Poetry and humor make reality of death more tolerableCan we be certain about anything? Benjamin Franklin is credited with a favorite truism, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Actually nobody of consequence has disputed that regarding death, but now politicians have substituted the word fees for taxes.
By: Bernie Hughes, Superior Telegram
Can we be certain about anything? Benjamin Franklin is credited with a favorite truism, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Actually nobody of consequence has disputed that regarding death, but now politicians have substituted the word fees for taxes.
Most tax-paying citizens would say that change is in name only.
I like another quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Certitude is not the test of certainty, we have been cocksure of many things that were not so.” Certainty can be on a continuum with dogmatism on one end and skepticism on the other. With dogmatism, people have accepted the certainty of knowing; with skepticism, people place accepted the certainty of not knowing. In the abnormal sphere, neurotics have fears of not knowing, psychotics have convictions of knowing some things, too often that are not so.
We often express our dislike for not knowing. Why don’t we know this? Why can’t we know that? Uncertainty is unsettling and upsetting; we feel, at such times, that knowing is always better. But is it really?
We also know situations when people have evidence that makes knowing almost a certainty, but they deliberately do not entertain those thoughts — dire thoughts most often.
Medical prognosis is such an area. Negative thoughts, or at least expression of those.
Bertrand Russell summarized his thoughts on certainty by saying that anyone who was absolutely certain is almost always absolutely wrong. When we invaded Iraq many of our political leaders expressed certainty that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Not so, and many Iraqis and U.S. service personnel were killed and maimed unnecessarily, and we put the war on a credit carded, which is a considerable portion of our debt.
For those of us a bit further along the aging path, the following poem may be appropriate for those who avoid discussing the inevitability of death:
You tell me that I am getting old, I tell you that’s not so!
The “house” I live in is worn out; that, of course, I know.
It’s been in use a long, long while, it’s weathered many a gale;
I’m really not surprised you think it’s getting somewhat frail.
The hair is thin upon my roof, the windows are getting dim,
The walls are a bit transparent and looking rather thin.
The foundation is not so steady as once it used to be
My house is getting shaky, but my “house” is not me.
A Montana friend sent me the following aging humor comments:
“I’ve sure gotten old. I’ve had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees, fought prostate cancer and diabetes, half blind, can’t hear anything quieter than a jet engine. I take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded and subject to blackouts. Have bouts with dementia, poor circulation; hardly feel with my hands and feet anymore. Can’t remember if I’m 88 or 92, have lost all my friends, but thankfully I still have my driver’s license.
And … Just before the funeral services, the undertaker came up to the very elderly widow and asked, “How old was your husband?” “98 she replied; two years older than me.” “So you’re 96,” said the undertaker. She responded, “Hardly worth going home, is it?”
Death is not a pleasant subject but for those of us in the aging category, it requires planning.