I’m about to get philosophical. Here we go.
Being human is being aware of one’s death. I wonder about animals, if they have an awareness of their own end. Of course a rabbit runs from the fox afraid of being eaten, it’s her instinct. But if the fox never came would she think about the days and months passing by? Would she fear death?
It’s a weird thing to know about. I will someday not be here. Sometimes it’s not so bad to think about, after all, life can be quite exhausting. And when you’re old and your body doesn’t work as well and your friends and family have left you behind, I imagine it is a comfort to think of everlasting peace.
But because we don’t know what happens next the idea of never existing AT ALL, at least with consciousness, is too weird to ponder.
But I don’t think what gets us all so freaked out is actually death itself, because we can’t really comprehend that. What we can comprehend, however, is 2 things: 1, pain and 2, not mattering.
Pain sucks. Pain is scary. Pain makes us feel helpless and powerless and other than to protect us from danger (so we don’t put forks in our eyes) there’s not much good about it. When we fear the stranger coming into our house with a butcher knife it isn’t because we don’t want to lose consciousness, it’s because we don’t want to experience getting stabbed!
Jumping out of airplanes and walking on tightropes seem so scary because our natural preservation instinct kicks in. We are meant to stay alive as long as possible. Like the rabbit.
Not mattering is something most of us think about often, realizing it or not. The drive to be rich and famous is a drive to matter. The worship of youth is because we think they matter more. Being beautiful, thin, important, powerful, and here is all about mattering. And when we think about getting old we think about being forgotten and invisible. That’s the pain of feeling ugly and damaged–it feels like you are invisible, less important, and easily forgotten.
With death, with nothing left behind (a book, a child, a legacy) what is to prove we were ever here? And beyond that, that we made a difference? That people care about our absence?
How do we make sense of our lives if we don’t feel our own importance to others?