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The Irrational Fear of Death

Someday, you’re going to die.

Yes, you.

Maybe it will be something sudden.  You’ll be crossing a bridge, walking your bike with the pedestrian light, and a drunk driver will whip through the intersection, not notice the blinking light, and you’ll be Humpty Dumpty.

Maybe it will be something longer.  Cancer, maybe.  Cancer gets lots of people.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll actually go the distance.  Maybe you’ll avoid all the accidents, not get cancer, not get Alzheimer’s.  Maybe it will be old age that gets you.  You’ll be a hundred and ten.  You’ll have arthritis and bad bowels and all your faculties, but a tiny blood vessel in your brain will explode and you’ll have a stroke and be dead before you hit the floor.

And guess what?  There’s not a single fucking thing you can do about it.

Nothing.  NO-thing.  No amount of hand cream or botox or face lifts will save you.  Death even got Joan Rivers in the end.

No amount of positive thinking will protect you.  Wayne Dyer, who was bragging in an audiobook I was listening to about how it had been twenty years since he got a cold, got cancer.  He’s still with us, but how long before it comes back?

No amount of exercise will stop it.  Jim Fixx died of a heart attack — while running!

So knock it off.

Knock off all the silly superstitious bullshit that you think is going to protect you.

Stop hiding all the old and the broken people away where you don’t have to look at them.

Stop worrying about what other people eat because you’re jealous, since you can’t bring yourself to enjoy an occasional cheeseburger without guilt.

Stop with the Power of Positive Thinking and the Secret.  Stop with the victim-blaming.  Stop with pretending that if you just colour inside the lines, it won’t happen to you.

Because it will.  If not now, then later, and there’s no amount of magic that is going to protect you.  No one has achieved immortality through magic yet, except maybe St. Germaine.

"Cow Skull" by Lucy Toner. Courtesy of Publicdomainimages.net.

“Cow Skull” by Lucy Toner. Courtesy of Publicdomainimages.net.

So why let it bother you?

Okay, you might live a little longer if you don’t eat burgers all the time.  But one cheeseburger really will not hurt you that much.

Old age isn’t a disease.  Hiding and marginalizing the old will not prevent you from getting old.  It’s not catching; it’s already programmed into your DNA.  Everything breaks down in the flesh.  Physical bodies cannot last.

If you develop positive thinking, life might be more fulfilling because you will not dwell on unhappiness.  But it will not prevent bad things from happening to you.

More than that, losing your irrational fear of death will make you a more compassionate person.

If you don’t try to tell yourself that the homeless guy on the street corner just isn’t thinking positively enough, maybe you’ll give him some spare change.  Maybe you’ll buy him one of those hamburgers you can’t bring yourself to eat.  Maybe you’ll even actually talk to him, and you’ll learn his name is Joe and he’s a Desert Storm vet with PTSD who was abandoned by Veterans Services because they don’t want to admit that Gulf War Syndrome is a thing and he drinks so he can sleep.

If you don’t think that old age is a disease that you might catch, maybe you’ll spend some time with older people.  And you’d be amazed at what you can learn when the past is something that happened to someone in your monkeysphere and not something you read about on the internet.  If you don’t try to tell yourself that younger people are more valid than older people, maybe you’ll glean some wisdom because nothing is new under the sun and likelihood is that your original, “innovative solution” has been tried before.The fear of death underlies all of our fears.  It makes us afraid to do things just in case we trip over some imaginary line that gets the Grim Reaper’s attention.  But you can do everything right and it can still all go wrong anyway.  Eventually it will go wrong.

The fear of death underlies all of our fears.  It makes us afraid to do things just in case we trip over some imaginary line that gets the Grim Reaper’s attention.  But you can do everything right and it can still all go wrong anyway.  Eventually it will go wrong.

The irrational fear of death is what keeps us from getting involved when we should.  It’s what stops us from standing up against wrongdoing; because, after all, maybe someone will target us if we say something.  It’s what keeps us from caring when caring matters.  Easier to try to believe there’s a reason why one person is lucky and one isn’t.  Why some of us constantly struggle and others have everything handed to them on a plate.  Why one person dies from choking on a chicken bone in their soup and another lives through being struck by lightning with no permanent damage.

But don’t you believe it!  There is no reason.  Sometimes, bad shit just happens to good people.  And sometimes, good shit just happens to bad people too.  No one’s keeping score.  There’s no brownie point system.  Impressing whatever god you believe in will not result in earthly rewards, nor protect you from harm because you’ve earned enough good karma points.

So, since that’s something you can’t control, stop letting it control you.

Let it go!  Relax!  Have fun every once in a while!  Take risks!  Dare!  Because life is more fun when you’re not worrying about how it’s going to end.  And love is easier when you’re not afraid of people.

17 Comments »

  1. Fear of death? No. Through my fight with cancer, I wasn’t afraid of dying and definitely the mental side of fighting the disease was important. I beat it, not because I was afraid to die, but because I’m not done living. When I felt myself falling off a cliff and jumped so I could control the landing, it was not fear of death but wanting to live that guided my instincts. I survived with minimal damage, not because I was afraid to die, but because I wanted to keep living. (If I was afraid to die, I wouldn’t have been on the cliff in the first place.)

    There is a reason to live, to experience, to see things not yet seen, to love people not yet loved, to pass on what I have learned, there is so much to do, and I know I won’t get it all done in one lifetime. But I want to do as much of it as I can.

