On whether there’s something beyond

Charles Taylor considers the problem of death in a secular age.



Charles Taylor considers the problem of death in a secular age.


Death is [a] tremendously important issue here. To have full joie de vivre, sense of life, and so on is one of the greatest things that … we seek to recover it when we don’t have it. But particularly when you get older, like in my case, you see that you’re moving into a phase where this is less and less available for you, and eventually it’ll go, along with your life.

So what is the meaning of all this, how can you come to grips with all this? That’s one … the one issue of death, the death of self. And then there’s the other perhaps greater issue of death, you know, Ariès, this great French writer about death, talks about la mort de moi, my death, and la mort de toi, the death of someone I love, and that’s even harder to face. So the sense that if I have to give this a meaning is another example of what I was saying earlier, that just the fact itself without some deeper meaning to it – and it can be many things, I mean handing something on to my children and so on – but without some sense of the meaning of it, is close to unbearable at certain moments.

Now, it’s an interesting observation on modern culture that in many societies where there’s been a falling off of religious practice, and people don’t usually baptise children or have a brit if they’re Jewish and so on, and … I mean lots of people don’t, and lots of people don’t marry in church or in synagogue or mosque. You find there’s a much higher number of people who ask for some kind of religious burial of their loved ones, of their parents and so on. So it shows you that that’s a point at which the loss of religious languages is really felt very, very deeply.