Monday, 6 July 2009

Death, and why it doesn't really matter

Death.

Scary? No, not really.

You don't believe me? Then read on. When (if) you get to the end, you probably still won't believe me, but you may be amused. Or enraged. I'd prefer the latter. It will prove my point. Not about death. Another one, but I'm not telling.

OK, let's agree on one thing. While we're alive we have a free will. If we don't then the drivel below is poppycock. But then, in this case so is death, isn't it? How come? I thought it was obvious. You're an automaton then, and automata don't die, they get turned off. You shouldn't care about death any more than you care about life, and you don't have to care about your life, being an automaton. It's all neatly taken care of for you by someone, something, or whatever you choose to delude yourself with.

Still with me? Good.

Now let's see what about those who believe in life after death.

For one, I could argue that for such people the is, in fact, no death at all. Death is then just a transition (a transitory moment?) between two, possibly different, modes of living. But let's also see what else can be said about this sort of people. Or rather, about what they should, and should not expect when concerned with death (or lack thereof).

If you believe in re-incarnation, and are doomed to have one, then you also tend to believe that in the next life you will not remember the previous one. That is, provided you re-incarnate into something that can remember. Or think, for that matter. if you've been good enough in all your previous lives, you won't re-incarnate, which is considered good, as far as I know. In either case, the death itself is just a blink during which you change to something different. So irrelevant, really, in the grand scheme of things.

If you believe in heaven and hell sort of thing, i.e. reward for being good, and punishment for being bad while still alive, then you may regard death as a very important event. And so it is, in all likelihood. Yet, it doesn't really last long, if at all, so in itself it's not really relevant. What's relevant is what comes after it, and you should know what to expect anyway. If you believe in such things, you tend to know what sort of things done while still alive have heaven or hell as a consequence. If you don't, the there's something really wrong with your belief system or your understanding of it. These systems are not meant to be random. Oh, and since you'll live after death, then you're never really dead are you, so even in a purely semantical sense death has no meaning for you. Death is an action (a process) that leads to people becoming dead. Which you are not. Even if you may want to, if hell is really such an unpleasant plae as it's made out to be. So there you have it, heaven and hell people, you should not fear death, as it is inconsequential, if not non-existent, moment in the eternity of your life. Rejoice!

OK. So what about people who believe death leads to being properly dead, i.e. not existing any more? In the interest of full disclosure, I must sady here that I fall squarely into this category. What I believe comes after dying is one plain and simple nothing. The one that's almost impossible to perceive. Try it. It's mighty hard!

Such people especially need not worry about death. It only takes a blink of an eye (well, both eyes, really), and not even a whole one. Because, when you blink you tend to open your eyes again, and the world is where you left it a moment ago (provided you didn't imbibe of certain mind-bending substances. of course). But when you die, there is no opening of the eyes. You close them (or at least they stop working) -- and that's it! Easy! What happens next? Why, nothing!

See, nothing to worry about. Regardless of your beliefs death is a totally, let's say, painless experience. At best it leads to nothing, at worst it is just an infinitesimaly short event between two parts of life, as fearsome as a blink of an eye. You may be worried abotu what comes after it, be it nothing, or finding out that those stories about hell were nothing compared to the real thing. Whichever, the death itself is truly nothing. Easy.

Is there, then, something you should be afraid of in all this? Well, yes. Unfortunately. Because, see, while death is an instant or less, dying can be one quite unpleasant and drawn out process. I don't think I need to supply examples here, you should know quite a few nice ones already. Just to refresh your memory, there's for example bleeding to death in a dirty alleyway, then there's drowning, and not least slow and painful months of terminal stage cancer. Now, these are the things to watch out for.

So, the moral of this story is: death really does not matter much, it's the dying that really hurts!

Can anything be done about this? Maybe.

Have a look
here, here, here, and here.