December 29, 2012

Growing old tests your atheism.

"Live your life."

71 comments:

Phil 3:14 said...

Can I assume somewhere in this NYT video is a story on Maurice Sendak?

Quaestor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chip Ahoy said...

Yo no comprendo.

Mitchell the Bat said...

At this point in his career, I seriously doubt that Maurice Sendak cares very much about the country's financial problems.

Ann Althouse said...

@Chip The link went bad for some reason. Try it now.

chickelit said...

The link goes to the reportage of a young woman whose affected speech pattern and ticks remind me of Kathleen Hanna

"Yawn. Superfucking Yawn"

Phil 3:14 said...

Hmm, my initial comment never showed up.

But I'm glad the link was fixed.

Professor, your have a grave perspective this morning.

Shouting Thomas said...

The egotism of the proud atheist at the beginning is profoundly stupid. Not so bad after that.

I don't evangelize for my Catholicism. It's in bad taste. Atheists are the worst evangelists that I meet. They're a pain in the ass.

Ann Althouse said...

"The link goes to the reportage of a young woman whose affected speech pattern and ticks..."

Ticks!

Well, that was the bad link. Try it now. It's an animation and it's about Maurice Sendak. It's really good. And no ticks.

I'd tell you a tick story, but I'm sworn to secrecy.

Ann Althouse said...

" don't evangelize for my Catholicism. It's in bad taste. Atheists are the worst evangelists that I meet. They're a pain in the ass."

You obviously didn't bother watching the video, so you have no idea what bullshit you're spouting.

gerry said...

Heaven makes life's end easier - if you truly believed and followed God's law as taught by Jesus.

Hell makes life's end very frightening, also because Jesus taught about that.

Only God can judge.

Shouting Thomas said...

I did watch the video.

The first 30 seconds or so are full of self-congratulation on how "difficult" it is to be an atheist, and his self-congratulation on his superior intellect.

The rest is much better.

Shouting Thomas said...

Hell makes life's end very frightening, also because Jesus taught about that.

I think that it is death that is very frightening.

People want to continue to live and to be remembered. The loss of everything that defines a person is, I think, what we fear.

Jeffrey said...

Ann, it seems like aging and death are on your mind on this winter day. Sometimes all this typing (mine included, of course) is just another form of whistling past the graveyard.

For all of us, after our death, we live on briefly in the memories of those close to us and then they die and our last ties to this earth are gone, too. This really hit home for me about ten years ago when I did some family history research and found out about the deaths of my grandfather's two sisters (only in their early twenties) within a three-year period around the turn of the century in Chicago. I found the actual Census page on which their names and ages were written. Those inked names were all I could find of the sisters that my grandfather grew up with in Chicago. No one had ever talked about them to me. It was then I realized that my own life was, in fact, as ephemeral as my grandfather's sisters. No one would remember me, either.

In the larger perspective, no one will even remember the Great Instapundit or Madame Althouse.

Shouting Thomas said...

In the larger perspective, no one will even remember the Great Instapundit or Madame Althouse.

I doubt this.

The way in which we are remembered, I think, is much different than you are envisioning.

That is much too lengthy and difficult a subject to address here, so I won't.

Shouting Thomas said...

I will say that, looking at life from the perspective of the programmer, nothing is ever forgotten.

Data is never forgotten or lost. It's somewhere out there in the form of energy or matter. The question is always how to find that data or recover it.

I have no doubt that the same is true of human existence.

Jeffrey said...

Shouting Thomas,

Huh? Okay, let's give Ann a Wikipedia Notable mention:

Ann Althouse, 66, American blogger, skiing accident.

I see Ann's blogging as her personal struggle with Death and the Dreaded Anonymity. But, believe me, in time no one will remember her or any of the commenters here. If you think otherwise, you're delusional.



deborah said...

My Methodist 90 year-old aunt could go with relative equanimity, I think, if not for her 3 year-old grand-daughter. Smart as a whip, she charms everyone, and my aunt is enthralled with her, and I think, dreads parting with her.

Jake Diamond said...

No doubt Shouting Dumbass will be remembered as a loudmouthed dumbass.

deborah said...

Make that great-granddaugher.

chickelit said...

I'd tell you a tick story, but I'm sworn to secrecy.

Heh. No need to spill secrets. Message received.

TerriW said...

People want to continue to live and to be remembered. The loss of everything that defines a person is, I think, what we fear.

Well, that's the point of the Iliad, no? Achilles had his choice: to continue to live, or to be remembered. He chose to be remembered.

