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Go Alone in the Middle of the Feast

We have another classical text, Lucretius’ De rerum natura where personal immortality is denied. The most memorable of the arguments given by Lucretius is this: A person complains that he is going to die. He thinks that the future will forget him. As Victor Hugo said, “He will go alone in the middle of the feast / nothing will be missing in the radiant and happy world.” In that great poem, as ambitious as Donne’s, Lucretius uses the following argument: “You are pained because you lack the future. Yet you believe that before you was an infinite time, that, when you were born, the moment had already passed when Carthage and Troy battled to rule the world. It doesn’t matter to you. So why should it matter what shall come? You have lost the infinite past, what matter if you lose the infinite future?” This is what Lucretius says. It’s a pity that I don’t know enough Latin to remember his beautiful lines, which I have been reading lately with the help of a dictionary.

—Jorge Luis Borges, from his lecture entitled, “Immortality”

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