography, places where you went. I no longer believe in that. Now I believe that Heaven is where God is, and where He is, is home. I want to go home, and be with my Daddy (the divine One).

    • Like.
      I am almost always a lurker but this is a subject near and dear to my heart, especially recently.
      There is no good I can do to make God accept me or love me more than He already does, and as His child there is no wrong I could commit that would cause Him to turn away. This has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him which is why I love Him and want to be just like Him.

  9. Not even vaguely on topic, except that Pluto is the god of the Underworld and wealth: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/soc/Pluto-Encounter/index.php

    Astronomy photos: like kitten photos, but way cooler.

  10. MadRocketSci

    An ancient Greek smartass once said (paraphrasing from my foggy memory):
    “Wherever I am, my death is not. Wherever my death is, I am not. Why, then, should I fear my death?”

    Personally: While I hope for an afterlife, I don’t believe that anyone knows one way or another, much less anything about it.

  11. I didn’t read all the comments, but I got the impression that they were highly troll-deficient. Good going, folks!

  12. We are programs running in volatile organic memory. What happens to such programs when the power goes out?

    • Their source code remains, and the back-up of their data, until the day the Programmer chooses to reload them on new and improved hardware.

      • You left out the extensive debugging and repair of corrupted code.
        😉

        • Benjamin Franklin’s epitaph comes to mind:

          The body of
          B. Franklin, Printer
          (Like the Cover of an Old Book
          Its Contents torn Out
          And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
          Lies Here, Food for Worms.
          But the Work shall not be Lost;
          For it will (as he Believ’d) Appear once More
          In a New and More Elegant Edition
          Revised and Corrected
          By the Author.

      • Where? Where is the non-volatile memory?

    • This is premised on the idea that Time is sequential. If it is simultaneous then the power never “goes out.” Mara is a 8itch and we’re in her realm.

  13. “But those people — yeah, cats are people too, got a problem? — were special individuals, in their own way saints of heroes or… bigger than life. As for me, who am none of those, who can tell?”

    Nonsense. Everyone is bigger than life to somebody, in some way, shape, or form. Were you to ask your grandmother, she’d probably say the same as you.

  14. This just in:


    That Richards kid is Odd!

  15. I “believe” in an after life, because of an experience I had. Back in the summer of 1980, at a religious retreat, we were talking about praying for people. I mentioned that I prayed for a friend that committed suicide. “Asking that she be forgiven, and allowed into Heaven.” We were in a stairwell. and suddenly I heard her voice (she’d been dead a couple of years). She said “Thank you.” That convinced me.

  16. All things end as all things must.
    The stars burn down and go to dust.
    And all we’ve made shall be erased
    Within these bounds of time and space.

    And so we bow our heads and weep.
    But darling child, this secret keep:
    They live, all that were bright and loved
    Forever, in the mind of God.