I heard a saying the other day that everyone dies two times.

You die the first time when you body dies.

You die the second time when the last person who remembers you dies.

Do you believe in two lifetimes or do you think we only die once?

Are you only your body and merely a memory in others?

Is the human need to be remembered in death what drives people to create buildings — giant headstones in the form of monuments — and to create physical things beyond children that will be preserved and protected by those who never knew the person but appreciate the aftereffects of the written work of Art, the musical composition or the stone sculpture?

If memory isn’t everlasting and is bound by the body, is the easiest way to achieve immortality through the Arts and architecture?

57 Comments

  1. Woody Allen was asked in a Playboy interview if he wanted to live on in the hearts of his fans through his work and he replied, “I’d rather live on in my apartment.”
    I think the bulk of the reason we create art is that it is in us and aching to be let out. It pleads with us, “Person! Express us on the page or else we will give you a headache.” At least, that’s what happens to me.
    The average American will look puzzled, I believe, if you ask who Gaudi is, though he was a genius in architecture and is beloved in Spain. For how long will he be remembered? Perhaps so long as people continue to want to visit his museums.
    Will people forget Shakespeare? It’s unlikely – but it seems nothing’s impossible. Hmm.
    In other words, it seems to be like gambling if you make art for the sake of being remembered. Shakespeare wasn’t the only person writing plays in his day. How many of his contemporaries do we read?

  2. I think we all like to create things that will out live us and show our personality and creativity to future generations.
    Some do this with their fancy and large monuments. Others do it by donating money to have their names engraved on school buildings. Some create works of art or other things that they hope will last beyond their own life span. Some hope to spread the spirit of love by their actions during their lives.
    Having children could be a subconscious way to be remembered — or at the very least — influence the future. Most people hope their child raising skills will enable their children to achieve much and to surpass their parents accomplishments.

  3. Pragmatically speaking it’s pretty much senseless to do this.
    I think most of us barely have any knowledge of our great-grandparents, other than those of us who live in societies where having children at 16 is still the norm.
    I believe that most of us still have a “be fruitful and multiply” mentality somewhere in our subconscious – or we see that the normative thing culturally speaking is to get married and have children and so we do so.
    Men may have a strong desire that their family name should be passed on but I think that’s the extent of it.
    I think this is the good reason some people rarely get upset and shrug things off saying, “Will this really matter in 150 years?”

  4. Hi David,
    I’d never say that having children was selfish.
    Most people have children because they are in love or were in lust. Brain chemicals that determine attraction probably have more influence over the decision to have children than do any thoughts about the future.
    People have an innate desire to create.
    Some create children.
    Other create beautiful artwork, music, and other things, including kids.
    It’s all part of the same drive to be creative.

  5. It’s far from a black and white issue, I say.
    There are some who have children because they want to give forth their love and that is all.
    There are others who have children so their name will live on forever.
    There are yet others who have children because they feel they are fulfilling G-d’s will by doing so. (That’s definitely not selfish.) 😛

  6. I’m not sure how Terri Schiavo fits in with today’s post — I don’t think she’ll be remembered five years from now and certainly isn’t iconic or everlasting in the frame I set forth in my argument — but I do thank you for posting your comment, Dave.

  7. I believe the soul lives on through energy/spirit and never dies.
    I also believe that immortality can only be achieved at this point in time, through creation. We leave a fingerprint in everything we do here on earth. It begins when we’re a fetus and never truly ends because what we are returns to earth and is recycled into the next (??).
    If a doctor clones me after I die, am I doubly immortal? The 1st- through memory (metaphysical presence) of my original body and legacy and the 2nd- through physical presence.
    Sheesh.. I almost confused myself with that one. 😀

  8. Cryptic —
    How does one remember an energy/spirit that never dies?
    Or are you saying memory isn’t tethered to living and dying?
    Forget cloning for a moment and let’s go back to the original question of the post today: Do you believe you die once or twice?

  9. Does posting to this blog make us immortal when this is indexed and preserved by Google for future generations to review and study?
    Do we ever consider that future relatives may try to search for what we did — much as the geneology folks research their ancestors — by looking us up in whatever serach engine/device will be created for research in the 26th century?
    Will our Myspace pages end up being our monuments of rememberance for future generations?

