Monday, 5 October 2009

Paul Ekman: Death and forgiveness

In my recent conversations with the Dalai Lama (which eventuated into a book – Emotional Awareness) we disagreed about two matters. One was fear of death, which I claim not to feel and he claims everyone has. The evidence is in his favor since all religions promise life of some kind after death, and they would not do so if people didn’t need it. I fear a painful death, but not death itself. Can’t comprehend why people do; which doesn’t mean I don’t wish to continue living, but as time progresses and body parts and the mind wears out I expect death will be welcome. Our other disagreement was about forgiveness. I believe there are unforgivable actions – child abuse, rape, holocausts, torture are examples. The Dalai Lama says he forgives but does not forget. In my view, since he believes such people will be reincarnated in an undesirable form, he doesn’t need to forgive them.

Dr Paul Ekman is Manager of the Paul Ekman Group, LLC (PEG), a small company that produces training devices relevant to emotional skills, and is initiating new research relevant to national security and law enforcement. He was listed as one of the 100 most influential psychologists of the twentieth century by the Review of General Psychology in 2002, and was among Time magazine's most influential people of 2009.

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8 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:31 pm

    "I fear a painful death, but not death itself. Can’t comprehend why people do."

    ??

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  2. I can definitely see why people would fear other peoples death, but not themselves.

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  3. It is not passing into death I fear, other than overwhelming fear of what is about to happen on the other side - an eternal nothingness, no consciousness, no memories, no being and no existence (including no awareness of a pass existence now switched off).

    Can only describe it as a dreamless sleep awaiting the alarm clock that will never go off to rouse you and not being aware it hasn't gone off and you are missing out on being awake.

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  4. Interesting. I'd say on the whole that I have no fear of death itself (with the exception of the effects it would have on my loved ones). Perhaps it was an early exposure to Socrates, but it seems basic enough that either death is an end to existence, which inherently means that there's nothing to fear because there will be no self that could undergo harm, or there is another existence.

    If there is another existence, it seems likely that there is some element of grace or transcendence to it. Selflessness exists among animals and people even when there is no personal or genetic benefit. (Saying that "there must be some personal or genetic benefit that we just can't see" is simply begging the question.) We are moved by things such as beauty. This suggests to me that if there is another existence, despite all rational indicators, that this other existence ties to the transcendence/grace/spirit.

    So back to the Socratic argument, either it is nothingness or one experiences grace. Either way, I don't feel any fear of either option.

    My two cents worth, but at least you got a high word count for your two cents! ;-)

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  5. Anonymous4:41 am

    I think the process of the soul or consciousness leaving the body will be difficult - maybe analogous to orgasm or ecstasy, that feeling you can't control that is both embodied and emotional, and you feel your body leaving you ...

    Also I have trouble remembering that forgiveness does not mean the person who wronged you is excused or that you will trust or like that person, or will allow him/her close enough again to hurt you again. The one who hurt you still has to acknowledge the harm done to you and ask YOUR forgiveness and accept the consequences of lack of trust and love.

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  6. Anonymous6:04 pm

    I think the Dalai Lama may have a good point in the forgiving and not forgetting sense. The whole deal with Buddhist thought is centred around compassion; for the things we don't understand in another person, for the things they've been through, for their own struggles with themselves that may, on some level, be a cause of their actions. I believe it is nearly impossible to forget things on purpose or by choice, but you do have the choice to feel compassion for the people in this world who, by sheer lack of the same mental, emotional or spiritual tools that some of the rest of us have, have committed wrongs in the view of society at large.

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  7. Anonymous9:16 pm

    I still don't understand how you can forgive a person if you can not forget the action that required the forgiveness in the first place.

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  8. if the action is forgotten, a great lesson might be lost. If the person is forgiven then there is no need to hold on to burning stones ;)

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