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American writer William Faulkner died on July 6, 1962. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. In his acceptance speech, Faulkner said he believed that man would not only endure, he would prevail. Which brings us to today’s topic: Prevail, for what purpose?

Faulkner put the following speech in the mouth of one of his characters, Dr. Peabody, in As I Lay Dying:

"I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind—and that of the minds who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town."

Movin’ on up, we can only hope.

Faulkner’s corncobby piece of wisdom seems to imply that death is just another state of mind, as changeable as a suit of clothes. Passing on would signify nothing more than another stage in a desultory journey.

If that’s what death is, then it follows that there’s not only life after death, but possibly another death after the first one. And so on. That makes as much sense as anything, I guess, but it doesn’t answer the fundamental question: What’s it all for? Eternal life – even if it’s life following on death following on life, ad nauseam, is no more, and is maybe even less, comprehensible than one life. The problem remains: Why life at all?

Leave it to Sherlock Holmes to sum things up nicely, (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Holmes, died on July 7, 1930.)

"’What is the meaning of it, Watson?’ said Holmes, solemnly, as he laid down the paper. ‘What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable. But what end?’" (“The Adventure of the Cardboard Box.”)

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