Is Mozart Dead? — Thoughts On The Afterlife
Somehow, during my daily procrastination routine, I stumbled upon Mozart’s Wikipedia page, and an odd thought occurred to me: is Mozart dead?
Well yeah, I mean, I know he’s physically dead, and I know most people would answer this question with something between a “yes” and a “how stupid are you” (and they’d not be wrong with either answer), but after giving this matter a bit of thought, I decided my response would be a firm and definitive “it depends”.
I mean, he’s not utterly and completely dead in every sense of the word… More than two-hundred years have passed since his death, but his life and legacy are still awe-inspiring to many, his work is widely known and relatively available (specially for those of us with access to the internet), and what he managed to do in his short thirty-five years of life still helps teach music to countless students all over the world. Born in 1756, it is very hard to believe he had any idea how we, in 2017, would be exposed to his accomplishments. I, for one, often find myself listening to a six-hour playlist of his music on Youtube every time I need to concentrate. So, how could he be gone if, somehow, in a weird way, he is still making a change? And what if he is not the only one? I’ve been thinking that everyone, I mean everyone, is still making a change. No one’s really gone. Yay.
I’ll explain using another exemple. One that is not based on a widely famous person: my grandma (and you can apply this to any kin of yours, if you like). She passed away a few years ago, but my brother, my mom, my aunts, my uncles and well, me, we are all still alive. So… Is she dead? Yes. But is she really? No. I mean, how could she be, if the way she talked shaped the way I talk? How could she be, if the books she read influenced the books I read? How could she be, if the way she behaved determined the way I behave? I could not exist without her. And hey, I’m not even talking about the fact that she is literally one of the reasons I was born, because she gave birth to my mom. (By the way, isn’t it weird that our grandparents lived huge portions of their lives without even knowing if we were going to exist at all, and we could not live for a moment without them already having existed? Anyway.)
What I mean by that is that we always leave a little something with each interaction we have. I mean, it’s not very likely that you ever actually met my grandma, but now you kinda have, in a small way. It may seem a stretch or even silly, but we carry little bits of people (not literally) with us, through our impressions and memories of them. And maybe that makes here the afterlife we seek elsewhere.
This in no way tries to discredit religious beliefs about life after death, it is simply another way to interpret our actions here on Earth. It can completely detach itself from religion or any other sort of notion about an afterlife somewhere else, meaning that these ideas are not mutually exclusive. But when I think about myself and others through this spectrum, I feel a huge increase in my responsability to be kind, and to try and influence the world for the better. Because my legacy may very well be an extension of my life, and it can still operate change when I’m no longer “here”. I also feel an increase in my responsibility to treat others fairly and without judgement, because I’ll carry them with me, and, maybe, I’ll be one of the many people who make their legacy move forward.
To finish this off, I’ll leave a quote from a smarter person than me, that I think truly complements the point I tried to make. It’s by Irvin D. Yalom:
“Some day soon, perhaps in forty years, there will be no one alive who has ever known me. That’s when I will be truly dead — when I exist in no one’s memory. I thought a lot about how someone very old is the last living individual to have known some person or cluster of people. When that person dies, the whole cluster dies, too, vanishes from the living memory. I wonder who that person will be for me. Whose death will make me truly dead?”