The Scientific Indian

Death and John Updike

It made a deep impression in me to listen to Updike talk about the countless stars and galaxies and our cosmic insignificance in an old interview recording (one of the rare few) given to Eleanor Wachtel who hosts Writers & Company. Ian McEwan writes in the guardian:

This most Lutheran of writers, driven by intellectual curiosity all his life, was troubled by science as others are troubled by God. When it suited him, he could easily absorb and be impressed by physics, biology, astronomy, but he was constitutionally unable to “make the leap of unfaith”. The “weight” of personal death did not allow it, and much seriousness and dark humour derives from this tension between intellectual reach and metaphysical dread.

And you could feel it too when you listen to him. Some of us who profess faith in science (self included) may often think that death is but expected and that metaphysics is an unnecessary madness before eventual oblivion. Still, there are dark moments when I dread oblivion and would do anything to keep it at bay. It may be, as Julian Barnes assures us, nothing to be frightened of, but that is for each one of us to find out on our own.