Okay, one more Richard Dawkins-themed post. Dawkins, it seems, finds the fear of death puzzling, or at least “illogical”. Well, if he would like to understand this phenomenon better, he might want to consult his fellow atheist Philip Larkin, whose “Aubade” (published in 1977) is one of the bleakest and greatest poems of the twentieth century. Here’s an especially relevant selection:
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
— The good not used, the love not given, time
Torn off unused — nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never:
But at the total emptiness forever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says no rational being
Can fear a thing it cannot feel, not seeing
that this is what we fear — no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
You may read the whole magnificent poem here. An aubade, incidentally, is a “dawn song,” traditionally a happy one.