What a repugnant, disdainful, knee-jerk flippancy to flop out of one’s mouth to mock anybody for being afraid of death.
If death doesn’t arouse fear, then what is fear?
We know what fear is. It’s having the sense to understand the level of loss that something imposes upon a person. It’s a no-brainer to understand that life provides value that would diminish to an extensive level if it were to be lost.
Let’s make this even clearer by spelling out what the dictionary tells us about fear.
: to be afraid of (something or someone)
: to expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant)
: to be afraid and worried
a : an unpleasant often strong thought caused by anticipation or awareness of danger
b (1) : an instance of this (2) : a state marked by this
: anxious concern : solicitude
: reason for alarm : danger
I don’t have the courage to be robbed or run over; nor should I, or anyone. I have the emotional maturity to understand what my fear is telling me and to equip myself with the courage to join in on the assault on the terrible beast of aging. Watching incredible things unfold in the universe and world, seeing that it is all just the tip of an inconceivably large iceberg, and then seeing that it will be arbitrarily terminated in another of endless, terrible, horrific events for all involved, is alarming. It should concern you that you are standing on the deck of this great star-ship called Earth, and that you might fall off. You should be able to be aware of, and anticipate danger that is ahead. Your stake in the universe is at stake. Your DNA crawled out of your mother’s womb, drove a spike into the universe, asserting a claim in this realm, and death comes along like a miscreant walking up to a land-claim stake, and rips it out and throws it in the river.
“What are you, afraid of death?” They say.
“Don’t be a coward.”
“Because you’re too cowardly to accept death, the rest of us have to help you with your stupid little excursions?”
It’s as though they are saying, “What are you, afraid of cancer? You sissy, your mother and brother have cancer? So what? Don’t act like a wimp. Cancer is what happens. People live, people get cancer. Don’t accept the ice cream and the music if you’re going to whine about the cancer, it’s part of the package. If I could lift a finger to stop people from dying, then I wouldn’t do it.”
Or, it’s like that jerk that you know urging people to walk into woods where there are predators with humans as prey.
“Come on man, walk forty miles through the jungle there. Don’t worry about the lions, mosquitoes, and rhinos. You’ll get through fine, just goooo.” What terrible advice, and what a terrible kind of advice to condone and not discourage!
They are like the trash-talkers on the rodeo machine, where a round of people sit at a teeter-tottering table in the middle of a bull pen while they play cards and talk smack to each other for not continuing to sit in the bull’s eye of imminent death.
Pretending to be fearless in the face of death isn’t some form of heroism. It isn’t reasonable or courageous. It is quite the opposite. It is taking the easy way out.
What’s more is, that although being afraid is a sensible, logical part of it, the overriding part of it is that most of the people that I talk to that want to live long into the future, do it first and foremost because of their love for life. Most of the people that I know have been thwamped over the head with passion bugs of various kinds by flipping over galactic rocks like philosophy stones, quantum particles, history books and science boulders.
Fighting death has been for ages treated as a battle destined to be lost. How many times, when faced with a loss of a loved one, have we heard “Well, that’s the way of life”? How can one NOT notice the bitter irony and hypocrisy of that statement? How can death EVER be called an element of life, something to accept? It’s the very OPPOSITE of life, NOT part of it, and it is high time we should start seeing it as such. Let the blinders fall from our eyes, once and for all.
We appreciate our opportunity. We appreciate the rarity of humanity and the mind-blowing mysteries we have the privilege to continue to be submersed in. We understand that culture and tradition do not govern the big picture of what it means to exist here.
What it means to exist here is that we are the rare opportunities to know existence. What kind of extremely rare miracle would spring out of the mud after eons of nothingness and then declare that fleeting, flippant, empty cultural traditions of intellectually straitjacketed ancestors of itself are the best dictates for how it should face the big picture of the rapidly unfolding, multifaceted, and to-be-unfettered dreams-come-true (multi?)universe? Would you say that your grandmother’s old typewriter manual is the best guide for figuring out how to fix and program your computer?
