The understanding that we are going to die sets us apart from other species just like opposing thumbs and the rational brain.
This condition has been tackled by all the ancient schools of thought: Epicureans, Skeptics, and Stoics. They all sought arguments that would prove the “fear of death” irrational and mechanisms to combat it. They believed that only then, free of this weight, would a person truly be happy.
I disagree with this on two main levels:
- Fear of death is not a curse.
I believe it to be the mother of creativity. It builds a sense of urgency, the need to create something that will last when we know our bodies won’t.
2. Fear of death is not the only problem.
We, as humans who have dealt with this problem for so long, have become accustomed to the idea of dying. Yes, it does sometimes knock on the door again and causes great havoc in our minds, but we’re not walking around constantly worrying about a day in the future when it’ll all end.
The fear of living, however, seems to surround our every waking moment. The constant doubt of what to do with ourselves.
How should I behave?
Why am I here?
Am I making the right decision?
Am I meeting the right people?
Am I saying yes to the right opportunities and no to the wrong ones?
We overthink, question and regret every decision we make.
We always want the flavor of Ice Cream we didn’t pick.
We always want to be on the other car lane.
We live our lives as if looking for something that was lost, something that is ours by birthright and that we have retrieve in order to have meaning.
And yes, you could say that eliminating the fear of dying would relieve the pressure we put on ourselves, and therefore, make life more pleasant. But would it really? Is dealing with death the best way to accept life?
My thoughts are no. If we were to completely eliminate all apprehension as to our existence coming to an end, I believe we would still question our choices, we would still want the other flavor of ice cream, or even worse, we would become so stagnant by our lack of urgency that we wouldn’t want ice cream at all.
Well sh*t… What now? If the fear of death creates the fear of living, but eliminating the fear of death doesn’t eliminate the fear of life, what are we supposed do?
Hey! Don’t look at me for all the answers! I’m just a 17 year old creating chaos in your brain!
There’s no easy answer to this dilemma, this weird state we find ourselves in called life.
I can, although, share what’s working for me at the current moment, and I expect this to change many times during my lifetime.
I stopped taking myself so goddamn seriously.
I accepted that there’s nothing out there that’s mine that I need to retrieve.
I started thinking about life as a happy accident, not a planned superhero movie.
I don’t know why I am here.
I don’t know why I was given this body, this family, this personality.
I don’t know if it was a magnificent entity, or a strange force or simply the laws of physics governing the arrangement of particles (I do tend to lean more towards the later).
But I’ve come to terms with the understanding that there’s no right answer, there’s no single path, there’s no bigger meaning – at least not defined by anyone except ourselves.
What I’m saying is, why are you trying so hard to follow a script when there isn’t one?
Take the pressure off life, not by embracing its ending, but by celebrating its beginning.
The mere fact that we are here – that we have brains that can record memories and create a personality, that we can sense the world, that we can make decisions, that we can try, fail and learn – is incredible. It’s an accident.
We all come into this world with nothing, and we should be happy that we can add anything to it at all.