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为什么说我们永不会死亡

更新时间:2016-8-31 10:46:27 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why We Never Die
为什么说我们永不会死亡

As a child, I was terrified of death. It was often in the twilight hours, between the moment of lying down and the imperceptible instant of slipping off to sleep, that the terror would arise. The thought of vanishing completely from the world, of being engulfed in ineradicable darkness, would seize upon me and crush with it the very existence of the world. It was not simply that I would no longer be there. It was that reality itself would collapse, devoid of any point of apprehension. Petrified before a void so vast that it could not be contained within thought, let alone a thinking being, it was impossible to know how long it would take to drift off into the abyss that silently beckoned me.

还是孩子的时候,我十分害怕死亡。在暮色流连的那段时间,从躺下到真正坠入梦乡那个难以察觉的时刻之前,恐惧的感觉常常会爬上心头。那种我会从这个世界上完全消失、被无尽的黑暗吞没的想法,会紧紧地抓住我,连同世界本身一起粉碎。不仅是我将不存在于这个世界,连现实本身也会坍塌,完全无从感知,在一片巨大的虚空面前石化。这虚空如此之大,无法容纳于思想之中,更不用说思考赖以存在的形式。完全无法知道我会在多长时间之后坠入那片默默召唤着我的深渊。

Religion and spirituality were of little or no solace. Even to my young mind, they struck me as fantasies that had been elaborately constructed and forcefully imposed in order to stave off the horror. Their power paled in comparison with the groundless vacuum that they sought to mask, and my restless mind would have nothing of consolation. As I grew older, the appeal of philosophy was that it opened vantage points to stare into the vertiginous face of death, and to ponder the meaning of living in an uncertain world precariously perched on the absolute certainty of death.

宗教和信仰几乎无法提供任何慰藉。即便是对我幼小的心灵而言,它们留下的印象也是一些强加于人的精心构建的幻想,用来暂时消除恐惧。与它们试图掩盖的无由来的虚空相比,它们的力量相形失色。我不安的心灵将没有任何东西可以抚慰。随着年龄的增长,哲学具备了一定的吸引力,它开辟了有利的观察点,可以让我凝视死亡那张令人迷惑的脸,去思考在一个危险地建立于绝对肯定的死亡之上的不确定世界里生活,有什么意义。

Experience added material realities to these unsettling thoughts. I remember attending my first open-casket funeral and peering down on the docile, lifeless body of Everett, an old farmer whose summer straw scent and peaceful demeanor had left a distinct impression on my inexperienced mind. Then there were stories of others dying around me, and the profound sadness that accompanied them, ranging from Russian roulette suicides to horrific explosions of propane gas.

经历给这些令人不安的思想注入现实材料。我还记得自己参加的第一场开棺葬礼,记得我曾低下头观察埃弗里特(Everett)那具随人摆弄、毫无生命力的躯体。这位老农民身上的夏季麦秆气味和他温和的举止,曾在我涉世未深的心灵里留下清晰的印象。此后身边还有其他亡人的故事,以及与之伴随的巨大的悲伤,不管是俄罗斯的轮盘赌自杀事件,还是令人恐惧的丙烷气爆炸事故。

Growing up on a farm brought with it, moreover, the omnipresence of death, from raccoon and coyote attacks to trips to the slaughterhouse, or winter diseases that had my brother and I chiseling shallow graves for animals into frozen earth as young children. I still recall watching my baby sister holding the lifeless body of a newborn lamb under warm, running water with the confused hope of somehow bringing it back from the precipice. Life was imbued with death.

此外,因为是在一个农场长大,我发现死亡无处不在,从浣熊和丛林狼袭击到去屠宰场的经历,再或者冬季的病害导致还是孩子的我和兄弟在冰冻的土地上为动物们挖掘浅浅的坟墓。我还记得曾经看到我的小妹妹把一只已经没有气息的新生羔羊抱在热水龙头下冲水,以期它可以通过某种方式活过来。生活中充满了死亡。

Today, my eldest child, at the age of 6, has fallen prey to these same fears. With two fingers lodged in his mouth, he pulls down on his lower jaw as if he were trying to hold onto some self-supporting ledge of meaning. He looks up at me from bed in the twilight and asks if everyone will die someday. He wants to know when the scientists will develop a potion that will allow us to live forever. I tell him that I am not certain that it will happen, but I cannot help but subtly acquiesce to the consolation it brings him to imagine one day drinking from an enchanted glass and sharing it with the entire family. Yet the fears are still there, and he senses my uncertainty. He tries to calculate with his rudimentary arithmetic how many years he will have before he dies. Then he interjects that even his awkward sums might not add up because there could be an accident causing him to die before me.

现在,我6岁的长子也陷入了同样的恐惧。他把两根手指放进嘴里,拉低自己的下巴,就好像在试图抓住某种自我支撑的意义的边缘。黄昏的时候,他从床上抬头看着我问道,是不是所有人有朝一日都会死亡。他想知道科学家什么时候能发明一种药剂,让我们能永远活下去。我告诉他,我不确定这种情况会不会出现,但我在不经意间默许了他从这种想象中获取安慰,即有一天他能喝到一种被施了魔法的水,然后将它分享给全家人。但是恐惧依然存在,他感觉到了我的不确定。他试图用自己基础的算术能力计算出,在死去之前他还能活多少年。但半中间他就意识到,就算笨拙地将这些数字加起来,也得不到理想的结果,因为有可能发生事故,导致他在我之前死去。

I hear him repeating in the dark, like an echo across the ages, the thoughts that I once silently had, including the conviction that I would die young. He returns me to those terrors, which have surprisingly receded with the years. Was it, perhaps, that I had merely survived a prolonged adolescent death drive? I certainly sensed at some point that I was already in the afterlife, since my existence could have easily ended long ago.

