My talk is a sampling of novelist Julian Barnes’ touching and very personal memoir of his experiences of death in the family, and the demise of the famous and obscure in literature and life, plus his own fears and ruminations on his own, entitled ‘Nothing to be Frightened of’, published in 2008 (available in paperback).
I will give a brief introduction to the book and some snippets from it, with comments to set the ball rolling. For example, the book begins with what he claims to be his standard response to questions about what he believes: “I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him”; a statement (actually about the cultural and artistic legacy of others’ belief) which Barnes’ philosopher brother considers “soppy”. Do you agree?
It would nice if attendees were familiar with the book, so that they could give their own take on it and recount bits they liked or otherwise.
I will discuss this subject from a Zen perspective. Living-and-dying is one word in Zen (shoji), a river running towards the sea, a river that cannot go back to the source. Our suffering is often caused by wanting to stand by the riverbank. The task of the psychotherapist is often thankless: urging the client back to the river of life thus renewing the promise of death. Even more thankless is the task of the philosopher: remembering the initial commitment to remain attentive of the delicate labour of death. Memento mori – “remember that you will die” –not the shrill overtones of religion but as a tonic of remembrance urging us towards a fuller and more meaningful life.
Chair – Prof. Evan Parker
Evan is a new trustee of Conway Hall Ethical Society. He has worked in industry and in academe. He currently works on nano-technology and also on climate change. He has held leadership roles in several European programmes and has published widely.
Doors 10.30, £3 in advance, £2 concs./Free to Ethical Society members.