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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 27 with cancer a month or two before he died and he treated the news with great relief. he then moved in with his doctor and struck up a firm friendship with his doctor’s wife, mrs. bevan—going to the pub with her ever y night. he died the day after his birthday, but on his birth- day mrs. bevan gave him an electric blanket and she said, “many happy re- turns.” then Wittgenstein said, “there will be no return.” there’s something so- ber and funny about that, which I think is important. It’s important to maintain a certain lightness toward death. to face up to it and replace the terror with so- ber humor. you wrote another book called on humor. What’s the connection for you between philosophy and comedy? philosophy asks you to look at the world as if you were from another planet and to question everything—the nature of reality, the external world, other people. that’s like comedy—great comedy, not the dreary stand-up routines you usually see. at their best, both comedians and philoso- phers shake out your prejudices. Jokes can liberate and elevate us and even change the situation we find ourselves in. We fear our own deaths, but there’s also the problem of dealing with the deaths of loved ones. how do philosophers help us work with that? badly. the question of death was re- ally posed for me through the death of my father and friends. but the philoso- pher’s death is about my death and me dying calmly, with dignity. this doesn’t get at the difficulty of our response to the death of those we love. that’s why in The Book of Dead philosophers I spend the time on early Christian philoso- phers—they had the best sense of grief. now I’m working on a book about the nature of love, particularly the nature of mystical love. philosophy has a lot of wisdom about what the world means, and that’s fantastic, but it doesn’t have a rich enough vocabulary for the ques- tion of love. ♦