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The Burnsville Socrates Cafe Message Board The Burnsville Socrates Cafe Discussion Forum › 3/15/11 questions and discussion

3/15/11 questions and discussion

Jon A.
thisbus
Group Organizer
Saint Paul, MN
1. Reconcile our lack of control over our destiny with philosophy and morality?


2. Are we better off without Japan?


3. Can we justify killing?


4. If we are no more than our memories, are we bound to repeat the same decisions over and over?


5. Should the privilege of citizenship be tied to a mandatory service?


6. Does it make good economic sense to combine the work done by our police and firefighters?





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And tonight's questions:





"What, if any, consequences are there for us having a knowledge of our certain deaths?"





Jon: I'm floundering with this topic. I saw a documentary recently about the psychology of death. The shrinks in it had tested people and found that people become uniformly more angry, judgmental, even violent in response to subliminal reminders of their own deaths to come.





Jim: that means it doesn't normally affect us unless we make it conscious. Blowing in the wind is impossible, we must act consciously, not relegating our lives to chance. My attitudes towards my own death are different from the mass deaths of others -- like tsunamis in Japan. What difference does it make if we can't control it as it was for those Japanese folk? Then it isn't just about me anymore.Yet I can't reconcile it. We dominate nature (in our attempt to dominate death?). Destiny is not determined only by forces outside ourselves.





David: I think most higher life forms are aware of their deaths. Language made us better able to communicate our thoughts to do with death, thereby intensifying the awareness. We can forestall the panic. In 'Nam I did not fear death -- I was young, stupid, and arrogant. It was denial. To the young, tsunamis are abstract, distant, unimportant.





Dick: We tend to fear the dramatic yet our demise is much more likely to be non-dramatic. Chaos: everything falls apart yet new stuff is regenerated out of the chaos (the phoenix from the ashes?).





Damien: We recognize it's coming BUT NO TODAY. Losing loved ones can make us reconsider it. After time passes it loses its power and we forget. We begin again to have "nothing to lose". I'm surprised that those reminded of death in the psych testing weren't compassionate as the result.





Jon: The authors of that research claimed these hostile tendencies occur at the cultural level. They use the example of 9/11 when America was vividly reminded of its inevitable end and reacted aggressively, violently. They claim human history is full of this example in cultures worldwide.





Phillip: what if 2012 comes and nothing happens, just rapture? What if there is no future of death for us? What if there is only eternal life?





Chris: Morality doesn't control our destiny. The powerful folk are the ones who control our destinies.





Jim: the real question: we think of ourselves as more than a body, as part of a greater whole. The Mossada of the early Hebrews, for example, and their willingness to die as a culture rather than be subjugated to the Romans. As groups we don't stand idly by and accept some things. The way of the warrior is death, one can not be a great warrior unless one thinks one is already dead.





David: If we are in fact a product of memory, does this programming let us only feel safe in one culture, making us willing to kill to maintain it?





Jim: Yes.





Jon: I am told that the greek philosopher Seneca lived his days as if each one would be his last. This supposedly made him impervious to suffering when his wife and children died suddenly. He had claimed that he'd lost nothing. Socrates willing drank the Hemlock, does this mean he too did not find his personal demise to be any kind of a big deal? Lastly, I don't know where I read it but recently someone said that the most important use of philosophy is the preparation for one's death.





Jim: if I thought I was gonna die in ten minutes I'd live differently. It would not be a better life for me.





Jon: I disagree. I want to believe that a vivid awareness of my end would make me more alive, better at it, less likely to take it for granted.





Jim: imminent death makes it too close.





Dick: Wouldn't you want to have control over how you die?





David: it's good we don't know, this constrains us from intemperate behavior.





Jon: I'm reading Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Illyich". It is about the life but mostly the coming death of a man. What I find provocative in the telling is the difference between the abstract understanding of my death and the certain presence of death, looking me in the eyes.





Jim: no, you can definitely live in the knowledge of your coming death. It isn't either/or.





Jon: there's no substitute for the real thing.





JIm: exposure to the deaths of others has increased as I have aged. It sucks. I haven't experienced it as positive. It's sorta depressing.
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