  10. Giving froth your love is pretty non-selfish, as is giving forth your love.
    For those who believe that they are fulfilling G-d’s will by having children (much as they are by getting married or ‘getting their prayer on’ three times a day or even by saying a prayer of thanks before having their cup of coffee in the morning) it too could be selfish or selfless depending on the motivation of the person.
    A person could be thinking “I am doing this ‘l’shaim Shemayim’ (in the name of Heaven, literally)” – as in, they are doing it because it is what is asked of them and they want to do that.
    A person might, on the other hand, be thinking, “Woo-hoo! I’m getting lots of points for this one.”

  11. Hi Chris —
    I would have to vote “no” on this blog or anything else on the ‘net making us immortal. I don’t think any of this physically exists in any sort of substantial and memorable manner — except in bits and bytes on some remote server in California — and it could all blow up tomorrow and all we’d remember of it is what we saved or what we kept close to us. The web really is a tangle of mirror and illusion and nothing is real or hardy.
    My fear is that the “hard Arts” like writing and music and sculpture will move completely from the physical to the virtual. E-books replace paper, MP3s replace live performance and notation and 3D modeling replaced granite and marble.
    Soon everything we were becomes nothingness in the future. We will have no relics or sense of history because these things today in the future will not change or grow character. They will always remain as they are and that gives no sense of distance or perspective of wonder whatsoever.

  12. Hi Cryptic —
    I am inclined to agree with you.
    Someone too shy to post a comment here emailed me and said this “twice dying” thing is based on an old Buddhist proverb if that means anything or changes something for anyone…

  13. If not being remembered is a form of death, it would explain the increase in depression particularly with the aged living in nursing homes or care facilities away from friends and family. In that sense, I think it’s by far more wounding to be forgotten while one is still physically alive.
    What good would it be to be recognized and remembered by people you do not know and are not blood relations yet be forgotten by those nearest to you?
    If you forget someone who has impacted your life, haven’t you died a little?
    Is it worse to be forgotten or to forget?

  14. Ah, A S, you ask a potent question!
    I think you are right it is worse to be forgotten while still alive: The second death comes before the first death and that throws everything into a depressive tailspin.
    There is always a human search for meaning and for concrete being and if one is locked away from family, even in the care of loving strangers — they are still strangers — and that means a slow death day by days by hours and neglected moments of regret.

  15. I would have to vote “no” on this blog or anything else on the ‘net making us immortal.
    I don’t think any of this physically exists in any sort of substantial and memorable manner — except in bits and bytes on some remote server in California — and it could all blow up tomorrow and all we’d remember of it is what we saved or what we kept close to us.
    The web really is a tangle of mirror and illusion and nothing is real or hardy.

    Having had the experience of one of my blogs disappear into the ether — and reappear when domain name fees were paid by the person owning the domain — I quickly fired up my copy of the free HTTrack Website Copier to get a fresh backup copy.
    From HTTrack.com:

    It allows you to download a World Wide Web site from the Internet to a local directory, building recursively all directories, getting HTML, images, and other files from the server to your computer. HTTrack arranges the original site’s relative link-structure. Simply open a page of the “mirrored” website in your browser, and you can browse the site from link to link, as if you were viewing it online. HTTrack can also update an existing mirrored site, and resume interrupted downloads. HTTrack is fully configurable, and has an integrated help system.

    Since it’s so easy to spider, index, and copy websites, I’m sure the net will live on somewhere in the future. The question will be whether people will be able to read the media.
    Archive.org seems to be trying to preserve the internet for the future:

    The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.

  16. “That means a slow death day by days by hours and neglected moments of regret.” I suppose that would make a poor investment for those that choose to procreate for selfish reasons.

  17. I think you’re right A S — if you choose to create children just so you can be remembered or because you want to be a grandparent or because you want to forge a chain of history throughout the Ages just because you feel that is your selfish innate right as a person then you’re tumbling down a slick slope of denial of what makes us really want to remember each other beyond the body.

  18. I think a living creature; especially a human being can die a couple of times.
    First, if/when he loses his sanity,
    Second, when he loses his humanity, and
    Third, when he dies physically.
    If I lead my life as a commoner, I will be remembered till my grandson (if I have any) lives.
    I only know my great grand parents’ name – haven’t met them in my life.
    If I can contribute enough to the society, I will be remembered a little bit longer – depending on my contribution.