    So, calculated risks. Eating a hamburger, yes. Bungee jumping or skydiving – probably not, but then I’m not fond of an adrenaline rush simply for the rush anyway. Fearing death so much that I’m afraid to live? Not happening. And when I do face my death rattle, it will be just the next step in the adventure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you’ve totally grasped what I’m trying to say here, Woods. And I’m not inclined to chance jumping out of a perfectly good airplane either. Not unless I were training to be a paratrooper or the plane were going down. There is such a thing as calculated risk. The Drop of Doom in the West Edmonton Mall will provide you with the same thrill as the parachute jumping and the safety mechanisms are better. 😉 And when you are confronted with something life-threatening such as cancer you know you have, not cancer you might get, it’s perfectly rational to marshal all your resources for your survival. But you know I’m talking about the fears of things you can’t control.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was really feeling this one day when I suddenly realized I was trying to talk myself into thinking there was some way to get out of it, if I was only clever enough… at which point the laughter banished the fear.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s not the fear of death that stops me interacting with humans or older humans. It’s the fear of them and shame. Dying is irrelevant to why I don’t like talking to people. They are draining, their pain hurts me as I can’t fix it and I feel guilt and shame. Death would be a pleasant escape from that.

    Like

    • Now the question is, are you talking about people in general or older people in particular? I can’t quite tell.

      I find people challenging too. I don’t hate them because it’s not fair to hate monkeys for being monkeys, but they often disappoint me, especially as potential friends. Yet I persist in the belief that we are more angels than apes, to use a Pratchettism. I want to encourage people to choose to be angels, as much as we can. To do that we must overcome our fears, because it is fear, I believe, that drives us to atrocity; or more importantly, to allow atrocity to manifest.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve not been afraid of dying or death since dying at four and fourteen. Yes, I’ve had two NDEs. Now the thought of oblivion, that scares me. Also, like Hannah, I’m rather afraid of humans and the shame and shunning that many have done.

    Like

  5. Sometimes surviving several near death situations helps, none of which I survived due to anything I did.

    Age nine months esophagus blocked. First hospital thought my mother was over reacting, second hospital started immediate operation.

    Age twenty, person twelve feet away blown up by shell. Now there I did help a bit I had spent several hours building a ditch to lie in. However I had a small guy drop on top of me as well.

    Age thirty-eight, Pancreatitis, two hospitals gave up on me friend got me into a third hospital and then they tried to toss me out twice before I was strong enough. First operation lost most of my blood and they were afraid the chance any replacement, thanks to some HIV making it into the blood banks, as my immune system was way down. Over a year before I was sort of out of danger, three more years before I made appointments for the next week.

    Age 64, went unconscious while driving at 65 MPH, hit a big car with a Japanese pickup did a double flip at least according to witnesses.

    Still here at age seventy. Hard to be frightened by most anything now. Until I actually die, apparently I will survive whatever happens to me, regardless of if I do anything or not. [Grin]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. On the other hand, I have heard several stories that involved someone surviving almost unscathed through a war as a soldier and coming home to get hit by a drunk driver. You just never know.

      Like

      • On one military base in California was a sign as you approached the gate to leave the base. “You are now entering one of the most dangerous places in the country, our highway system.”

        Life by its nature is always a matter of risk. To actually live requires us to choose our risks wisely. But we cannot full live and avoid all risk. Our fear of death can keep us from fully living, just a lack of respect for risks can get us killed, though death in the end is guaranteed. and cannot be avoided.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Death may have a strange sense of humor: Danger of gun totting toddlers in the United States.

    Toddlers Involved in More Shootings Than Terrorists in 2015
    11/29/2015 08:46 am ET | Updated Nov 29, 2015
    
Benjamin Powers Contributor for Elite Daily,The National Memo,
    ————snip————–

    Since the beginning of 2015 there have been 52 toddler involved shooting incidents in the US. According to the Washington Post:

    “In 2015 so far, at least 13 toddlers have inadvertently killed themselves with firearms, 18 more injured themselves, 10 injured other people, and two killed other people.”

    When that article was published on Oct 14th, there had only been 43 toddler shooting incidents. Since then, there have been 9 more, with an average of one toddler involved shooting a week.

    Yet, in this year’s only shooting involving Islamic terrorists in Chattanooga, Tennessee, five people died, with two additional people being injured.

    http://tinyurl.com/h8vpgfl

    Liked by 1 person

    • nods enthusiastically I’m sure you’ve heard of a book called “Freakonomics;” it was really popular a few years back. Odds indicate that your child is something like a hundred times more likely to drown in a backyard swimming pool than they are to be kidnapped by a stranger. And yet, a parent who lets their child go to the neighbourhood park unsupervised is facing a visit from Child Services, while nobody takes out the backyard swimming pools. It’s utterly ridiculous. It’s gotten to a point where Child Services investigates you if your children are playing unsupervised in the backyard! So I guess parents aren’t allowed to sleep now, or read, because they might take their eyes off of their children for ten seconds. And Americans are willing to tolerate all sorts of violations of their privacy and civil liberties to fight terrorism, but gods help you if you suggest that maybe there should be some laws on gun control. But of course, open carry only applies if you’re white, anyway. People of Colour aren’t allowed to arm themselves, never mind what the American Constitution says. Why, black boys can’t even play with toy guns in a public park.

      Thank you for getting the political aspect of my message as well as the personal one.

      Liked by 1 person

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