Hugh MacLeod on Death


“The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” – Achilles

At the outset of my writing on failure and adversity, I proposed to focus more on ‘the smaller failures of life’ and not the ‘major failings…tragedy.’ Still, many of the topic and examples that I have explored have veered into pretty serious areas – loss of health, loss of business, loss of hope. And I think that there is a philosophical basis for embracing the ultimate failure in life…death.

I was focused on such thoughts yesterday as I attended the funeral of a dear friend. Someone who lived a full life and had recently suffered very debilitating illness and deterioration such that her final passing was in itself considered a blessing of sorts.

And without death, there is no such thing as life.  My best man, Rev. Clifton Thuma, says that what makes a bouquet of flowers so special is their impermanence. Their imminent demise compels us to appreciate them in their vibrancy.  While each individual, inevitable death is a tearful tragedy and loss, ‘death’ itself is the price for living.

Chet Raymo, delving into the positive impact of the downsides in life (The Problem of the Good), himself lent that perspective to ultimate failure in life…the failure of life. 

“And death? Personal mortality is the price we pay to exist at all as unique, complex, multi-celled, sexually active, thoughtful individuals. Death is life’s necessary partner; together they are endlessly creative.”