NGC 4594

NGC 4594 or the Sombrero Galaxy is a galaxy in the Virgo cluster around 28 million light years from us. It has around 700 billion stars and has a radius of 60,000 light years. If you look closely, you will realize that most of the other pin pricks of light in the image is yet another galaxy. Just think about these words and try to understand their meaning. “700 billion stars.” “28 million light years.” “60,000 light years.” The universe is too immense for our limited intelligence to comprehend its vastness!

NGC 4594
NGC 4594

Afterlife

Google has introduced a new facility in which Google, in addition to knowing everything about you when you are alive, also tries to determine if you are dead.

http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.in/2013/04/plan-your-digital-afterlife-with.html

The facility is like a will for your digital property, at least on the Google services. You can specify after how many months of inactivity should your online data be shared with your “digital executors”. You can also specify a goodbye message to whoever mails you.

This made me think, what message should I set for people who will mail me?

I remember reading an after death blog of a US Army Major a few years back. I felt as I if knew him from his blog. PS. Google is f* awesome! Here is the links. http://www.andrewolmsted.com/

A few ideas that comes to my mind:

  • That’s all folks? (Is it plagiarism if you steal last words?)
  • Hi, Thank you for your mail. I am currently out of life and will respond to you once I am reborn. In case of any urgent issues, please escalate to God.
  • If you are seeing this, it means I am already dead. I have found the hidden wealth of < a prominent Indian politician>. Just send 10,000 Rs to the below account so that my accomplices may finish the paperwork and transfer a billion dollars to your account. Oh I almost forgot. For quick processing of the transfer, we need your internet banking account credentials as well as some other personal information. Don’t worry, this is all legit. Do you think I am going to lie on my death bed?? (Did you get the pun in the last sentence?)
  • Should it contain the regrets in the life I have lived? Regret for giving up on loves that mattered? Regrets on decisions not made? Regrets on the mistakes that I am guilty of? Regrets for not eating proper, taking stress, not exercising? Regrets on things that I should have done but have not? Regret for running after things that are of little consequence? For that matter, regret for not realizing what are the things that do matter? Regret for not taking care of my loved ones? Regret on killing all those people? (I am joking for Chrissake!)
  • Should it contain fake assurances for the dear ones that life will not change and that I still love them? Should it contain fake assurances that I will meet them in the afterlife but not anytime soon? Should it contain advices, “best practices” in the language of consultants, for them to follow based on the glorious life that I have lived? Can my words fill the void in their life?
  • Should it contain a montage of the life that I have lived? Should it contain a dispassionate view of my life, people that inspired me, the dreams that I wove, the events in my life, fellow travelers that I met who may have forgotten me, books that have changed the way I think, movies that made me think that it was worth watching them again and again (Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.)? Good deeds that I have done? (Does  anybody do any good deeds nowadays? I can’t remember any that I have done recently.)
  • Achievements of my life? I don’t know if having a job (at the moment) and getting married counts as an achievement? I think I can put my top scores from the games that I have played, they are called “Achievements” you know.
  • Should it contain my beliefs and my thoughts? What I was afraid of? What I secretly desired? What I abhorred? People that I loved?
  • Or should it contain little of everything? I am the sum of every moment that I have lived. Every thought that has crossed my mind. Every emotion that I have felt. Every individual interaction that I had.
  • Or should it contain only a simple goodbye  and nothing else? I am the sum of every moment that I have lived. Every thought that has crossed my mind. Every emotion that I have felt. Every individual interaction that I had. Isn’t it unfair to sum up in a few paragraphs or pictures or videos an entire lifetime that I have lived?

There is a very beautiful scene at the end of the movie American Beauty.

<Don’t watch the video if you have not seen the movie. Get up and watch the movie now!>

I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout Camp, watching falling stars. [Gunshot] And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. [Gunshot] Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper. And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird. And Janie, and Janie. And Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry. You will someday.

~ Lester Burnham

Do people realize that they are legends?

We look at the past and think of great Men and Women of legend and subconsciously we believe that they must have known that they are exceptional in some way. In many cases it may actually be true but in most cases they would not have realized it. Some great people of the current era, are they future legends? Would Elon Musk be equated with the likes of Columbus and Vasco Da Gama? Does he realize that may be in five centuries from now, our descendants on different star systems look at him as the guy who started it all? How it would be to look at today’s age as history? How will the Syrian Civil War be looked 50 years from now? Will the Syrian people look at it as the great war of liberation or as the crushing of a rebellion? How will Obamacare be judged? Will it be looked as the Great Deal of the 21st century? Will the current Korean crisis be looked as one of the catalyst for the next World War, the way various Balkan crises during the beginning of the 20th century plunged us towards the First World War?

How will History judge us?

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan is one of the most awesome individual to have graced this planet. It is a profound regret to me that I never came to know about him while he was still alive. The sub title of this blog is a quote from the man.  Every time I read the quote, it inspires me and fills me with a sense of purpose and makes me believe that there is something more to life than our banal existence. In this post, I am just copying parts of an article that he had written on his death bed for the Parade magazine.

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Four times now I have looked Death in the face. And four times Death has averted his gaze and let me pass. Eventually, of course, Death will claim me–as he does each of us. It’s only a question of when. And how.
I’ve learned much from our confrontations—especially about the beauty and sweet poignancy of life, about the preciousness of friends and family, about the transforming power of love. In fact, almost dying is such a positive, character-building experience that I’d recommend it to everybody—except, of course, for the irreducible and essential element of risk.

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert and afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.

I want to grow really old with my wife, Annie, whom I dearly love. I want to see my younger children grow up and play a role in their character and intellectual development. I want to meet still unconceived grandchildren. There are scientific problems whose outcomes I long to witness—such as the exploration of many of the worlds in our solar system and the search for life elsewhere. I want to learn how major trends in human history, both hopeful and worrisome, work themselves out: the dangers and promise of our technology, say; the emancipation of women; the growing political, economic and technological ascendancy of China; interstellar flight.

If there were life after death, I might, no matter when I die, satisfy most of these deep curiosities and longings. But if death is nothing more than an endless, dreamless sleep, this is a forlorn hope. Maybe this perspective has given me a little extra motivation to stay alive.

The world is so exquisite, with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

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Zen Pencils has a wonderful cartoon on the last paragraph of this article. Must read.