黑暗中,我听到他重复着我曾经默念的想法,就像一阵久久未息的回声,包括我坚信的自己会早死。这些恐惧本已经意外地渐渐消退了,如今被他重新提起。会不会我根本只是捱过了一段漫长的青春期向死冲动?在某个时刻,我无疑感觉到自己已经身在来世,因为我的存在完全可能早已经结束了。

In looking back from this immanent afterlife on my earlier terrors, and how they have been slowly buried over time, I see now that they were overly fixated on my own biological death. Since I recognized eternal transcendence as nothing more than a comforting illusion, the only thing left was my finite life in the here and now, which was destined to disappear forever in an instantaneous blackout.

在这个仅存于思维中的来世里,我回首此前的恐惧,看到它们是怎样随着时间流逝被慢慢掩埋,我发现这些恐惧都太过执着于我自身的生理死亡。由于我已经意识到永恒的超验只是一种哄人的幻觉,唯一剩下的就只有此时此地我的有限生命,而这生命注定有一天会永远消失在瞬时出现的一团漆黑中。

It is now patently unclear to me, however, that we ever actually die in this way. Our existence has numerous dimensions, and they each live according to different times. The biological stratum, which I naïvely took to mean life in general, is in certain ways a long process of demise — we are all dying all the time, just at different rhythms. Far from being an ultimate horizon beyond the bend, death is a constitutive feature of the unfolding of biological life. In other words, I am confronting my death each day that I live.

然而,我现在显然不能确定,我们是否真的就是这样死去的。我们的存在有许许多多的维度,它们各自都根据不同的时间生活着。从某些方面来看,生物层面——我天真地认为它的意思是广义上的生命——就是一个漫长的死亡过程,我们无时无刻都在死去,只是各有各的节奏而已。死亡绝非眼前的弯道后面的一条终极地平线,而是逐步展开的肉身生活的一个基本特征。换句话说,我活着的每一天都在面对我的死亡。

Moreover, the physical dimension of existence clearly persists beyond any biological threshold, as the material components of our bodies mix and mingle in different ways with the cosmos. The artifacts that we have produced also persevere, which can range from our physical imprint on the world to objects we have made or writings like this one. There is, as well, a psychosocial dimension that survives our biological withdrawal, which is visible in the impact that we have had — for better or worse — on all of the people around us. In living, we trace a wake in the world.

此外,存在的实体维度显然可以挺过一切生物临界点,因为我们的身体的物质组成部分,会以不同的方式和宇宙融混在一起。我们的造物也是会留存下去的,这其中有我们在这世界上留下的实在印记,也有我们制造的物品或文章,比如像这篇。而在我们的生理离世之后,还有一个心理社会维度会存活下来,它是体现在我们给身边的人造成的影响中的——这影响有好有坏。活着就是在现实世界里书写他人为你准备的悼词。

If biological death appears to some as an endpoint to existence, there is nevertheless a longevity to our physical, artifactual and psychosocial lives. They intertwine and merge with the broader world out of which we are woven. This should not be taken as a form of spiritualist consolation, however, but rather as an invitation to face up to the ways in which our immanent lives are actually never simply our own.

也许生理死亡在某些人看来是存在的终点,但我们的实体、人造、心理社会的生活依然可以持续很久。它们和更广阔的世界交织、合并在一起,也就是造就了我们的那个世界。然而,这不应该被当作是唯灵论的慰藉,而是在请我们坦然面对——我们自身思维中的生命其实从来都不只属于自己。

Authentic existence is perhaps less about boldly confronting the inevitable reality of our own finitude than about recognizing and cultivating the multiple dimensions of our lives. Some of these can never truly die because they do not belong only to us. They carry on in the physical world, in the material and cultural vestiges we leave, as well as in the psychological and social effects we have on those around us.

真实存在的关键,也许并不在于要大胆面对生命有限这一不可逆转的现实,而是要体认与培养生命的多重维度。其中一些维度是永远不会死的,因为它们并非只属于我们。在物质世界里,在我们留下的实体物件和文化残迹里,在我们给周围的人造成的心理和社会影响中,它们继续存在着。

It is in this regard that my twilight conversations with my oldest son take on a very different light. Although they might not bring consolation to either of us in any traditional sense, they certainly leave traces of an intense moment of sharing something that will carry on in both of us, as well as in my youngest son who “plays dead” in his bed next to us as he pretends to sleep while listening intently to our probing exchanges.

正是在这一点上,我和大儿子的黄昏谈话有了一种极为不同的意味。从传统意义上讲,这些谈话也许没有给我们两人带来什么慰藉,但它们显然留下了一些痕迹,这是一个炽烈的分享时刻,我们两人都会久久铭记,同样会记住的还有在一旁“装死”的小儿子,他一边假装睡觉,一边专心听着我们的深入交流。

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