The Big O

Oblivion is a place. No one knows where it is, which is strange because so many people go there. They go there not knowing where it is. But there’s no element of surprise when they get there because they don’t know they’re there. Or more accurately, they never arrive. They disappear along the way, or rather, they disappear the very moment they depart. It’s a huge mystery. Even for the likes of Agatha Christie or Raymond Chandler. They would be stumped.

I have a certain semi-proprietorship over that nowhere of non-existence. Most people do, survivors who have said goodbye to family members and friends as they departed for a destination at which they may never arrive. We are all shareholders in the Great Holding Company of Nowhere.

Now, I said that many people go there. Many but not all, because I have it on unproven but historically consistent authority that a good deal many others go somewhere. The actual where is open to debate, as it has been for thousands of years and as it will be for the remainder of human existence.


There is one pre-requisite for the people who end up going somewhere — going, not arriving — and that is faith. If you have faith that you are going somewhere, if you really believe you are going somewhere, chances are that you do go there, or to be precise, you set out on that road. Whether you actually arrive is another matter. And once again, neither an Agatha Christie nor a Raymond Chandler know the ending.

But — and I think this is the point, or at least the point of no return — arriving is not the issue. What’s important, what really matters is that travelers who board the Death Express, carrying a good sturdy suitcase of faith, set out on the journey with courage and peace of mind and actually look forward to the trip.

What, if anything happens along the way does not concern them. They are confident and brave travelers. I really don’t think it crosses their minds that the Death Express may be hijacked and forced to go to Oblivion.

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Here’s looking at you, Death.

A 97-year-old Philosopher Looks at Death and the Meaning of Life

His Enigmatic Last Words May Be Key to the Mystery

The day before he died in 2018, after many hours in silence with his eyes closed, Herbert Fingarette suddenly looked up and said, “Well, that’s clear enough!”

His grandson, Andrew Hasse, notes that his last message is open to interpretation, “but I’d like to believe that he might have seen at least a glimpse of something beyond death.”

Hasse made this video Being 97 of his grandfather’s last days. Note the quiet dedication of the caregiver Sherly Pontis.

The following is reprinted from Richard Wagner’s The Amateur’s Guide to Death and Dying

In his 1996 book about death, Herbert Fingarette argued that fearing one’s own demise was irrational. When you die, he wrote, “there is nothing.” Why should we fear the absence of being when we won’t be there ourselves to suffer it?

Twenty years later, facing his own mortality, the philosopher realized that he had been wrong. Death began to frighten him, and he couldn’t think himself out of it.

Fingarette, who for 40 years taught philosophy at the University of California at Santa Barbara, had also written extensively on self-deception. Now, at 97, he wondered whether he’d been deceiving himself about the meaning of life and death.

“It haunts me, the idea of dying soon, whether there’s a good reason or not,” he says in the documentary Being 97. “I walk around often and ask myself, ‘What is the point of it all?’ There must be something I’m missing. I wish I knew.”

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