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07/26/2008

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Gareth Nelson

"And, as I've found, death itself is not really the worst thing"

Moving from open source hating to life hating now are we?

Gareth Nelson

"Many people, when they die, throw up that one last time -- it's a facet of the rigor mortis process."

By the time rigor mortis sets in, there's no way someone could be sick, since rigor mortis sets in many hours after cardiac arrest and furthermore is caused by decomposition of muscles.

"There is nothing outside of you, no God, not even any higher power of any sort, just you, and your capacity, and your Nietschean will to expand that limited capacity by trying really hard and struggling to the maximum."

Wow, first time i've read a serious and truthful statement on your blog and you meant it as satire.

Prokofy Neva

Your condition on the autism spectrum prevents you from understanding literature holistically, Gareth, and you take things very literally.

Like many people, I've used "rigor mortis" too broadly merely to mean "the throes of death" although it's a technical term that refers to post-death.

My statement about "nothing outside of you" isn't a "truthful statement" and isn't "meant as satire". It's merely a description of the way people like you think -- it's a report.

That you think in this fashion is a function of poor upbringing, lack of education, lack of experience, and general insolence.

Gareth Nelson

"Like many people, I've used "rigor mortis" too broadly merely to mean "the throes of death" although it's a technical term that refers to post-death."


Actually, it's a technical term referring purely to the stiffening of the muscles after necrosis causes them to lose flexibility. Can normally be avoided with decent CPR immediately after cardiac arrest and is vital to prevent for organ donors and cryonics patients. (If you want to get on the subject of overcoming death, that's a great subject for your next rant and I look forward to it).


"My statement about "nothing outside of you" isn't a "truthful statement" and isn't "meant as satire". It's merely a description of the way people like you think -- it's a report."

My mistake? You obviously don't hold those opinions yourself.

"That you think in this fashion is a function of poor upbringing, lack of education, lack of experience, and general insolence"

No, it's a result of rational thought. Would you like to start an actual religious discussion rather than the "open source religion" you keep ranting about? Because that's the one kind of debate that almost universally results in 0 change of opinion on either side. As your opinions on more mundane matters are so set in stone, I think it's best not to waste time and instead just say "you're a theist, i'm not".

Susan Reynolds

Wow - sharing that you "frankly could only feel a sense of relief that Prof. Randy Pausch died this week before he could be canonized in the secular transhumanist religion as defying death even when he was supposed to die" takes guts.

Look - I know many think of me as that sentimental cancer-patient woman but in truth I'm as anti-Oprahific rah rah secularist club as they come. So although I can see where you're coming from Prok, your words just ring mean spirited and cold in my ears.

If we claim to be religious people we can at least show that we've been taught love and acceptance in our schools and houses of worship.

Let's just take what positive we can from the life of someone - anyone - not just Randy Pausch.

We're all human.
We're all flawed.

That he did not make the choices you or I would have does not in any way justify any of us indicating relief at his death or any other.

How about just observing that he inspired many to do things they may not have done otherwise. And I'll admit that just last week he reminded me to go out to dinner instead of telling my family that I feel too lousy to move.

It's something simple. But somehow he helped a couple of people along the way. And let's just let it go at that and try to live our own lives in a way we'd be glad to have examined after the fact.

Suzanne

I have to say I admire your courage in posting this, which will undoubtedly bring a storm of controversy. More of us should speak up, defy the Echo Chamber the web sometimes is, and start an intelligent discussion/friendly debate. It's been too long since I've done that IRL or online.

I do get some inspiration from Randy's lecture but I agree that it is more than limited in its universal application. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when he spoke to the Creator. Wonder what they talked about? Wonder how Randy fared in that scenario? Only God knows.

Alanna

I was thinking of this a legitimate difference in philosophy and religion until the end, where it became a personal attack on Randy Paulsch.

Prokofy Neva

I don't see anything mean-spirited about my honest report of my honest reaction. Because a man told that he will die soon of pancreatic cancer, well, dies. Affirming life, doing lectures, writing a book -- that doesn't keep him alive. There's a school of thought that you can laugh your way or talk your way or affirm your way out of cancer and beat it. But...you can't. You die. And there are people that think he prolonged his life or made it more important because he left his family on his wife's birthday and left his kids, and spent time making a video or writing a book that is a secular hymn to the secular religion -- and I'm glad it's over, because it's fake. You can't cheat death. Death comes anyway, as religious as any religion.

Obviously professional public Internet tell-all cancer patients know better.

