Death and Philosophy

By Jeff Malpas; Robert C. Solomon | Go to book overview

2

MY DEATH

Reflections on my journey into non-being

Tem Horwitz

It was perfectly clear to me what was happening. I was dying. Yet at the time of my death in September of 1995 there was no fear, no struggling, no desperation, no confusion and no bewilderment. Yet as I sit here reading my wife’s account of my death I am filled with terror. In the middle of the night, during the Labor Day weekend, I went into anaphylactic shock. Later, it would appear that this was induced by exposure to excessive moulds in the air in our country house, and by drinking beer preserved with sulphites. In my middle years I have become acutely sensitive to both. Our second home sits on high dunes above Lake Michigan on a lot that is a mile deep, heavily wooded and remote. A spectacular and private spot. A mile from a paved road. Ten miles from town.

Waking up in the middle of the night, having great difficulty breathing, I realized that I was in trouble. I woke my wife and told her succinctly, ‘We have to go.’ She understood immediately. She jumped from bed, put on a few clothes, grabbed her backpack, and helped me as we stumbled in total darkness toward the parking lot. I told her to take her car. Her car has a car phone, mine does not.

In the car I fought for my breath, for my life. I withdrew into myself. I knew that I was in the process of dying. I watched it happening. There was no fear; the experience itself was too compelling. During this period of time, which was probably less than ten minutes, all of my attachments to this world dwindled to nothing. Susan’s voice was distant, remote, removed from my experience. I could hear her talking to me and then I could no longer make sense of the words. ‘Hold on.’ ‘Holeone.’ ‘Hoooooooo.’

As I sat there struggling to breathe I watched the dashboard in front of me lose its definition. The lights lost their brightness. Everything turned a dark grey, and then black. My body began to feel very heavy. I could feel the weight in the middle of my back. I let everything settle down into my centre, not struggling with this feeling of heaviness. I responded weakly to Susan, partly because of the physical state that I was in but largely because I was totally absorbed in the process of dying. My head felt huge and heavy like a boulder. I felt my body toppling. I could not tell in which direction I was falling. Falling.

My last breaths were shallow with long exhalations, and finally no inhalations

-5-

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Death and Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Death and Philosophy 1
  • 2 - My Death 5
  • 3 - Against Death 16
  • 4 - On the Purported Insignificance of Death 22
  • 5 - Death and the Skeleton 39
  • 6 - Death, the Bald Scenario 50
  • 7 - Death as Transformation in Classical Daoism 57
  • 8 - Death and Enlightenment 71
  • 9 - Death and Detachment 83
  • 10 - Death and Metaphysics 98
  • 11 - Death and Authenticity 112
  • 12 - Death and the Unity of a Life 120
  • 13 - The Antinomy of Death 135
  • 14 - Death Fetishism, Morbid Solipsism 152
  • Notes 177
  • References 198
  • Index 203
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