Recently, someone I knew of passed away, and was far too young. He was an incredibly good person, he was empathetic and caring and all the things that are considered "good". It made me realise that there have been many people that were inherently "good" who have died at a young age. I feel almost that I have a "duty" to these people to try to be "good" myself. In a sense, I feel all of a sudden a need to be worthy of life, to be deserving of existence, because so many people who deserved to exist, no longer do. In the past, I must have hurt people, made people uncomfortable, as I guess a lot of people have done. The problem is such a worth is not easy to quantify, and to quantify it would trivialise it. I don't know how to satisfy this yearning, nor do I know how to express it with great enough precision to figure out how to satisfy it. What do you suggest I do? Thanks a lot.

Thank you for this extraordinary question. The matter is quite profound and I feel quite unworthy to respond, but I will make a few observations that I hope are helpful (or not unhelpful)!

First, one might question whether it is best to see your response to those who have died prematurely as carrying out what is a duty to them. I know you qualify this by writing "amost" and putting the word "duty" in quotes, but perhaps what has taken place is that the deaths of such good persons has awoken in you an intense realization of the preciousness of life itself. Having just lost a friend who died in his early 50s, I am keenly aware of how Rick would have loved even very simple pleasures (walking the dog) that I can do know. I am made aware of how precious it is that I can spend time with my wife, realizing at the same time how deeply sad (tragic) it is that Rick and Angela are not together.

Perhaps this leads to a second observation. Except in some religious systems in which there is re-incarnation or in theistic religions in which there is a very strong view of predestination (God predestines that certain people exist), it seems that no one of us "deserved to exist." For myself, as a philosopher who is also a Christian but not one who believes in predestination, I think of life as a gift. For a nonChristian, secular treatment of life seen as something undeserved and contingent, you might check out the last chapter of Thomas Nagel's The View from Nowhere. In any case, one might take delight in the sheer undeserved nature of being alive, whether for a long or short time.

Maybe a sense of the preciousness of life and life being like an undeserved gift naturally leads to the drive to really honor and care for those around us. I agree that many of have hurt others, made people feel uncomfrotable and so on, but this should not obscure the desire to seek forgiveness when appropriate and to seek the good in all those lives linked with ours.

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