Updated: Jan 29, 2021
There is a fear of death I feel, and I wonder exactly what that fear is. A lack of life’s fulfilment? A harsh and finite ending to whoever we think we are? The fear of any day, any moment, any time being your last, or that brutal, piercing moment when you hear deaths words in the passing of someone you knew. To then think of yourself not existing is a strange and curious fear.
There is a fear of not achieving the things I want to achieve. I feel as though I have things I ought to do and this links to a fear of the unknown. Is there an afterlife? Which God is real? Is consciousness by accidental fortune, or a divine creator our puppet master. Are we really evolved monkeys with minds?
Death the motivator; for myself it is. The final push for my own pursuits, the final ability to endure fear of failure was in watching lives of those I love end. Old and young, time taken both fair and unfair, over a period of no more then four years many people who were important to my life died.
No more will I speak with them or interact, no more sharing Christmas morning or birthdays, no more will they watch my children grow old. And that is what life is. As they have gone, at some stage, some age, one day so will I. And it will be my children who are left to tell stories of the things I have done, the antics my life entailed and all we can do is hope that day is afar.
But hope is nothing, its causality is nil, hope projects into the future not at all. Hope is a mental state we grasp to ensure our ego. What is it we want, in truth, why would we hope to grow old? Is there a connection between time and achievement? Is it a hope that something great will just happen?
What is better though, I do wonder, a question many before me have contemplated. As a work mate once told me, “growing old is far better than the alternative.” And to this I agree.
Freddy Mercury famously sung, “I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.’ And this seems the lowest state a person can be. Below the absence of something, to be nothing, to not be, no-one, to never exist; there is no darker melancholy of thought that I have ever found then pure absence.
And nor would I want to find whatever thought lay darker than that.
“Growing old is far better than the alternative.”
Nietzsche too stumbled across many ideas floating about our world. “There are no beautiful surfaces without terrible depths,” or “beware of saying death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead and a very rare species.”
“Beware of saying death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead and a very rare species.”
Enter God; a power, all loving, all knowing, a force who will love for you. And when your time expires this being is waiting, to cuddle you, nurture you, show you all the flaws in your ways and help you discover bliss. A love so deep it can only be felt not spoken, a love of parent to child, enter God in a bond of hope; hope that your God is real.
I understand why people would cling to this idea, an idea we find expressed in many ways, many cultures, many languages; the idea of a deity. Its reassuring. Its comforting. Its humbling to think of our world in such a way. I wonder further if it matters whether this idea is true or not.
To imagine a world free from meaning is beautiful, in a way.
To imagine a world gripped only by meaning is also beautiful, in a way.
And perhaps the fear I feel, the wonderment of death that has hung its weight on the shoulders of many, perhaps it’s a fear of life that is expressed, dictated by its final ending. Recently at market a lady told me of a Buddhist practice where they mediate on their own death.
I know nothing of Buddhism nor their practices outside of martial arts, only what this lady told me. She had read by book and was relating the concepts I wrote about to their freedom in imagining themselves free from their own body, returning themselves to the earth.
In a paper I wrote on the Philosophy of Religion in 2017, I found a practice of mummification where the mummified remains of the departed stayed in their home on an Indonesian island occupied the Torajan peoples [link].
So many different cultures dealing with the same aspect of our life in so many different ways and I have begun to understand the appreciation of small thing, little things each day.
Gardening, growing plants, an ecosystem lives around me which I have created. The sun spreads energy over these plants which I consume, energy transfers and there is something primitively reassuring about that process that relaxes me.
So too in moments of simplicity like swimming at the beach. Each weight I lift, each word I write, each conversation with a friend. As I write this, I am thirty-eight years old and I have felt my life rushing by. I never really cared for ... well, most things really, I just done what I had to each day. It is only recently I feel anxiety drift away and in its departure, I feel calm, not depressed, I feel like I don’t care—but in a good way.
I have been so lucky in the moments I have lived, so many good things have come my way. I watched each of my children’s birth, I was the first person to hold their little bodies, clean them and clothe them. So too I have won sporting accolades, learned the art of self-discipline and most proudly published A Decent Life, which was recently compared to the cult classic, Natural Born Killers.
I say this as the topic of death has a natural connection to depression. But it is not for this reason I write this article; in fact, it is the exact opposite. I want to live my own decent life and fill each day with adventures. I want to pursue the things I like and benefit others as much as I can through my pursuits. I want to create the maximum while taking the minimum and enjoy my time as I live.
"I want to live my own decent life and fill each day with adventures. I want to pursue the things I like and benefit others as much as I can through my pursuits."
But since I was a child, I have always been very aware that at sometime that time will end.