I beg to differ. Death is private, it is not fabulous. Especially those left behind.

I fail to see how anything I've written is a "personal attack". Internet neuralgics always say such ridiculous things when you are critical of someone and don't sing along with the choir.

Where's the attack? I don't believe in the religion of secular humanism, the religion of making dream lists out of Disney and TV aspirations and living them out, the religion of making Internet infomercials even out of pancreatic cancer. Sorry, but I don't believe.

I'm simply relieved that he died, that he is out of pain, that he has gone to a better place and that his secular death-defying antics don't have to embarass him or us anymore -- he's dead, we all die, and secular religion cannot save you from death. What do you achieve by dragging yourself out to dinner? Let your family prepare you a dinner at home. Disease is not about proving something all the time.

Gareth Nelson

"Affirming life, doing lectures, writing a book -- that doesn't keep him alive. There's a school of thought that you can laugh your way or talk your way or affirm your way out of cancer and beat it. But...you can't. You die. And there are people that think he prolonged his life or made it more important because he left his family on his wife's birthday and left his kids, and spent time making a video or writing a book that is a secular hymn to the secular religion -- and I'm glad it's over, because it's fake. You can't cheat death. Death comes anyway, as religious as any religion."

I'm agreeing with prok? You're dead right here - you can't cheat death by simply affirming life philosophically or talk your way out of it.

"I'm simply relieved that he died, that he is out of pain, that he has gone to a better place and that his secular death-defying antics don't have to embarass him or us anymore -- he's dead, we all die, and secular religion cannot save you from death. What do you achieve by dragging yourself out to dinner? Let your family prepare you a dinner at home. Disease is not about proving something all the time."

We both obviously disagree on whether he's "gone to a better place", but i'd like to ask you to ponder this:
Does ending his pain make up for the fact he'll never experience any of life's pleasures again?

More concretely though:
"he's dead, we all die, and secular religion cannot save you from death"

No religion or philosophy saves anyone from death or disease, actions do. Personally, i'm very confident that someday we will have a cure for all diseases including aging and a means of preventing morst accidental deaths. The human body is just another machine to be maintained and repaired:
http://www.sens.org

ppmartin

Dear @prokofy

Thank you for your post: it is interesting to flag how little Randy refers to God in his address.

However, whether one believes in God, or in "a god", or in "gods" is based on one's personal feeling / approach of "the great unknown", i.e. questions such as why are we born, how did we get here, what happens after death etc.

So, while "flagging" the lack of reference to God in his address might be a reasonable remark, I am not sure it is fair to criticize Randy Pausch for not having the answer to questions that even millenium old religions cannot answer to with certainty.

His moving and inspiring lecture remains a "must see" in my opinion.

Kind regards,

@ppmartin

Thunderclap Morgridge

I am going to something I swore I would never do. I am going to comment here. I actually agree with this statement. "I don't believe in the religion of secular humanism, the religion of making dream lists out of Disney and TV aspirations and living them out, the religion of making Internet infomercials even out of pancreatic cancer. Sorry, but I don't believe."
I will say this and it will anger alot of people, and so be it. I don't believe Randy went to a happier place. I believe when he died he went to Outer darkness to await judgment by He would created everything. I believed that while his heart might have been right, this who thing was about paying bills after he passed. Otherwise, we would have never known about it.
So, its simple. I will never see him again. Nor he about him etc. This is as far as he went. Harsh? Its what secular humanism believes. So for this rare shining moment I actually agree with Prokofy.
And I will leave it with that.

Prokofy Neva

Sorry, but I fail to be inspired by his life or death. It's all about ego, and it's all about the religion of secular humanism, and no, I don't believe. As for whether Randy went to heaven or hell, only God would know, he might have gone to Purgatory, who knows, if he was a good and righteous man, and he seems in part to have been, he may be judged accordingly, it's not for me to say.

I'm simply interested in him as a public figure, his private life and fate is not my business. And as a public figure, I'm simply not willing to canonize him, or "be inspired" by him, because I don't think the message is a valid one.

Randy Pausch is not someone humbly saying "I don't have the answers about God" -- he's making the God question a joke, and even quipping that he had a "deathbed conversion experience" and...bought a Mac. He actually *did* think he had the answers, which he believed were making lists of "dreams" and trying like hell to reach them. There is something worldly and vain about all that, of course.

Gareth Nelson

"He actually *did* think he had the answers, which he believed were making lists of "dreams" and trying like hell to reach them. There is something worldly and vain about all that, of course."

