I have been thinking of writing on this topic for some time, and got to it today inspired by the post No Need to Panic? over at Ideally Speaking…
There was period in my life when I was a kid, when I thought about the issue of dying every day. At the time it seemed to me that in light of that question the daily things are unimportant, and I wondered why nobody else is preoccupied with thinking about the issue of death. The realization of the certainty of the death, the realization that inevitably there will come the day when I will die, was coming to me every night I went to bed. I was wishing I never realized this immanence, but once I did, I felt that it is nonsense merely pretending that it wasn’t there, or occupying my thoughts with other activities – I will die! even if I don’t think of the issue.
There was several things that affected my thinking of death since, but I’m not sure I’m OK with the idea of death now, or I just can’t present to my self its inevitability as graphically as when I was kid. I like to think that the former is the case, but there will come the day when I will know for sure.
Anyway, what I hope is that somone with same fears might find this following thoughts comforting and helpful…
1. In high school I read somewhere (I think Bhagavat Gita) that there can be two cases connected to the issue if the self is basic/fundamental thing (connected to the feel that we directly exist as self – that there is nothing else more basic in which ‘self’ is grounded)…
Either that fundamentality/being-basic of the self is an illusion , in which case it will disappear with death, but in which case also we don’t have anything to worry about, because, after all it is just illusion. Or… the self (or part of it) is properly basic, in which case we don’t have to care, as it would still exist after death.
2. Later I also found that valuing other things over my life, removes even this need for rational approach to the question. Taking for example moral duties as more important puts the issue of death in different perspective. It might be religious duties, but also any other moral duties – being moral being over a being concerned with its existence.
I remember while watching the movie The Last Samurai that I was thinking that they succeeded to depict this power of will to value duty and honor over own existence in the life of the Samurai culture, so you might want to check it out as example of this (if you haven’t seen it already).
3. Love is always fine ally against fear of any kind. The sense that one is part of the society, that the love among the people (and God for those which are religious) is bigger and transcends one’s own existence, reduces the moment of death to death for others. So, to say… the tear in the eye of those who knew you, is more you then the cold body left after death. On Flickr, I found this picture coupled with a quote that, I think, capture this feel better then my explanation.
He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory,abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man.- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
4.OK, i have to mention religion. Life after death certainly dispels the fear of death, as if we believe that we will not die, there is nothing to be afraid of. But the religion is not very comforting in that respect, while removing the fear of death, if you have sinned and are believer (as I am), it only replaces it with the fear of likely possibility of eternal fire. In personal communication some people have accused me that I’m religious just a way to cope with the issue of death. I answered that personally, I would be much more at comfort if my existence just ceases (given the previous reasons), then to be confronted with possibility of eternal punishment.