As always, Mak asks the best questions: Is any death meaningful? He cites one of Scorsese’s movies, Silence, a movie about Christianity in Japan after the Christianity Expulsion Edict. The movie is one of my favorites by Scorsese, although it deals with difficult subject matter. Without giving away the plot, a Catholic priest has to watch many of his parishioners die tortuous deaths.
Which gives rise to the bigger question. As someone who has contemplated death, it’s not the first time I’ve encountered it. There’s a mistaken view of depression that people who commit suicide are just trying to get the last word in. In some cases it might be true, but it takes a human life and looks at it only at the point where it doesn’t exist anymore.
I responded to Mak that death is concrete. Even though it doesn’t make much sense to ascribe meaning to a life after it is gone, a death is sometimes the only tangible thing people can see. We know, for example, that people existed before recorded history because of their skeletons. In that way, the death that led to the preservation of a skeleton (or other tissue) is the only way we can have meaning.
However, it doesn’t give us the full story. As we find from artifacts and cave paintings, people even before history began did some interesting things. They lived. The thought about the world around them. And they had this urge to preserve what they saw. These are all things which exist in the domain of the living. They all had much more meaning than random skeletons or bodies frozen in glaciers.
In this context, I think it’s plain that the focus should be on the meaning found in life. Yes it is less tangible. It is as fragile as life itself. But that meaning does more for people who have yet to exist than whatever meaning death could impart.
Indeed, I think this is the deception in placing too much meaning in death. But for the life that existed, no death could exist. Everything depends on the value and meaning of the life that preceded it. A skeleton doesn’t become a skeleton until a person has lived long enough to ossify cartilage. The depravity of murder is not in the killing, but in ending a human life.
Yes, a person can find meaning in death. But most of it is gibberish if one doesn’t find meaning in life.