Me too. I don’t think I would be a properly functioning, reasonably intelligent human being if I wasn’t.
I’ve been watching my mother-in-law decline. She’s 80, and her body is failing her as 80 year old bodies are wont to do. She can hardly walk, she has trouble expressing herself, and clearly she’s near the end of her life; though she could be with us for 20 more years, she has that kind of strong constitution, and I hope she will be. But it’s not fun to watch her try to retain her basic dignity just handling the day-to-day activities necessary to human existence. Like using a toilet.
So, of course, when I see this, thoughts of one’s mortality tend to intrude into my consciousness. And I start thinking about death.
Actually, I’m not scared of death, I’m scared of dying. There are two aspects to that fear:
- I fear the process of death, not death itself.
- I fear and regret not being around after I die.
Clearly, being dead is simply another way of saying I will no longer have a conscious experience of life. Those who survive me will be aware of my non-existence, but I won’t be. That is something I did not experience before I was born, and I certainly have never felt any loss there, so I doubt that losing self-awareness will have a different effect on me when I’m gone. By definition, I simply won’t know.
One of the crappy things about life is that it is so tenuous. Not just human life but all life can be snuffed out without any notice. Death is arbitrary, and we don’t get the choice to pick and choose either the time or the manner of our death. It could happen after I leave here in my automobile, my heart could simply stop, or a large vein in my head could explode, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do to stop it or prepare for it. Sure, I can minimize the odds, but in the end, I really have no control over it.
Or I could contract cancer, or some painful and protracted disease, one without a cure, and linger, so that the time and the manner of my death can be brought more into focus. I’ll get a rough idea of how and when I die, but I’ll still be impotent to stop it.
Neither of these options makes the prospect of dying more palatable. It’s unfortunate that the nature of death does not allow us the ability to pick and choose the manner and time of our death, unless one embraces suicide. But our culture, and the laws engendered thereby, has a nasty habit of discouraging that. It’s nice to see that attitudes towards suicide are changing, albeit slowly.
The other aspect of death that scares me is that I may stop existing before I’m done with my life plan. Not that there is a real plan out there, but I do have some expectations for my future. I want to enjoy and share in as much of my children’s lives, and their children’s lives, as I possibly can. I want to see what they turn out to be, having seen what I’ve turned out to be, knowing that I had some effect on the outcomes.
I want to finish all the books I’ve ever wanted to read, including those that have not been written. I want to travel to places I’ve never been. I want to meet people I’ve never met. I want to be around when some of life’s mysteries are explained. In other words, I want to live longer than mywill allow me, and that scares me, (actually, it pisses me off) because I know I won’t be able to.
I think these are rational fears. I don’t think the idea that when I die, unlike all other life, I will continue to exist on some other plane, in some other dimension, is rational. So I feel I’m steeply immersed in reality when I say I fear those aspects of death, and reject the notion of an afterlife. The idea that I’ve spent, say, eighty-some years struggling to exist on a speck of dust in the middle of a solar system on the outer edge of a galaxy somewhere in the rough limits of the universe, just so I could spend eternity in some amorphous place adoring a god that put me here in the first place makes absolutely no sense of all, and offends my sense of fairness, dignity and, OK, reality.
Compare 80 years to eternity. Can you actually get your head around the comparison? It’s like comparing a molecule of water to all the water on the earth, and even then the comparison isn’t close.
Now, I want to apologize for seeming so morbid, for ruminating on death. But be honest. You’ve thought about these things too. I doubt that what I say here is anything knew or enlightening. I find it so incredible that so many people place so much reliance on, and spend so much of their life planning for, something that makes no fucking sense, for which there is no evidence, not an iota, not a speck, not a shred, not a jot or a tittle.
I almost can’t wait to see what inanity Gideon will respond with.