Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ways to offset the fear of death

I believe that each of us has a fear of death not because, as Dumbledore puts it in Harry Potter, "we fear the unknown," but instead because evolutionarily we have been programmed to fear death so as to help our survival and increase the chances that we will reproduce and continue the species. Thus far we have come quite a long way in our evolution, but we still have not learned how to become immortal, meaning that at one point each and every one of us will face death. We should all expect to die.

But that doesn't mean that we have to fear death. There are a few ways that we can overcome our fear of death or at least quelch it slightly:

1) Curiosity: one way to overcome the fear of death is to actually look forward to it because we wonder what will happen to us once we die. While this can be brushed aside and simply be looked at as foolishness, the fact remains that there is really no way to know what we will experience after we die. Will there be some sort of afterlife? Will we regain a former conciousness and be able to look back upon our life and the decisions we made before starting a new one (that would be sick)?

2) Single-mindedness: If we can remain very focused on whatever we plan to accomplish in life, then I believe that we can mitigate the fear of death. People that strive very hard for a goal don't care about their death because they don't have enough time to ponder it. I would say that this is a risky strategy because once you do begin to fear death it could consume you.

3) Belief in an Afterlife: Pascal's Wager aside, believing in an afterlife of any kind (religious or otherwise) in which you retain your worldly conciousness is certainly something that could mitigate your fear of death, although it undoubtably requires a certain number of leaps of faith in order to do so, since there is by definition no way to prove the existence of God. It seems that more people radiate towards this as they become older, but certainly not everyone. This also can be somewhat dangerous to other people. For instance, some young men believe that suicide bombing gives you a first class ticket to the best form of afterlife. That is a scary thought, for this world, and that version of the next.

4) Apathy: Some people seem to just not care (or maybe not believe) that they will one day die. Much like how the last belief has more old people, this belief seems to have more young people. I would argue that this can lead towards some rash decision-making.

There are certainly others, and I will add them if I think of them. Ultimately this stuff doesn't matter too much, because we're all going to die anyway.