(Of course, the punch line comes in the Odyssey when Odysseus finds him in the underworld and he's all "Holy shit, man, I was *wrong*!"

Chip Ahoy said...

Wow. I couldn't believe how crushing boring he's become. Touching insights, what took so fucking long?

Contrarily, I have one of his books and it's among my favorites, ATTAAP, I do recommend Mommy?, a collaboration with other people makes it nice. A good gift too.

But this interview was like listening to the kids on access tv talking about how they came out. Hitchens and the other atheist contemplating death, and other writers contemplating those writers, and talking about appreciating life and earth more because of their absence of faith, so say they, and all the other non faithers looking for and finding affirmation in their own faithlessness. Misery does love company. So do drunks, mostly like the company of drunks. I'm imagining, I just made that up.

Die already.

This fish I have keeps acting dead and freaks me out the way it parks itself downwardly at an angle like that. And they do this weird thing too, it's how they feed their babies at first actually, they slough their skin and that's eaten by other fish. So this fish acts dead and allows the other little fish to come in and do that. Sure is an attention grabber.

The thing is, there are already too many people who went through what Sendak is talking about, people much younger than Sendak and already dead having experienced insights much more profound than he expresses there, deep as those are for him, that late as an old man. I'm trying not to hold that vapidity against him. I expect more from old people.

Shouting Thomas said...

If you think otherwise, you're delusional.

Orpheus and Eurydice have never been forgotten, have they? Nor, I suspect, will they ever be.

No doubt Shouting Dumbass will be remembered as a loudmouthed dumbass.

Thanks for your bit in preserving my memory, Jake. Yes, we will be remembered as much for our enemies as for our friends.

Quaestor said...

I recently re-read The Hobbit to remind myself why I didn't like Peter Jackson's butchery of that classic piece of children's fiction.

Sendak's pathetic prose further reminds me of the insipid wasteland that children's literature has become since the demise of Tolkien and his generation, Rowling not withstanding. Sendak bears much of the blame for the sad state of literacy in this country

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I was a proud atheist for many years. "Science" and "Reason" bade me be one. But the more things happened to me, the more I began to feel an external hand in my life. I don't pretend to know what will happen to me after I die, but even if I entirely cease to be, God was with me while I lived.

Richard Dolan said...

The chat they both said they liked so much was a one-sided soliloquy. None the worse for that, though. Perhaps he liked that kind of chat so much because he got to do all the chatting.

And, if live your life' is his substitute for the older injunction to 'know thyself', it seems to be missing an essential first step.

Paco Wové said...

I ran across the idea somewhere recently that the "New Atheism" (the loud, evangelical atheists like Dennett, Dawkins, Harris et al.) arose in response to 9/11. As it was inconceivable! to these good ecumenical leftists that there might be something wrong in Islam that lead to 9/11, they decided rather there must be something wrong with religion, period. This had the happy side-effect of allowing them to then spend all their efforts bashing stupid Western Christians, rather than having to pick on poor downtrodden oppressed third-worlders.

Big Mike said...

It doesn't particularly test my atheism. The universe makes no sense to me mathematically if you posit a God who cares for each member of h. sapiens individually.

Deb said...

I did wonder how it felt to be my aunt, who outlived all but one of her siblings. All but one were younger than she was. She even outlived her son by two months. To grow older (she was 96) and one by one lose those closest to you. Does that make you ready, even anxious, to leave?

Bob said...

Thank you for posting that, Ann. It was quite touching. Since I'm currently struggling with faith/nonfaith in my life, it was germane.

You have a really sensitive and discerning eye for finding this stuff. It's how I first noticed Crackskull Bob.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Quaestor said...

I recently re-read The Hobbit to remind myself why I didn't like Peter Jackson's butchery of that classic piece of children's fiction.


You can choose to look at it that way, if you want.

Here is another way:

The book, "The Hobbit", can never be destroyed.

The movie, "The Hobbit", has an advantage Tolkien himself did not have when he wrote it. Namely, knowledge of the tale of The Lord of The Rings.

I don't think it takes all that much artistic license for Jackson to imagine what Tolkien might have put in the Hobbit, as hints of things to come, if he had been aware that he was about to write TLOTR and all his other non-novelized stuff.

So Jackson has done a really nice thing, especially for all those folks who will first become aware of his 6 movies, after the sixth has been released. THOSE folks will be the first to be able to see TH + TLOTR movies in the 'proper' order - as one long, now connected, tale. Neat, I say.

