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Is this the end?

ems8140's picture

The concept of “the end” was discussed in Professor Dalke’s section today. We talked about whether or not something can officially end, or if a person or event carries on once the literal end has come and gone. I believe that by carrying on the feelings, beliefs, customs, and ideas of those who have passed we help to keep that person from “ending.” I think there is no end to an individual if he or she has made an impact, even on just one person. If this one person is able to incorporate what he or she has learned from interacting with the deceased individual, then that person will live on. Based on this interpretation, there is not a definite “end” to a person after their death. This relates back to the concept of evolution because by carrying on the beliefs and practices of the deceased, we learn and develop as people.      

      Towards the end of class we also briefly touched on the idea of how a specific end may be beneficial in some ways. As previously mentioned, I believe that nothing can ever end abstractly, because that person or event will continue to affect our daily lives. However, a concrete end can help to inspire a person to work hard up until the endpoint. An everyday example is that when I workout I set a goal for myself, whether it’s biking a certain number of miles or running for a given period of time. Having a definite end to the workout helps me to push myself, even when I’m growing tired, because I know the end is approaching. However, while I may stop working out, there is no absolute end to the benefits of the workout. That decision to be active has positive repercussions for my day because I now have more energy, and positive effects for my future because it helps me to stay healthy. The same concept applies to definitive ends such as the end of college. Having the knowledge that all the classes and exams will end at a given point helps students to continue studying and challenging themselves. Once the literal end of college comes in the form of graduation, the good grades students received and all the knowledge acquired due to their extra effort will go onto help them in the real world.


tangerines's picture

As we were discussing “the

As we were discussing “the end” and death this week, I found myself thinking back to our earlier conversations about memes. What I took away from Paul's lecture on Tuesday was that because we live on in other people’s minds and memories, we can never really die. We remain “in conversation” with those who have died, which in a way makes it hard to explain what constitutes “life”. This strikes me as being similar to memes – they exist and survive in our minds, and it’s very hard to define what constitutes a meme. Are we merely memes? I think that just as we can transmit and create memes, we can become memes by sharing ourselves with others, whether it is by leaving behind a book for others to read or by having a conversation with someone that will be remembered after we’re gone.

ems8140's picture

More on Memes

 I hadn’t thought of relating memes to this concept of the “the end” and death, yet it makes sense. Just like the insights, feelings, and customs of those deceased individuals, memes will never truly die out. As long as they are remembered by some people, they will never “end.” Because the cultural memes that were relevant when we were younger are no longer as common, they could be considered outdated. However, much like the impact other people have on our lives, because these memes helped us grow and evolve into who we are today, they will always be present and never truly end. Because of this, I believe that, while there are other factors that play into our identity, memes definitely help shape our sense of self. Additionally, it is likely that we will then take what we learned from these memes and pass that knowledge on to others, further supporting their existence.

ashley's picture

Peach Tree as the Link to Living On after Death

The conversation of death and living on in the memories of those who knew us reminds me of something a high school teacher of mine once said. We were taking an AP Chemistry prep course during the summer, the last class he taught before he retired. He was an interesting guy. I don't remember the context in which the conversation came up, but he was telling us about a peach tree that he had outside of his house, and that when he died he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered at the base of the peach tree. Why there? Because, as he put it, he would become mixed into the nourishment of the tree, so there would be a bit of him in every peach the tree bore. And then what? Then when his children and grandchildren consumed the fruit they would essentially be consuming him as well and he would be living on through them/with them. And all this was followed by a mischievous sort of laughter.

Hearing his future plans seemed funny in a slightly creepy sort of way (whether he was serious or not I do not know). But just thinking of this makes me think of how we live on through other ways than simply through memories. Once our bodies decompose they return to their purest form and contribute to nature in other ways. In that sense, we never actually leave the earth and continue to exist. While not living and breathing, there is still a presence.

Sarah Schnellbacher's picture

the Reincarnated Atom

This reminds me of a Bill Bryson book I once read for a class in high school "A Short History of Nearly Everything". In it Bryson explains that if you ever hear someone bragging about being related to Shakespeare, you should say "me too". In the time since Shakespeare he says that the atoms that composed Shakespeare are spread across the world and a part of each of us. I feel that the carbon cycle gives a whole new meaning to reincarnation, I consist of the atoms that once ruled empires and composed every ancient animal that is now extinct. Even if an entire species became extinct millions of years before humans even evolved, they still live on in us.

KT's picture

...Or A New Beginning?

I find comfort in this idea: people don’t die because their thoughts, mannerisms and insights live on. But I was thinking about how everything that is living is constantly changing and reacting to change and I wonder has this principle impacts the idea of life in the deceased.  Can they still adapt in some way or must they be incorporated into the minds of vehicles that still can change (living people) in order to do so? And if that’s the case, would that mean that they’ve become something else?  To take a step back, does the Library of Babel keep expanding because it’s contents keep adding onto other contents… and what then of the idea that the original contents are still “living”?

Sarah Schnellbacher's picture

Li Br Ar...the elements of the Library of Babel

I hadn't thought of the Library of Babel before in this context. Earlier in the course Paul discussed how he didn't think there could be a Library of Babel that encompassed everything because it wouldn't include itself. What if the LIbrary did include everything? Atomically the library would have every atom in the universe. Couldn't these atoms like words be rearranged over and over again. We don't think of matter expanding even though the organization of atoms changes to create new body plans but essentially it is all just the same number of oxygen and carbon, etc. atoms. If words are the atoms of the library, then even the rearrangement of words does not create more words in the dictionary. Because the dictionary is somewhat constant, can we justify saying that the Library of Babel must be expanding?

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