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Nash, Edith / Practice the here and now: selected writings of Edith Nash

Nash, Edith
A letter to Sally,   pp. 35-36

Page 35

A Letter to Sally
September 19, 1958
Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Dear Sally,
 .1 got your letter and can see you were plenty upset by death and dying
last week. I really don't know which is best:
to spend your time living and let dying take care of itself, if it will,
or consciously and systematically turn your attention to the whole problem
in a philosophical way, to face up to the "whole thing." If you want to think
about it systematically, reading might help. I do not agree, however, that
thinking about it will ward off an anxious moment when it sneaks up on you.
Things like this can sneak up on one and frequently do whether you keep them
in mind or not. So don't force yourself to "keep scared" to think yourself
through. When you have interest and energy to devote to this problem, think
about it, relate what you read to it or even get some help on it. I am sending
you a book of Freud's in the laundry that you might read. It has some interesting
remarks on people's egos in it. When you don't feel the interest in the problem
to think about death and would rather turn to something else, for heaven's
sakes, do. Living is the main thing; dying is simply its absence. Some thinking
is a form of living. Sometimes when you're going in circles, it's a form
of dying. You can tell pretty well after a while which it is. I know what
you mean about "forever." Living "forever" would be awful too. This is what
Freud calls the "oceanic" feeling. And he thinks it has something to do with
the source of religion. It's hard to make up one's own religion, and you
must feel very strong within yourself to be willing to attempt it. I do not
think most people "face up" to dying, ever. But they work out some adjustment
or understanding of living. Some part of their living includes the possibility
of dying. Their world includes the fact that they will die. That is about
all the facing up they can understand.
 My brother Paul likes a book very much by Hans Zinsser, author of Rats,
Lice, and History (popular book about typhus

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