Born Alone, Die Alone: What Does This Mean?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 24 18:53:17 UTC 2011

Dammit, now I'm afraid to go to sleep!


On Mon, Oct 24, 2011 at 2:49 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Born Alone, Die Alone: What Does This Mean?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Oct 24, 2011, at 2:06 PM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
>> [Begin comment by Fred Shapiro]
>> I apologize for my cluelessness, but there is a quote by Steven Jobs
>> that is getting some publicity and that makes no sense to me.  He
>> said, "You're born alone, you're going to die alone."  What does this
>> mean?  Many people die alone, but many do not, and it is not clear to
>> me that anyone is born alone.  Some babies are given birth by mothers
>> in secretive circumstances and the mother dies in childbirth, but this
>> is unusual and the baby may quickly die when this happens.
>> [End comment by Fred Shapiro]
>> Here is one guess for the meaning Jobs was trying to communicate:
>> The subjective experience of dying is solitary: Jobs may have thought
>> this proposition was true even if one was surrounded by loving
>> individuals. Jobs expressed ambivalence and uncertainty about the
>> possible existence of an "afterlife". He may have thought that if an
>> afterlife existed then one would enter it alone.
>> The subjective experience of birth is solitary: It is not clear how
>> well developed the neural system is at birth. If it is well developed
>> enough that it is possible to speak of a subjective experience then
>> emerging through the birth canal would presumably be a solitary
>> experience.
> Slightly less so if one is a twin (or more).  As for the other end of =
> the process, here's some poetic evidence that even going to sleep, let =
> alone dying, is a solitary experience:
> You may wake up in the night and wonder if you're dreaming,
> And referee the fight between the being and the seeming.
> But when the victor holds a hand up to the great unknown,
> You know you've got to go to sleep alone.
> You've got to go to sleep alone.
> You've got to go to sleep alone.
> Even if you're lying with someone you really love,
> You've got to go to sleep alone.
> =97Jimmie Dale Gilmore, as sung (wonderfully) by Rosalie Sorrels
> A fortiori, I assume, for dying.
> LH=
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list