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Views & Reviews Between the Lines

The spur of death

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 12 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2491
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    However many times one swears not to leave matters to the last possible moment, one’s resolution is never kept; the lecture that one has agreed to give next Tuesday remains unwritten until Monday evening. There is nothing like a little panic to concentrate the mind wonderfully.

    Deadlines are not called deadlines for nothing. The term hints at the suspicion that without the prospect of death we should never get anything done. Everything could wait for another few centuries; nothing would be urgent.

    Valuable as death may be as a stimulus to human effort, however, it is an uncomfortable subject for human minds. La Rochefoucauld said that neither the sun nor death could be stared at …

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