And with apologies to Bogart, "We'll always have "The Hobbit" - to read and play, unspoiled, in the theater of our minds.

So try looking at it THAT way, and you'll find you get two great works of art to enjoy.

Oh, and, Happy New Year everyone.

traditionalguy said...

A nice man indeed. He misses his dead friends now. He says he is in love with the world and the beauty around him.

What's ironic is that God also loves the world and the beauty He made in it including souls like Sendack and doesn't want to lose them after the death of their body but wants to live with them in Eternity.

This voice reminded me of a Great Uncle we saw every year when he visited his brother ( my grandfather) in Atlanta and once we stayed at Uncle Frank's 300 year old retirement home in Dennis on Cape Cod.

Uncle Frank would study the newspapers everyday, especially one from Bethlehem, Pa where he had been an Episcopal Bishop for 28 years.

We asked him why, and he said he studies the obituaries as all of his old friends were dying. He was a nice man like Sendack, and he lived to age 92.

chickelit said...

I listened to the Sendak interview and found his sentiments beautiful and inspiring.

His voice however, reminded me of Larry Flynt's: link

I hope I don't sound like that when I'm old.

Jake Diamond said...

Yes, we will be remembered as much for our enemies as for our friends.

Shouting Dumbass - You aren't my enemy. I don't despise you, I pity you. Anyway, considering the hateful things you say about women and ethnic minorities, you don't really need any more enemies.

If it makes you feel better, though, you can add me to the list of people who find you incredibly dull.

Aridog said...

Ann said...

You obviously didn't bother watching the video.

Uh, here at least, that'd be because the link in a link for "Sendak" doesn't work...although most of the others do...such as Dave Brubeck for example.

And now I've burned through my "free" allotment from the NYT for December.

So I no longer care... :-))

William said...

You're only old once, and you've got to make the best of it....I'm old and feel quite content and comfortable. I can't see any upside to death, but its close presence does make each passing moment feel more significant and poignant as they pass by in their insignificance.....I don't have much hope in an afterlife, but, for me, it's been sufficiently miraculous that in all this vast, cold expanse of the universe, I got to live for a little while as a sentient, sapient creature. What are the odds of that happening?

gerry said...

This had the happy side-effect of allowing them to then spend all their efforts bashing stupid Western Christians, rather than having to pick on poor downtrodden oppressed third-worlders.

Also, insulting Christians is safe and may snag federal arts subsidies. Ridiculing or insulting Muslims also ridicules and insults the Islamists among them, and it just doesn't ring the register enough.

EDH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Libertarian Engineer said...

I ask the question of atheists:

"Why not aspire to be Stalin?"

When you can answer that, get back to me. "Because that is wrong!" is circular logic leading you nowhere as the definition of wrong in the absolute sense is absent in the absence of absolutes.

There is no detriment to evil in the absence of a just God; the God of Moses and David who provided to us salvation through Christ.

EDH said...

Black muddy river, roll on forever,
I don't care how deep or wide, if you've got another side,
Roll muddy river, roll muddy river, black muddy river, roll.


Black Muddy River

When the last rose of summer pricks my finger,
And the hot sun chills me to the bone,
When I can't hear the song for the singer,
And I can't tell my pillow from a stone,

I will walk alone by the black muddy river,
And sing me a song of my own,
I will walk alone by the black muddy river,
And sing me a song of my own.

When the last bolt of sunshine hits the mountain,
And the stars start to splatter in the sky,
When the moon splits the southwest horizon,
With the scream of an eagle on the fly,

I will walk alone by the black muddy river,
And listen to the ripples as they moan,
I will walk alone by the black muddy river,
And sing me a song of my own.

Black muddy river, roll on forever,
I don't care how deep or wide, if you've got another side,
Roll muddy river, roll muddy river, black muddy river, roll.

When it seems like the night will last forever,
And there's nothing left to do but count the years,
When the strings of my heart start to sever,
And stones fall from my eyes instead of tears,

I will walk alone, by the black muddy river,
And dream me a dream of my own,
I will walk alone, by the black muddy river,
And sing me a song of my own, sing me a song of my own.

EDH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandinande said...

Older = gladder that I'm an atheist: no capricious invisible monsters to worry about.

SteveR said...

I don't understand the passion of the atheist. At least as a believer you get some benefit in hope, however small. Sure I know of all the bad things religions have done. So what? That's not me. When you die and end up nothing, you won't be able to say I told you so, nor will I be able to say I was wrong. On the other hand...

Fernandinande said...

Libertarian Engineer said...: "Why not aspire to be Stalin?"

