Original questions

In Sourcery, the fourth Discworld novel, the wizard Ipslore has a conversation with Death. Death says, “YOU’RE ONLY PUTTING OFF THE INEVITABLE.” Ipslore replies, “That’s what being alive is all about.” A little earlier in their exchange Death says to Ipslore, “THERE IS NO HOPE FOR THE FUTURE.” Ipslore asks what the future contains and Death answers, “ME.”

Death knows that life is fatal. It always ends. Which simplifies matters somewhat.

If we combine the two states—life and death—with another dichotomy—means and ends—it appears that we have only two questions to answer. Every other question we ask is just a derivative of these two Original Questions. Death is an inevitable end, as is the state of life. There’s no room for manoeuvre there. So, we simply have to choose our means of life and death.

The most important questions we can ask ourselves, and the ones that influence the answers to every other, are, “How am I going to live?” and “How am I going to die?”