What kind of jaw-dropping, paradigm-quaking miracle would spring out of the mud, find science and technology, industry and physics, communications superhighways and knowledge warehouses at the ends of high-speed trails, and all the rest – in many cases at its disposal or within reach of it – and then decide that the best thing for this miracle of the universe to do would be to return to the mud? I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to realize that many of our fellow human beings still think that. It’s also hard to understand exactly how they could think that in a world that emphasizes the value in good, positive critical thinking. They know better than that.
Accepting death is in fact choosing it. In the face of recent discoveries and progress in science, medicine, technology – it is a matter of choice.
Some people will smugly respond with the assertion that quality is obviously better than quantity. They say that acquiring more happiness now in exchange for taking away their chance to live for continued decades and centuries, is not irresponsible and wrong.
To them we say, our ancestors toiled and struggled through untold and long-lasting hardships to deliver their progeny, you, here to where you are so you can have the opportunities and the ever-brighter futures the generations of your ancestors hoped for, worked for, and achieved. You and your opportunities are their achievement, and I urge you to keep in mind thoughts of not wanting to let them down. You don’t live it up now and then throw away the chance your ancestors gave you. Your job is to survive first, and build empires later. You accept the tough times so that you may continue to earn opportunities to work to build more and more goodness into your life – be that through the completion of more dreams, the building up of more enterprises, the satiation of more curiosity, the fulfillment of more adventure, etc. The tough times help you to savor the good times more. When the ship is on choppy seas and might go down, you hold on tight and work twice as hard. Our ancestors didn’t raise us to throw in the towel. As far as I have ever seen, modern-day Homo sapiens did not evolve with a gene for quitting.
You are set for all the challenges that fighting for life brings. Let’s repeat it – death really is the easy way out. You fall asleep; you get a bullet; cancer kills you; some choose suicide; some accept aging and its effects as an inexorable given. The hard truth here that we should be prepared to acknowledge is: accepting death is the true cowardice, no matter the circumstances. Fighting it and choosing life is the true courage.
Critics of indefinite life extension, don’t put on a snide, condescending face and tell me that you aren’t afraid of death, because you are, too.
By your own knee-jerk flippancy, reactionary admission, you are also afraid of life. You’re afraid of death, and you’re afraid of life. You say, right to us, all the time, that you don’t want to bear to deal with the drastic changes, you don’t want to live without all your friends and family around, you don’t want to live with war still being a reality anywhere. You can’t stand all the jerks and the dangerous people, and rich people, or tyrants, controlling you for one decade longer than a traditional lifespan. The thought of it makes you want to jump into your grave right now to get away from this big, bad, scary life.
You, my friend, are afraid of life. Living scares you. You think of life and you cower. You see the challenges of life and you’re too scared to face them. You wouldn’t dare form and join teams and initiatives to meet those challenges on the intellectual combat fields of dialectics and action. You don’t have what it takes. Life isn’t for you. It’s not your thing. So love your death, fear your life. Do that if that’s what you want.
I am afraid of death. It scares me to think of losing my life. I value my life. I have no shame in that. That is the reasonable thing to do. What I have shame for is that anybody would think that being afraid of death might possibly be something to mock.
You mock us for being afraid of death. We are afraid of death; it’s a logical and positive thing to be afraid in the face of it. It reminds a person to take action against danger. It’s your being afraid of life that is to be mocked. So stand up and tell us how afraid you are of living. We promise not to look upon you with too much shame, and we promise to lend you a hand if you need help crossing over to the land of reason.
We once thought the Earth was flat or that all planets revolved around Earth. Many people who have threatened to disrupt tradition and the ways things have been at given times in the world’s history, have faced persecution and shunning for their discoveries. The life of helping move the world forward was hard because the work didn’t often ride forward in a parade of activism and public cheer and action. It would ride forward one hard-fought campaign at a time, one shovel-full at a time, at the hands of small groups of dedicated people working hard to ring the bell of freedom at each new level as humanity continued to expand out into the big picture of the universe and existence. They kept their minds fine-tuned and well-oiled with awareness and focus on what it means to be alive, gathered information, moved humanity forward in various ways, and proved the huge number of skeptics wrong. Life must have felt like hell for them, but they held on and won.
They chose to be courageous in their LIVES. Are you ready to open your mind and face some difficulties in the struggle for life? Would you rather fall asleep and miss out on miracles or stay wide awake and live them?
Wioletta Karkucińska is an author and longevity activist in Warsaw, Poland.