Another word for that is ambition - something which has driven some of mankind's greatest works.

Gareth Nelson

"We are supposed to "live our dream". We pick out things to do and "dream big". These include, oh, taking a ride in a space ship, going to Disney world, having a bit part on Star Trek. Infantile dreams, childish dreams, not the adult dream of helping a child learn to read."

Re-reading, I thought i'd comment on this bit:
Helping a child learn to read is only really an amazing dream for very few. It's an "everyday miracle". The best kinds of dreams - like say, the dream of a worldwide communications network (the one that now exists due to the work of 1000s of people and which we're both using) - are not an everyday thing.

Prokofy Neva

So few children learn to read these days, yourself included, that it *is* a miracle. I don't see that making a big telephone, which is all that the Internet is, is the miracle you think.

Gareth Nelson

"So few children learn to read these days, yourself included, that it *is* a miracle."

I'm not going to respond to the latter part of that sentence, but I will say that BASIC reading comprehension is near universal in western society.

"I don't see that making a big telephone, which is all that the Internet is, is the miracle you think."

1 - Telephone networks carry voice on single circuits (or at least traditionally) with a set path and are vunerable to any part of that circuit breaking, thus killing the voice call. Doesn't happen so much these days in part due to the use of packet switching on the phone network backend (the same technique the internet is built on)

2 - The telephone itself is a remarkable invention exploiting the laws of physics to make long-distance communication significantly easier, it did not happen by accident but with literally centuries of work (and yes, i'm including the work of physicists who discovered the properties of electro-magnetism in this)

3 - The internet enables virtually anyone to spread their views (as you do on this blog), connect with like-minded people and access tons of informational resources and entertainment, it's not a simply 1:1 communications device like a phone and it has taken immense amounts of engineering and vision to build it

Prokofy Neva

Cross posted from NYTimes
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/25/last-lecture-professor-randy-pausch-dies-at-47/

No, Yow @362, what is astonishingly narrow-minded is the Internet mob bowing like sheep to this secular Internet saint without questioning the Dale Carnegie-like hucksterism and the actual applicability of "try harder" and "live your dream" to many other kinds of people, including those suffering with cancer.

I'm with the poster "Sorry" @341 who was concerned about "St. Randy". And no, TPP, if you are truly humble, you don't get to take charge of your own debunking of myths you yourself incite.

Religious belief is indeed a private matter. But this isn't a privately-lived life. This is someone who has made himself into a hugely-influential advertorial for the secular humanist way of life and belief system -- everything depends on man's capacity, and trying harder to stretch it, through sheer willpower.

If he was a scientist, and if his followers and admirers are scientists, they must admit doubt, they must permit criticism, they must not incite mob beliefs. I don't believe that the recipe of "work harder and submit to everybody's criticism" and "live your dreams as conditioned by Disney and mass media" are the model life I wish to emulate. And that's ok.

I subject this Last Lecture to a major critique because that is what free people do in a free society, they don't stampede to gush cloyingly about inspiration from somehow who only told a partial story, and overly-produced it as much as an infomercial selling herbal powders.
http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2008/07/not-really-the.html

Free to believe -- or not to believe -- in God -- or any system -- is vital to a free and civil society. If we can't step aside from the mob rush of sentimentality about an Internet advertorial like Prof. Pausch's, if we can't criticize it, if we can't say "No, I don't believe that is inspirational," then we are not free.

xyz

You are sick - it is no great courage to be differnt just for the heck of it - you are well aware that a post like this would create a storm and evoke reaction.. what an easy way to piggy back to publicity!!

Prokofy Neva

No, I'm not sick, I just question orthodoxy -- and this is a concocted Internet orthodoxy if there ever is one.

I hardly need to "piggyback" off publicity as I have quite enough of it already -- Google me and my blog, it's pretty well read in this field.

I hardly see that any "storm" has been created -- I've merely said my piece and a few people have reacted predictably with the zealous hysteria that any criticism of secular humanism always invokes in those religious types.

I just don't believe.

Prokofy Neva

A couple other thoughts, surely not likely to be popular:

1. I think it's a cruel disservice to tell someone with a deadly disease like pancreatic cancer that they will beat it by "the power of positive thinking". There isn't really significant proof for this. No area is filled with rumours, conjectures, charlatans, quacks, crack-pot theories, etc. like the area of cancer. Hope obviously springs eternal. And telling someone they can think their way out of it or go colour their parachute and jump with it could be severely cruel.

