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“The Reckoning: Pascal’s Wager”

Thursday, April 20, 2017 15:25
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“The Reckoning: Pascal’s Wager”
by Jesse

“A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death – the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, and even murders that we are not going to be held to account.”
- Czesław Miłosz

“Every man and woman on this earth will die. Now, this is of course a statement of the obvious. And yet very few really think about it, until something happens to bring that cold statement of reality into an unavoidable focus that they must confront. We are all dying, in our own way and time, from the moment that we are born; but we do our utmost not to think about it. And this is understandable. Going around constantly thinking about your own mortality would be morbid, a misuse of the time and talent that we have been given on this earth to do things, to create, and love, and to be alive.

But we tend to put any thought of our true place in the world, put it off and out of mind so much, that we also start thinking that we are uniquely different, that we are above the common state of humanity. We are so much superior to all the others that we will likely go on forever, immune to the consequences that afflict the greater mass of humanity. 

And if only this were true; but it is not. Not true for any one of us. Of this we can be certain. One thing of which we can be sure of, is that we will draw a last breath, and that the darkness will come over our eyes and hold us in a final embrace. We may fantasize about avoiding death, about living almost forever, of extending our life here on earth indefinitely, and perhaps of leaving a great monument to ourselves that will last forever in this world that will provide us a kind of immortality. But this will not happen.

We know, deep down in our very heart of hearts, that at that moment, the moment immediately after our death, the moment in which we will finally discover for ourselves whether it is to be consciousness or nothingness, the regret that one might feel at having been wrong, of having misjudged the real rules of the game, of having purposely misunderstood and deluded ourselves about the true nature and meaning of our own life? Of having squandered everything on items that have no lasting consequence?

If so, it would be more overwhelming than anything we might dare to imagine. That is what Leon Bloy means when he says that, “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”  It is what is called Pascal’s wager. But it serves us not to think about it. And so we distract ourselves with lesser things…

“Have a pleasant evening.”


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