Podcast #012 – Fear of Death
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Death is a part of life. Well, actually death is the only part of life we know will happen for sure. Everything else is a grey area. There is an impending doom on all life, that it must, and will, one day come to an end.
I often wonder about my death. How will it happen? When will it happen? What will it feel like? What will be my last thought? The last thing I see, hear, touch? Will I know it’s coming? Or will I be t-boned by a semi and killed instantly? It could start out like any normal day, but on my drive to the grocery store, BAM, death takes me by surprise. But of course, none of that really matters, and is kind of off topic, I just find it interesting to think about. Running each possible scenario through my head and wondering what my reaction would be.
So if we all know death is coming, where does the fear come from? Well, that one is easy. We’re blessed with the intelligence to realize that we’re experiencing something, which we call life, and are moving through it ever so merrily. Over the years, the collection of memories build up and we gather an image of who we are, how the world works, and what this is all about. Each person has a different image in their mind, but there is one thing in common with them all – we all have no idea what will happen when this ends. The fear arises from the unknown.
Now let me stop right here because I know there are people who do claim to know what happens to them, and you and I, when we die. I want to be as clear as I can with this, they’re lying. No one knows and if they say they know, they don’t. It’s bullshit. Heaven, Hell, reincarnation, blah blah, it’s all nonsensical, unproven hocus pocus. People may share a common belief of what happens after death, but that doesn’t mean jack. So I don’t want to hear it, no one knows, and that’s that.
So the fear comes from the unknown, and the unknown is scary. And this isn’t just any unknown, not even close to on par with what will happen if I go talk to the pretty girl at the bar, this is one of the two biggest unknowns. Which of course are – Where did this come from? and What will happen when it ends? You can just sit and try to come up with some hypothesis for these if you want a good ole fashioned mind fuck for a few moments.
What do I think will happen when I die? I’ll be dead. My brain will no longer generate thoughts, my heart will stop pumping blood, and this experience will melt away. The current arrangement of atoms that makes up what I am will restructure into something else. There will be nothing more to experience, nothing more to share, nothing more to do, nothing at all. Essentially, life will continue on, and it will be like before I was born.
Think back to before you were born. Ahh, gotcha! You can’t do it, can you? (And no, not even with hypnosis so don’t give me that shit.) That is what it will be like when you die, unborn. Non-existence.
So, I spent a paragraph ranting about how no one knows what happens, how can I possibly make this claim? Well, of course I don’t know, but nothing can be known absolutely. All I am doing is using evidence to point me in the right direction. Let’s start with this – What makes us alive? Our brain, heart, blood, organs, etc. It’s all a system, constantly networking with each other, quite eloquently, keeping this form alive. And we can all agree that when we perish, this body will no longer function, right? And it is this body that keeps my thought process going. So once this body is gone, what reason can I possibly come to other than nothing happens?
But now the point of this whole post, the fear is stupid. There is no reason to be afraid of death. Does my hypothesis sound scary? C’mon, lighten up. Why is it scary? Were you scared before you were born? Of course not, you didn’t exist to be afraid. Once it’s over, you won’t exist to be afraid.
But there is another cause of fear, which is harder to understand and accept. That cause is attachment. We all love the shit out of ourselves, well most of us anyway. Even those who are super depressed can’t hate life too much, or else they would end it. We’re so attached to this form and we don’t want to let go. It’s a scary thing imagining the world without ‘me’, or rather it was. I’ve learned that this attachment is also bullshit. I went into this in my last post, The View, but here is the basic premise – The concept of I is false. There is no ’self’, all ‘I’ am is a collection of memories. But those past memories have no impact on the present, which is the only time we can experience anything. It really is that simple.
So why have an attachment to something that isn’t real? I don’t know, we’re almighty idiots. But really though, it’s ingrained in our culture and civilization and has been for thousands of years. And it goes even deeper than that into millions of years of evolution. We’re pattern seeking animals, we have to connect the dots. And once a pattern has been seen, it’s hard as hell to unsee it. Some patterns you will never be able to unsee. Even if I spent 40 years in a cave by myself in complete darkness, I would still recognize the pattern of THE or TREE or HOUSE. We see a pattern by looking back to the past and making it real in the present.
We search for a sequence, an order, in absolutely everything, especially this experience called life. It was (and still is) vital and absolutely necessary to seek out and find patterns for survival. That shit is so deeply routed into our DNA, some people will even laugh at the possibility that a false pattern has been created. But it has, and the entire human race has bought into it.
But here’s the kicker, once you drop that attachment, you also shed the fear. Understand and see the world without you. Stop trying to experience things to add to your form. Stop trying to be someone. For too many years I kept going through life, trying to learn and experience so I could keep adding it to who I am. “This experience is something I want to do so I can make it a part of me,” is how I often thought. I was attached to my memories. But even if my memory were erased, I would still be here, I would still exist. The attachment is bullshit.
This form is going to end, whether you like it or not. So stop being so damn afraid of it. Stop creating myths and lies, stop saying you know what will happen and instead, embrace the unknown. The unknown isn’t always scary. Death isn’t scary, it’s just the creation of a new form. I think a good quote to end this with is from The Day the Earth Stood Still (and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t remember the exact wording):
Nothing really dies. The universe wastes nothing, everything is recycled.
So death is just your form being recycled. Just think of it like that. If you’re still scared, maybe one day you will be brave enough to remove your diaper and wipe your own ass, too.