Sunday, January 9, 2011

Death and Anxiety

We're going to die.  It is inescapable.  To know this causes great anxiety.  The only way I can see to dull the anxiety about this fact is to conceptually alter death from "death" as we know it to "death in the future that I do not know yet."  After all, there's some ambivalence about what is going to happen in the future, and we face all sorts of potential threats in the distant future that we're more or less okay with.

Some people have misplaced thinking regarding death. They avoid activities they strongly associate with death but that aren't as strongly associated statistically (i.e. in reality).  We're much more likely to die from suicide than from homicide, in an automobile than an airplane, or from a fall than from a terrorist attack.  In short, we're more scared of the intensity of a death-causing act than we are of a blander quieter more frequent death causer.  Over-eating and smoking will kill more people than almost every other factor out there. 

But back to the point at hand.  How do you calm down a very intelligent person who has become, in essence, preoccupied with death?  A person who very clearly understands that we're fooling ourselves when we talk about anything other than death's eventuality.  A person who knows that death happens in the short and long-term, not just the long term, and wants to deal with that fact now.  How do you deal with death, once you've accepted that it will happen?

Most of our lives are predicated on avoiding the concept of death in the first place, on account of getting us to stay alive and feel important enough to survive in the first place.  What's redeeming in this life?  If it exists, it exists now, not later, even if ephemeral.  I don't need to name it, because I don't know what it is.  I don't even know whether I'd rather go watch a movie instead of think about this right now.

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