AS296: Life in the Light of Death, with James Lindsay

I’m joined once again by James Lindsay! James has a new book out with some very useful insights on death. Find it here. The first 20 minutes we talk a bit about the election and the fact that many of James’s listeners are likely Trump supporters, despite James himself not being one. Then from there we discuss James’s new book, which has substantially affected the way I think about life. I hope you’ll listen and get as much out of it as I have.

4 thoughts on “AS296: Life in the Light of Death, with James Lindsay”

  1. When you talk about about doing something that is meaningful, make sure this meaningful thing you’re doing is something you enjoy doing. Don’t fall into the trap of letting anyone else define meaning for you. Not your wife, not your mom, not your pastor, not your boss, not your guru, not your “movement,” not your country, not anyone or anything besides you. Because THAT,/i> is how you waste your life: doing something that must meaningful ’cause everybody says so that is actually a fucking trudge.

    The only thing you should do that you might not find enjoyable is caring for children. Always make sure that minor children are cared for and provided for—always. If you abandon children, yours or kids in general, then you are a shit and your life is worse than useless and we’d all be better off without you.

    But, other than that, make sure you’re doing something you enjoy. I used to smoke cigarettes and drink a lot. Do I regret all the wasted years and squandered earnings? Nope. I enjoyed the hell out of it. Then I had one of those episodes where you get an ambulance ride to the hospital in the middle of the night, Not good. Turns out I was falling apart. It’s taken a couple of years to “bounce” back from that one, a couple of not-all-that-enjoyable years, so we don’t do that anymore.

    Now I’m working on putting together a website to enshrine some of the stuff I learned through 40-odd years in the ‘lectronics biz. That will be my “legacy,” so to speak. I enjoy it and I have found other folks DIY-hobbyist websites invaluable at times, but I’m not deluded about it being “truly meaningful.” It’s fun and that’s all it needs to be.

    A big part of living with death is living without meaning. All meaning is local (like caring for your kids). There is no ultimate meaning; there can’t be and there doesn’t need to be. A deep seated need for meaning is just a fear of death. Let go of meaning and death, too, becomes meaningless. There’s a really tired, overused New Age trope that I’ve come to hate because it’s tired and overused, but it’s true: It means what it is. To which I would add: And that’s all it means. To assign meaning to something is to try to make it something else. It isn’t anything else. It is only what it is and that’s all it means.

    “Death is your truest friend and your most reliable adviser. If you have doubts about the course of your life, you have only to consult your death for the proper direction. Death will never lie to you.”
    ——-Florinda Donner quoting Juan Matus

  2. This is a message very similar to the philosophy of Bart Campolo (son of famous pastor Tony Campolo). I’ve felt similarly that I can assign a purpose to my life, and that is improving the experience that everyone has during their short time. We won’t have an everlasting legacy on the long scale, and there’s not an afterlife, so goals for those are somewhat fruitless. But for now we exist. And if I improve someone’s life even marginally, I’ve fulfilled my purpose that I’ve assigned for myself.

  3. This was an enjoyable podcast, and I agree quite a lot with what he presents re: his book, importance of meaning, and philosophy re: death. I currently work as an OT with the elderly and very sick. Helping my pts find meaning in their lives and improving the quality of their lives is a huge part of my job. I would only say that the idea that if you lack societal/interpersonal connections, it doesn’t mean your life is less. The older generations gathered more meaning from societal connections. It depends on what personal criteria one uses to define meaning.

    And re: the first part – it is easy for a white male to say that we need to accept Trump, move on, and just make the best of it. He will be fine. Many others will not. His description of some Trump voters does sound fairly accurate. And while I agree that many were trying to be well meaning, they still voted for a candidate who was endorsed by the KKK. Who demo’d racism and sexism and xenophobia throughout the entire campaign. There is a meme that says (paraphrase), “They may not be the people who would lynch someone; but they were happy to sell them a rope.” Their identity crisis does not excuse the harm that may result from their decisions.

    It’s also important to note that it is the job of white people in general to understand and correct the erroneous thought process of white Trump voters (just like it is important for males to address misogyny). Minorities and other at risk people (including women) shouldn’t be placed in dangerous situations to correct someone else’s ignorance. We need to correct our racial and gender peers. (Besides, psychology finds that people respond better when their gender or racial peers address an issue vs someone of a different gender/race.)

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