I have just finished a generally disappointing book of essays entitled Sum: Forty tales from the afterlives, by David Eagleman, a neuroscientist. The book was recommended severally by the Economist, the Financial Times, and various end-of-year newspaper round-ups. Sum (as in cogito ergo) is one of those faddish works that snowballs briefly. It’s a whimsical collection of essays about the afterlife, neither fiction nor philosophy nor theology, and the fortieth essay conveniently concludes that there is no afterlife anyway. One phrase caught my eye. ‘There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.’ It’s a facile observation, but is it true of us all, this third, anticipated, death, of the ego? I think of my late parents. As they were dying they certainly thought in terms of legacy: values, education, the well-being of their children and their grandchildren. But it was selfless thought and not at all about posterity. They died when they died, and that was that. Eagleman’s throwaway observation reminds me of a recent column by Luke Johnson in the Financial Times. He spoke about a friend, ‘Richard’, who cut away the crap by asking his fellow financiers which was the most important for them: wealth, power, or fame. I wrote the newspaper a letter, politely asking Johnson to let us know which way he replied (since he, a financier, media mogul and newspaper columnist, conveniently forgot to let us know). But, in truth, this is a ‘have you stopped beating your wife?’ type of question. Are all financiers necessarily only concerned with wealth or power or fame? Maybe they begin that way. There is a lot of noisy philanthropy and charity out there, but there is a sufficient quantity of quiet charity to make me believe that wealthy, powerful and famous people also discover other motivations in life.