Lucretius, the Street of Tombs, and Non-existence

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Ostia Antica, Italy

“And yet we keep no memory of that once-upon-a-time, nor can we call it back; somewhere between a break occurred and all our atoms went wandering here and there and far away from our sensations.” –Lucretius

When  I walked down Ostia’s Via dei Tombs, I didn’t think about death. Rather, I pondered life, the lives that occupied the space for a time and times. Questions came in the form of philosophical wonderings, the universal type. Questions of existence and non-existence. I wondered if they also worried about the state of their lives, whether or not they were squandering it away, or making the most of what little time was left, as they laid to rest family members and friends. A good friend of mine reminded me once that our natural state is that of non-existence, since, as she put it, she had not existed for far longer than her present short existence. Lucretius, I think, would agree. What have we to fear when death is no longer an enemy, but only a natural conclusion to existence? Walking down the street of tombs, with sarcophagi to my right and urn niches to my left, the answer came quickly–not living.

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