Promises of Eternity

Monkey before Skeleton

Do you ever think of yourself as actually dead, lying in a box with a lid on it?…It’s silly to be depressed by it. I mean one thinks of it like being alive in a box, one keeps forgetting to take into account the fact that one is dead…which should make a difference…shouldn’t it? I mean, you’d never know you were in a box, would you? It would be just like being asleep in a box. Not that I’d like to sleep in a box, mind you, not without any air – you’d wake up dead, for a start, and then where would you be? Apart from inside a box…Because you’d be helpless, wouldn’t you? Stuffed in a box like that, I mean you’d be in there for ever. Even taking into account the fact that you’re dead, it isn’t a pleasant thought. Especially if you’re dead, really…ask yourself, if I asked you straight off – I’m going to stuff you in this box now, would you rather be alive or dead? Naturally, you’d prefer to be alive. Life in a box is better than no life at all. I expect. You’d have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking – well, at least I’m not dead! In a minute someone’s going to bang on the lid and tell me to come out. “Hey you, whatsyername! Come out of there!”…

I wouldn’t think about it, if I were you. You’d only get depressed. (Pause.) Eternity is a terrible thought. I mean, where’s it going to end?

Tom Stoppard
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

Painting by Gabriel Cornelius von Max (1840-1915): Monkey before Skeleton

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