“Humanity is afraid of Death, but indecisively”

“…Sometimes I feel, I’m not sure why, a touch of foretold death… Perhaps it’s an indefinite sickness which, because it doesn’t materialize in pain, tends to become spiritualized in nothingness, the end. Or perhaps it’s a weariness that needs a slumber far deeper than sleeping affords. All I know is that I feel like a sick man who has been getting steadily worse, until at last he calmly and without regret extends his feeble hands over the bedspread he had been clutching.

And then I wonder what this thing is that we call death. I don’t mean the mystery of death, which I can’t begin to fathom, but the physical sensation of ceasing to live. Humanity is afraid of death, but indecisively. The normal man makes a good soldier in combat; the normal man, when sick or old, rarely looks with horror at the abyss of nothing, though he admits its nothingness. This is because he lacks imagination. And nothing is less worthy of a thinking man than to see death as a slumber.

Why a slumber, if death doesn’t resemble sleep? Basic to sleep is the fact we wake up from it, as we presumably do not from death. If death resembles sleep, we should suppose that we wake up from it, but this is not what the normal man imagines; he imagines death as a slumber no one wakes up from, which means nothing.

Death doesn’t resemble slumber, I said, since in slumber one is alive and sleeping, and I don’t know how death can resemble anything at all for us, since we have no experience of it, nor anything to compare it to.

Whenever I see a dead body, death seems to me a departure. The corpse looks to me like a suit that was left behind. Someone went away and didn’t need to take the one and only outfit he’d worn…”

— Fernando Pessoa — Excerpt taken from The Book of Disquiet (Chapter 40)


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