Hey guys,
    So I got to thinking, like I usually do, about the [depressing] state of our existence in general.  I assume many people on AN are humanists, I've seen the topic around a bit and so I'm wondering~
        Some of the greatest humanists, or fathers of the modern humanist movement, seemed to embrace the futility of life, some to the extent of rejecting a funeral after their death (sources will be provided upon request) and so I wonder, how is it we modern atheists deal with dying?  Please listen to this, because it is important; I am not dealing with the actual concept of death, no need for that; what I'm referring to is the understanding that the greatest proportion of human beings who have ever been are completely forgotten, as though their lives have never happened.  We will, most likely, fall into that unknown oblivion, forgotten a generation after we are gone.. We know that, and yet some feel that wanting anything different is egotistical.. Is it?  Is wanting to be remembered the way Socrates or Kant will be remembered, is that yearning to leave an impact in some small way, egotistical?  Sure enough it is human, and shouldn't necessarily be discarded, but should it be embraced?  Should I succumb to the numbing feeling I get when I realize that I will not be 'remembered' in the historical sense, no matter how brilliant? (looking at it merely statistically)  I personally feel its gratifying in a sense, because in a way it makes me realize I have something that I feel should be remembered, but where do you stand?  Embrace the reality, or shrug it off and put it out of mind; the latter being a state of denial.  please, elaborate on your answers; I've no need for simple yes or no types, I'd like a good Philosophical discussion.

Tags: death, humanism, remembrance

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Wanting to be remembered is egotistical but not in a bad way. I would like to be remembered for something grand after I am dead but more than that I would like to know I'm going to be remembered. Naturally after you die you no longer care one way or the other. So to me it is only one way to gauge whether or not I was successful in life. I believe the greatest thing a person can do with their life is to have a positive lasting impact on the future. It is futile to bank your own happiness on being remembered after you are gone because there will be no way to know if you succeed. Greatness or infamy can be a good yard stick to measure your life's worth with but in the end you don't really get a say. I say embrace reality, accept the probability that you are just as useless to the human race as the rest of the human race and hope for the best. You never know, you might become posthumously famous for being the parent of your children who might become famous.
Just how far in the future are you talking? And just how significant?

For, surely, if you died today (for all I know you may have suffered some tragic fate while I have been typing this), you would be remembered as somewhat significant by *some* people for *some* period of time. The fact that I'm even responding to your post proves that. Why would I respond if I didn't think it significant enough to spend the time and effort?

Is it merely your name that you wish remembered? Or something you've said or done?

Imagine the enormously long chain (network, more like) of entities and events that have contributed to your conscious existence here and now. Had one of those entities or events failed to exist or occur, you would not exist. But can you name or remember every entity that contributed to your existence? Can you even remember more than the most minuscule fraction of them? Can anyone? Do you consider them insignificant, merely because they are not consciously remembered by someone, even though they are, by definition, necessary for your very own existence?

Or would it be satisfying enough to have the knowledge that your present existence will continue to have positive effects for *some* people, for *some* time to come, regardless of whether they happen to know your name?

Many people prefer to make anonymous donations to various charities precisely *because* they would prefer to have done something good *without* the motivation to have their names remembered for it.

It doesn't require us to buy into any mystical mumbo jumbo to understand that all things in the physical universe, as discovered by science, are inter-connected with one another and influence each other continuously, by the mere fact of their physical existence. Like the waves in a pool rippling from a single rain drop, a tiny cause can have wide-reaching and unpredictable effects. But can anyone identify which molecules of water are responsible? Does it matter? Are not the *actual* effects the only important consideration?

As we speak, the first episode of I Love Lucy is traveling at the speed of light throughout the universe. It has already reached about 150 star systems visible to the naked eye. It will continue on forever, having diminishing effects as it goes, but having effects nonetheless.

Our species has only barely begun to reach out into the universe. With luck, we may yet survive our own sun's death. No one can see the future clearly enough to know for sure, but it is not entirely implausible. It may be that your own existence may contribute to that, for better or worse. Again, no one can know for sure.

So, without firm knowledge, shall we despair? I suggest: Why despair? Why not make our best effort to leave the world having contributed more for the good than the bad?

The unknown future can induce terror, or it can inspire wonder. I choose wonder.
As for me, I've accepted such as fact. We remember the tyrants and the saints but rarely the teeming masses of dirt-eating peasants crushed by the former and soothed by the latter. That's simply a fact, you've hit that right on the head. The key is making yourself part of the human narrative, e.g. become the culture. Do something that will compel other people to reference you in their considerations.

There are two ways to deal with that, one is to die in quiet resignation, hopefully content with a life well lived. There is subtle nobility in being a quiet ship, leaving the busy dock of humanity undisturbed. The other way is to leave your stamp on human culture. How that is done is entirely up to you.

Today, however, the bar to be added to the culture has changed from a few hundred years ago.

That Stephenie Meyer will be remembered for at least a few generations is an atrocity, but it will be. That we will remember the legion of brainless, bit titted, poorly sung, otherwise useless pop stars is equally unfortunate. That these cultural flotsam will persist in culture while people already don't know Liu Xiaobo is saddening, but it is.

Today there are a few ways to be remembered forever: 1) be an exceptionally brilliant engineer or scientist who uses his skills to make something brilliantly novel but generally useless; 2) be a ruthless dictator; 3) be a questionably attractive individual of questionable vocal talent; 4) write a book series aimed at tweens that adults will unhealthily obsess over; 5) be a generally mediocre athlete with only one particularly good season; 6) express desire to lead despite having a questionable leadership track record (also, get a TV show). Just think about it a little bit.

Today if you want to be remembered for just being a good person it had better be by doing something exceptionally good. Levels of heroic and noble sacrifice beyond all human capability. Case in point, can you name one fireman who died on 9/11?
You don't even need to be evil, just spectacularly mundane will do.


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