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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

358                        Death

ones appear and speak to us in their works "with less alloy
than they could ever speak through their children; but
men's bodies disappear absolutely on death, except they be in
some measure preserved in their children and in so far as
harmonics of all that has been remain.

On death we do not lose life, we only lose individuality ;
we live henceforth in others not in ourselves. Our mistake
has been in not seeing that death is indeed, like birth, a
salient feature in the history of the individual, but one which
wants exploding as the end of the individual, no less than
birth wanted exploding as his beginning.

Dying is only a mode of forgetting. We shall see this more
easily if we consider forgetting to be a mode of dying. So
the ancients called their River of Death, Lethe—the River
of Forgetfulness. They ought also to have called their River
of Life, Mnemosyne—the River of Memory. We should learn
to tune death a good deal flatter than according to received
notions.

The Dislike of Death

We cannot like both life and death at once; no one can
be expected to like two such opposite things at the same time ;
if we like life we must dislike death, and if we leave off dis-
liking death we shall soon die. Death will always be more
avoided than sought; for living involves effort, perceived or
unperceived, central or departmental, and this will only be
made by those who dislike the consequences of not making it
more than the trouble of making it. A race, therefore, which
is to exist at all must be a death-disliking race, for it is only
at the cost of death that we can rid ourselves of all aversion
to the idea of dying, so that the hunt after a philosophy which
shall strip death of his terrors is like trying to find the philo-
sopher's stone which cannot be found and which, if found,
would defeat its own object.

Moreover, as a discovery which should rid us of the fear
of death would be the vainest, so also it would be the most
immoral of discoveries, for the very essence of morality is
involved in the dislike (within reasonable limits) of death.
Morality aims at a maximum of comfortable life and a,
minimum of death; if then, a minimum of death and a
maximum of life were no longer held worth striving for, the