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Sentiment and life are eternal. Someone who lives has always lived and will continue to live forever. The only difference I know between death and life is that now you live as a single entity (mass) and that later, after dissolution, twenty years from now, you will live in scattered distinct molecules . . .
The rest of the evening I was teased about my paradox. They offered me beautiful living pears, thinking grapes, but I said : Those who love each other during their life and who insist on being buried side by side are perhaps not as crazy as you might think. Perhaps their ashes touch, blend, and join together. Que scays-je? What do I know? Perhaps they have kept a residue of warmth and life that gives them pleasure deep in the cold urn that encloses them . . .
Oh, my Sophie, then I could keep the hope of touching you, feeling you, loving you, seeking for you, joining with you and becoming one with you when we are no more! . . . Let me keep this fantasy; it’s sweet; it guarantees me eternity in you and with you.
–Denis Diderot, letter to Sophie Volland, Oct. 17, 1759 in: Correspondence de Diderot, vol. 2, pp. 283-84 (Georges Roth, ed. 1956) (S.H./E.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Percentage increase in the annual number of polio cases in Pakistan since 2005:
A bowl of 4,000-year-old noodles was found in northwestern China; and a spokesman for the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that “this is the earliest empirical evidence of noodles ever found.”
A federal judge sentenced the journalist Barrett Brown to 63 months in prison for sharing a link to information stolen from the private-intelligence firm Stratfor by a hacker in 2011. “Good news!” Brown said in a statement. “They’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”