  19. That is a very interesting view of life, Katha.
    What is your definition of “commoner” and would, say “royalty” be remembered in a different way?
    Oh, and you lost your Gravatar when you changed your email address. You can get it back by adding your email address to your current Gravatar account by paying $5.00 to them – then you can then add as many email addresses as you like to get your Gravatar to load.
    Or, if you don’t want to pay, you’ll have to create a second account on Gravatar.com to connect your new email address to your Gravatar.

  20. Hi David,
    It wouldn’t be a capture of a memory, but it would preserve what we were like when we were writing for future generations. Whereas older generations discussed their topics of the day around the campfire, general store, cafe, or parlor, we’re discussing them online.
    It’s easier to save these “memories” for the future than it was to capture contemporaneous conversations from the past and publish them in paper or audio form.
    We wouldn’t live on, obviously, but our thoughts and ideas and the way were were right now would.

  21. David,
    My definition of commoner is “me”; if I die today – I think no one will remember me except my parents and some of my friends – till they breathe.
    On the other hand, I didn’t mean ‘royalty’ would be remembered for ever – I was talking about significant contribution to the society – regardless of forms.
    Yes, I have watched my “glamorous gravatar” disappearing, thanks for the heads-up – will take care!

  22. I agree with Katha on being able to die several times in “one lifetime”.
    I believe therefore that it more important to have ones contribution to the world extended through the lives of others one has positively impacted than to be remembered and have people connect ones name to ones actions or creations.

  23. I havent really thought about this until now. I guess I am far more concerened about living this life than I am about what happens after I die. Having been pretty close to death once, I tend to concentrate on the here and now and making the most of it.
    I tend to agree with Katha about being able to die several times in “one lifetime”.
    (As a flippant aside – some actors and comedians die thousands of times in front of unsympathetic audiences).

  24. I dont know…….. we dont know when our death is done. I think death is probably one of the greatest unknowns of life.
    I believe we are all souls on a journey – we reach our final destination/ completion once we have learned all the lessons we need to. Death to me is completion of this stage.
    (“Died a thousand deaths” is an English saying about bad actors and comedians flopping badly on firt nights, or getting booed off the stage …. I guess they find another life in another occupation ! )

  25. Thank you for that David , I was thinking I ought to look up the origins……… and yes it is interesting in light of todays topic.
    It has set off a whole load of questions about why we are so afraid of death, how different cultures and religions regard/view death – particularly in the light of the extremists who often seek death as the ultimate glory.

  26. Ok David, this is hypothetical.
    Right now, if I lose my sanity, kill someone and go to jail – that’s death for me.
    If I emerge again, as a sensible human being – that’s a second life.
    I was stuck with my life four years back, if I kept on continuing to lead the same life – that would have been “death”.
    Today, this rejuvenated me is leading a ‘second life’.
    People in my surroundings will remember me in a different life – as long as they live.

  27. Hi Katha —
    Your idea of life and death sure seems sudden and arbitrary — and some might even argue “convenient” — Katha. Can you start a new “life” just by wishing?
    Is what you are sharing with us today a cultural phenomenon or are these your personal musings on life and death and they are not colored or influenced by any dogma?

  28. David,
    People might think my idea of life sudden, arbitrary, convenient or whatever…, but definitely it is not biased/restricted by any set code of belief – it is my experience.
    You can’t start a second life just by wishing – you need to act, and I did.

  29. After reading the post following this one, I hesitated to comment — just because I didn’t want to be just another “notch” on your blogstats and, then too, with so many comments everything worthwhile has probably already been said.
    I’m here, however, if just to say that you have a hell of a good blog (i.e., the few posts I’ve looked at have been interesting and thought provoking).
    If you have an RSS feed (I haven’t checked yet) I’ll probably, just for the stated reasons, subscribe and get a daily dose of David Boles for a while.
    Regards,
    whymrhymer: The Venerable Infidel

  30. We don’t die. Simple as. Our bodies may fade and wither away, but our souls, amde up of pure energy are not solid, and therefore cannot die. If we look at it from a spiritual viewpoint, in fact, we may die many times.
    We are here on Earth to follow a path, one that we set out before we were born on Earth. If we die before this path or course is complete, we are then reborn in order to finish the path. We are reborn as many times as it takes to finish the path or course which in turn will enable us to ascend to a higher spiritaul realm.
    Just my two cents.