Thanatality

Thanatality designates the fact of our existence’s being to a greater degree an “existence forward towards death” than an “existence forward away from birth”. The pronatalist invitation to a celebration of natality, whereby we live, being each of us a respective new beginning, much rather forward from birth than forward towards death is an invitation which may, with some justification, be directed at new-borns or very small children (see, however àRölleke’s Daughter), but it cannot reasonably be directed at self-aware, adult persons certain of their own future. The following writers, all of them meditators on thanatality, question back behind the apparent self-evidence with which parents, even in the face of the certainty of their own children’s deaths, nonetheless act in such a way that these latter begin to exist.

Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph (1742–1799)

“Tell me why thousands are born with grave disabilities, struggle and groan through a few years of life and then die? Why the child full of hope, the joy of his parents, dies just when these parents are at an age where they begin to need his help? Why others are forced to leave this world when they have only just entered it and are born only in order to die?” (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Über Physiognomik; wider die Physiognomen)

Leiris, Michel (1901–1990)

“As soon as I became an adult I felt no longer able to tolerate the notion of having a child: to bring a being into the world that, per definitionem, never asked to be brought into it and that is destined to die after it itself, perhaps, has seen to it that this chain of procreation is prolonged.”

 

Bernhard, Thomas (1931–1989)

“Who was it who had the idea of letting human beings go about in the world, or in what we call a world, in order then to bury them in a grave, in their grave?” (Thomas Bernhard, Frost)

Fels, Ludwig (*1946)

“Whoever brings children into the world/However oblivious to the future he may be as he does so/Is offering up victims to himself/ As a murderer deserving of ostracization. / Being born means, today/Having been ‘aborted into life’” (Ludwig Fels, Knüppelwiege. Ins Leben abtreiben. Ein langes Gedicht)

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