The inevitability and finality of death have prompted some of the world's most poignant and memorable literature, from the Epic of Gilgamesh of ancient Babylon to the works of contemporary poets and novelists. The conviction that death means everlasting extinction, with no possibility of an afterlife, is described by Peter Heinegg as "mortalism." In this unique anthology he has collected more than fifty selections of poetry and prose that reflect this view.
Contrary to what one might expect, mortalism does not invariably lead to pessimism, despair, or the sense that life is absurd. Although such sentiments are found in some of the quoted passages, many others give one the opposite impression: since life is brief and terribly finite, it should be treasured and celebrated for all its pleasures and rich experiences. Also noteworthy is the fact that the mortalist point of view is not necessarily confined to unbelievers. Heinegg presents quotations from Job, Ecclesiastes, the Venerable Bede, Blaise Pascal, and Soren Kierkegaard, as well as from such unbelievers as Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud.
Heinegg calls mortalism the great open secret of our culture--open because the arguments in its favor are clear, powerful, and perfectly accessible, and a secret because acknowledging it has been seen either as impious or as simply too depressing to discuss. In perusing this intriguing volume the reader will find that mortalism was the viewpoint shared by many of the most profound and creative minds in history.
About the Author
William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) - 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist.
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a prolific 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian. Kierkegaard strongly criticized both the Hegelianism of his time and what he saw as the empty formalities of the Church of Denmark. Much of his work deals with religious themes such as faith in God, the institution of the Christian Church, Christian ethics and theology, and the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with life choices. His early work was written under various pseudonyms who present their own distinctive viewpoints in a complex dialogue. Kierkegaard left the task of discovering the meaning of his works to the reader, because "the task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted." Scholars have interpreted Kierkegaard variously as an existentialist, neo-orthodoxist, postmodernist, humanist, and individualist. Crossing the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, and literature, he is an influential figure in contemporary thought.
Virginia Woolf was an influential English author best known for her involvement with the Bloomsbury Group, an association of intellectuals and artists including, John Maynard Keynes and E. M. Forster, who are credited with influencing early twentieth-century literature, criticism, and economics. Woolf became a prolific writer in between the two World Wars, and some of her most famous works, including Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, are now among the most prominent English books of the modern period. A life-long sufferer of depression, Woolf was institutionalized numerous times before taking her own life in 1941.