Cuz I'm not all crazy 'n' murderous.

Here's a question back: why worship, or even acknowledge, a god that's too feeble and/or uncaring to stop people like Stalin?

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Libertarian Engineer said...

I ask the question of atheists:

"Why not aspire to be Stalin?"

When you can answer that, get back to me.


That's actually a very easy one: the so-called "Golden Rule", which requires no deity behind it. It appeals to both logic and emotion.

With the acknowledged exception of the rare masochistic individual, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is quite sufficient to dissuade one from Stalinist temptations, as well as a host of many lesser ones.

Robert Cook said...

"Here's a question back: why worship, or even acknowledge, a god that's too feeble and/or uncaring to stop people like Stalin?"

In other words, why would a God allow such abominations to occur to his creations?

I'm an atheist, but this is fairly easy: God is not uncaring; God merely has a different perspective. From the perspective of God--that is, the perspective of omniscience and omnipresence, the perspective of eternity--our oh-so-brief lives on earth, merely preparatory to an afterlife in eternity, (as a caterpillar is but the larval, preparatory stage to its later life as a butterfly), is, in context, completely insignificant.

Events and tragedies that loom so large in our perspective shrink and flatten into imperceptibility from this most macro of all macro views.

Alex said...

If the goal is notoriety then Adam Lanza will be an immortal compared to Ann Althouse.

Robert Cook said...

Of course, God can perceive the imperceptible, but to him they are trifles.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Robert Cook:

You take extraordinary liberty to assert a knowledge of God's will. Are you simply playing the Devil's advocate?

n.n said...

It is in our best interest that we acknowledge what we know, don't know, and are incapable of knowing. That we distinguish between science (i.e. faith constrained to a limited frame of reference) and philosophy (or religion). We should judge each faith, including atheism, by the principles it engenders.

If you want to hedge your bet, then choose a truly neutral position, which neither accepts nor rejects God, but follows his order, a moral order, which is a superset of the natural order.

amqu said...

I question his atheism. He says he is sure there's no afterlife, but he is certain he will see his brother again. I don't think he is as firm a nonbeliever as he states.

Robert Cook said...

"Robert Cook:

"You take extraordinary liberty to assert a knowledge of God's will. Are you simply playing the Devil's advocate?"


I prefaced my statement with the stipulation that I am an atheist. I don't posit that there is a God, with a will to be known.

I am merely extrapolating from the human experience of seeing children wail piteously at what, to adult eyes, are the exceedingly minor and common tragedies of childhood--dropping an ice cream cone on the ground after having just been given it, for example. From the perspective of a being who is everywhere, all the time, forever, and who allegedly promises that we will join him in this eternal existence, why would the infinitesimal bumps and scrapes of human life warrant intervention? Just as the child will forget his lost ice cream cone swiftly enough, so will even the most awful tragedies we experience in this life be perceived (or remembered) as nothing at all from our eternal berths in the higher plane.

So, yes, you could say I'm playing "devil's" advocate, as it were.

n.n said...

Robert Cook:

I would imagine that omnipotence and omniscience has its advantages.

As for describing individual lives as infinitesimal, insignificant minutiae, consider this perspective. Viruses and other antigens are composed of the same basic components as humans, perhaps ultimately an assembly of cohesive energy. However, in their specific design, when integrated with the human body, they typically act as corruptive and corrosive elements. At a human macro level, this analogy relates individuals to society. At a divine universal level, this analogy relates packets of cohesive energy to an uncountable, infinite whole.

Robert Cook said...

n.n.,

And...?

Dante said...

The only thing worse than dying is living forever. At some point, you will have done it all, seen it all, and the only thing left is the boredom.

wyo sis said...

If you lived forever and didn't get better and learn more all the time it would get boring. But, what if you kept getting better and smarter and learned to do more all the time?

Harold said...

Free will. Pre-destination. I know atheists and believers who believe either.

If you believe in free will, then God allows Stalin because God allows free will. And God allows people to oppose Stalin for the same reason.

If you believe in pre-destination- then Stalin and his evil happens, and it all doesn't matter anyway, because nothing you can do affects anything anayway, and Sandy Hook, Columbine, etc- there's nothing to be done, they're are going to happen or not, as they happen, becasue they are pre-destined, and it is foolish to pretend that we or I or you can make any difference....

I'm on the free will side.

Libertarian Engineer said...

Two people have failed to answer the question:

"Why not aspire to be Stalin?"

"Because I don't want to." or "Because I don't like it."

are not answers.