2. Oh, of course there are people in the NYT who say now they are inspired to keep soldiering on to beat their own cancer or life situation, or at least tolerate it, to stop that jump off the bridge, to stop slacking off and live their dream, blah blah. This is so American! Be all you can be, and then some. And...what about the people with no talent? lol

Because it's inherently contradictory. Randy lived his life to the fullest by pumping up this whole secular "try harder, work harder, succumb to other people's criticism" etc. Obviously, he had an acid-tongue mother who would introduce her marvelous son as "a doctor, but not the kind that helps people" and he would quip that this kept him humble. No, it kept him a mama's boy. He should have told her to get stuffed, being a doctor of computer science "helps people" too in its way.

But one thing that stands out is that Randy didn't say "I'm going to do what somebody in an Internew video tells me to do" or "I'm inspired by this wonderful man on the Internet". Instead, he pursued his own counsel.

None of the people making him an icon now and following him off their butts out to do something "in real life" are doing what he did; they are doing the opposite.

3. There are people in the NYT thread who are claiming they beat pancreatic cancer through Jesus. There will be people who appear to tell you they beat it with turnip soup. Whatever. In the long run, we're all dead, as Max Hayward used to say and he should know, because he's dead, too.

John Lopez

I dislike the transhumanist nonsense, but I don't find him far removed from you, Prok. Just a glory hound, looking for attention. Granted, you seek it in a less showman/huckster like fashion and seem to thrive on the negative.

Celebrating the deaths of those disliked shows true colors. Do you check a checkmark next to your "enemies list" members when they die too?

Prokofy Neva

I don't see myself as a glory hound, I see myself as a person of conscience, of course your mileage may vary.

I am not celebrating this man's death. I'm expressing a sense of relief that he died primarily because I think that other people who have cancer will not be misled into thinking that if they try real hard and maintain a positive attitude, they won't die. I'm also relieved that people flocking like sheep on the Internet can't go on seeing a kind of death-defying YouTube trick; it's over.

There have been various people in SL who have died who I either didn't like or had adversarial relationships with, but I could appreciate what they brought to the table. I don't indulge in malicious glee over anyone dying. I'm sorry for their families. My point in this post is that the Last Lecture really wasn't that -- there was another one, far less dramatic, likely more private, perhaps even confused and lacking in any deep meaning.

Gareth Nelson

"I am not celebrating this man's death. I'm expressing a sense of relief that he died primarily because I think that other people who have cancer will not be misled into thinking that if they try real hard and maintain a positive attitude, they won't die"

Because everyone knows that maintaining a positive attitude reduces the rate of survival as opposed to surrender..... or not. Maintaining a positive attitude and ACTING on it does lead to greater survival rates.

"Celebrating the deaths of those disliked shows true colors. Do you check a checkmark next to your "enemies list" members when they die too?"

If prok did do this, that would actually show much more honesty. Personally, I hate it when someone says "they weren't so bad" about a former enemy simply because they're dead. It reeks of dishonesty and seems horribly fake.

"But one thing that stands out is that Randy didn't say "I'm going to do what somebody in an Internew video tells me to do" or "I'm inspired by this wonderful man on the Internet". Instead, he pursued his own counsel."

Of course, if people follow his example and he himself followed a good path, that makes those following his example followers of an equally good path.

cyn

Wow just when you thought this world couldnt get any worse we get someone like you. Randy Pausch was not preaching religion, he was simply telling you to live life to the fullest. How sad for you, who didnt quite get the message. What a crappy life you must lead. How dare you, oh wait you dare because you have no life. This man only lived to his 40s but managed to live as if he reached 100.You could learn something from his speech. I really feel sorry for you who celebrates the death of an awesome man.

Prokofy Neva

Of course it was a religion, a kind of Jonathan Livingston Seagull religion. He didn't live life to the fullest; he died death to the fullest, as all humans must. I simply refuse to get on the bandwagon with this latest mass artifact of secularist hysteria.

How dare I? Because I think. Because I refuse to go along with the mob. Because I fail to see why I have to adopt this treacly warmed-over secular stuff that is simply unsatisfying.

He lived until his 40s, and whatever he achieved for the public was achieved at times at the expense of his family.

I don't "celebrate his death"; I said I felt *a sense of relief* that he was dying, and the secular miracle was over -- because it was all so fake.

I don't believe more in people. I don't believe this religion.

I refuse.

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