Is death the worst?

Janny Wurts Chat Area: Author's Corner: Is death the worst?
   By Angela Bawden on Thursday, March 13, 2008 - 05:27 pm: Edit Post

K, here's another controversial topic. I've noticed in many books, (Wurts' included) that death is viewed as the greatest evil, or the greatest obstacle, or just the ultimate of many ends. I tend to disagree with this viewpoint. I think there are many things that are far worse than death - that's one reason why people commit suicide.
What do you (other people) think?
Wurts, you seem to touch on this a lot in the Wars of Light and Shadow series, and in the Fire Maste cycle (I forget the exact name). Since the two series seem to voice opposite opinions. (Spoilers!!) In the Fire Master cycle, death is the ultimate "no" that the character avoids until it's about to end the world, then he embraces it and wins. But in the Mistwraith series, you seem to have death as posing as the merciful option that Arithon is denied but wishes for.
I'm just curious what your opinion is on this? I couldn't come to a conclusion reading your works. I know you have a great respect for life, but i'm confused by your differing viewpoints on death.
and if this is too personal a question, please feel free it ignore it. sometimes I get thinking too deep for my own good.


   By Angela Bawden on Friday, March 14, 2008 - 11:22 pm: Edit Post

I realized after reading this again that I forgot to state my own opinion.
I do not view death as the greatest evil, though it is definately up there. Nor do I view it as the greatest hurdle of fear man has to overcome...at least not for me. I think the worst thing anyone can face is to be left completely alone - friends and family all gone, either abandoned you, or died, or betrayed you. When you are left alone, all the dark demons of the human psyche attack and hurl the soul into everyone's own personal version of hell. and I think that is a universaly shared feeling. contradict me if you think otherwise. I'm honestly curious to know what others think and feel. This question is an old one for me, and I have been encouraged by the respectful and mature posts and responses in these forums to post it here. but if i don't get any responses, it won't be the first time. ;)


   By Janny Wurts on Saturday, March 15, 2008 - 09:26 am: Edit Post

You Asked, Angela - the opinions or feelings of a character may not necessarily reflect my own stance.

This said - it has been said by one wiser than I that death is the ultimate healing. Taken in its proper time and place, this is quite likely so.

A lifetime ended prematurely because someone took it into their own hands to decide, or a victim who had a choice to walk away at one point refused that invitation - an infant or child, dying in terror? Can this be viewed as the best of all outcomes?

My own take is that each circumstance IS an individual event. And if there could be an 'ideal' that each be viewed that way. Wholesale assumptions don't work, in my opinion. And perhaps of most significance, how can our human stance encompass all of the ramifications of an event that lies beyond any of our current experience?


   By Greebo on Monday, March 17, 2008 - 06:08 am: Edit Post

I agree with Janny that each circumstance is an individual event. Sometimes death is an "evil" and sometimes its a mercy. But its really only our human perspective that makes it so, and really, death is as much a part of life as birth. Hard to see things that way sometimes, mind you. Something we all have in common though, from the lowliest amoeba to the richest media magnate - we live, we die.

Its different in books, though, because death is manipulated by the writer. In real life death is rarely something we can control. In fiction, death can be used like a tool. I guess a good writer uses death in many different ways, to reflect the many faces death can wear when we humans look at it.


   By Hunter on Monday, March 17, 2008 - 06:43 am: Edit Post

No Maxwell Smart fans to quote "a fate worse than a fate worse than death"? Having recently watched a trailer for the recent movie version remake of Get Smart (Anne Hathaway as Agent 99? Puh-lease...) I would wish a fate worse than a fate worse than death on whoever thought it a good idea to commit sacrilege on this scale. Thankfully Don Adams isn't around to see this.

Fiction gives writers the freedom to define what happens at death according to their own beliefs (e.g. Tolkien's Catholicism), Monty Python (I'm Death, black cloak, scythe, pale complexion), WoLaS where death is a stop on the way to Athliera for most.

In real life, in many places trying to control your own death or assisting someone, with their consent!, is actually illegal.

Is death the ultimate evil? Depends on whether you beliefs have that there is something beyond this current existence. Is life a practice run for something else? This life we know, up to you what you decide on the next.


   By Laneth Sffarlenn on Monday, March 17, 2008 - 06:46 am: Edit Post

Only reason this movie went ahead is because Don Adams is gone - he refused to let a film be made after the chief died, all those years ago.
He swore that no film would be made, and he wouldn't be involved, because it simply wouldn't be Get Smart without The Chief.

May their souls rest easy while this travesty is passed along the airwaves.


   By Clansman on Monday, March 17, 2008 - 07:37 am: Edit Post

AND -- not loving it!


   By motley on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - 04:50 pm: Edit Post

Recently watched a client turned friend pass away from cancer. It was the most healing and awesome experience of my life. It healed her whole family from years of forced separation from a time when women's rights were far lesser. At the end, she said that she had all she had ever wanted. Her friends, once estranged son and daughter and co-workers created a beautiful place with full care and full of pictures, with a view of mountains for her last weeks. She gave me a gift - an awareness of the capacity for love in my heart, and of those around me.
She arranged a memorial, not a funeral, and ordered us to eat, drink and be merry. I looked at photos of her, youth to early elder, and marveled. Though I had tears, there were more smiles. In that form, death was healing.

For another friend, who lost a mother violently at 10, death is always traumatic, no matter how 'normal' the circumstance.

It depends.


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