Where is the incentive to not be an evil dictator?

You might answer that for yourself, but you cannot for others without acknowledging God. And it is still simply personal preference. It cannot be done. You may take that as an intellectual challenge.

In an atheistic world, Stalin was an evil dictator for most of his life - and appears to have gotten away with it with little consequence. So again where is the incentive for him to have lived otherwise? He was probably pretty content with his tremendous personal power, and if asked late in life, would probably not have changed very much of what he did. Did he get away with mass slaughter and starvation of the Ukrainians, et. al.?

My answer: Christ is on His throne and Stalin is accountable to Him, the perfect judge. It is not my position to say for certain, but I have an idea of the result...

And the reason that bad things happen is that there is evil in the world and God did not make us into robots. And you have no idea of the things that God might have prevented that might be even worse that you could imagine. We don't know.

If you want to experience heaven, accept Christ and wait a while. ;-)

Dante said...

But, what if you kept getting better and smarter and learned to do more all the time?

I think people have a finite capacity for knowledge and ideas, so eventually you would run out. Maybe not in the first trillion years, but maybe after a quadrillion.

Meanwhile, evolution will continue on, and you will be like an ape among men.

What might you do? Try to sleep longer and longer times, but each time you woke up, you would realize, "I'm still alive."

Was it Ann Rice that did the Vampire books? I read a few of them, and the Vampires were all incredibly bored. All they had to do was walk out into the sunlight, and it's all done. But the fear of death is just too much for them.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Libertarian Engineer said...

Two people have failed to answer the question:


I gave you a sufficient answer and explanation. An understanding of the answer is up to you. Can't help you there.

Revenant said...

Personally, the older I get, the less interested I am in hearing people talk about their favorite god(s).

This is a "test" of my atheism in the sense that the omnipresence of autotuning is a test of my patience with modern pop music. :)

Revenant said...

"Why not aspire to be Stalin?"

"Because I don't want to." or "Because I don't like it." are not answers.

The correct answer is "what is wrong with *you*, that you think being Stalin would be at all desirable". :)

After all, nobody needs a reason to NOT emulate another person. There are a hundred billion human lifetimes you never gave a thought to emulate; the same is true for all of us.

It is the decision TO emulate one of that hundred billion that needs a reason. So what's the reason you find Stalin so worthy of emulation -- such that you need an external voice telling you "no, no, don't emulate him, that's bad"?

Alex said...

Because some people have a desire to be mass murderers.

wyo sis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wyo sis said...

I don't think people have a finite capacity. Or, to be clearer, I think the soul (the essence of a person) has an infinite capacity to learn and grow. I think there will always be more. The very idea of infinity means growth and knowledge will never end. I don't believe there is an end to life, only an end to parts of life. We won't be left behind in evolution, because we'll always be learning.

creeley23 said...

I don't think it takes all that much artistic license for Jackson to imagine what Tolkien might have put in the Hobbit, as hints of things to come, if he had been aware that he was about to write TLOTR and all his other non-novelized stuff.

SomeoneHasToSayIt : However, it takes no special insight whatsoever, if one knows the books and cares about them, to watch Jackson's Lord of the Rings and realize how little concern Jackson had for the integrity of Tolkien's work, and suspect that approach continues into Jackson's Hobbit.

That is, if one cares for reality. Otherwise, you know, "it's all good." Don't Bogart that joint and Happy New Year to you, too.

creeley23 said...

In one of Sendak's final interviews:

SENDAK: Bush was president, I thought, “Be brave. Tie a bomb to your shirt. Insist on going to the White House. And I wanna have a big hug with the vice president, definitely. And his wife, and the president, and his wife, and anybody else that can fit into the love hug.”

GROTH: A group hug.

SENDAK: And then we’ll blow ourselves up, and I’d be a hero. [Groth laughs.] To hell with the kiddie books. He killed Bush. He killed the vice president. Oh my God.

http://www.tcj.com/maurice-sendak-interview-sneak-preview/


I've known a lot of creeps who can speak movingly about life and death and everything. Much of what they say is even true, as far as I make these matters out.

jr565 said...

You know, that would make a really good children's book.
(maurice the Suicide Bomber). It's really too bad Maurice isn't around to write it.

Human Ape said...

Tyrone Slothrop said..."I don't pretend to know what will happen to me after I die, but even if I entirely cease to be, God was with me while I lived."

Are you sure it was a god fairy? Maybe it was the Easter Bunny. Don't you think it's about time to throw out your childish god fantasy. It's called growing up.