Psychology

Why we Fear Death those who do not Fear Death why some are Afraid of Dying Social Science



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We are afraid of death because it is the ultimate unknown.  Even those with extreme religious faith have determined to stay alive as long as possible.  If faith were 100%, then people would die by the scores every day at their own hands, but this is not the case.

Even allowing for a merciful God that forgives suicide, along with all our other sins, most of us will not kill ourselves.  Death, in the middle ages, or in Bergman films, is personified as a grim reaper in a dark cloak.  In the dark when we feel a chill, or the bony touch of a twig upon our shoulder, or the rasp of a cold breeze. We startle, and freeze with terror.  Like that image of black death, and more recent goth interpretations, we don’t want to see that guy or his scythe.  We avoid death, to use a cliché, like the plague.

Yet, some people are unafraid of death.  They fall into the following categories, those for whom living due to age, or painful condition, has become unbearable,  those who are completely enthralled by some ideology, or faith that has convinced them it is more honorable to die than to live.  In this group we put suicide bombers, religious crusaders, soldiers who wish to die heroically, and heroes with a hope for martyrdom. These types have been with us for centuries, and to a large degree that people are willing to die for their beliefs is truly a force driving history itself. 

Finally, there are those  who live life to the fullest, and who feel death is natural.  They  philosophically know acceptance itself.

Yet, how are some of us willing to be unafraid of death?  We are a dynamic species, changing our values with each new generation.  Perhaps those of us who are not afraid of death are making a statement about bold convictions, about a realization of death as a part of natural life. Life depends on death, the circle of life, not to go all sparkle Disney about it,  but, the truth is that all life is born from all death.  In nature stars are born from matter of dying stars, and humans are born from atoms, minerals, and matter that was once other life forms, rocks, animals, plants and water.  It just keeps changing form, but consciousness is beyond form.

Death, by some, is understood as a natural occurrence.  So far, no one has escaped its touch for very long.  When we can view death, especially in old age where we have done all we can do, and have lived all we could hope to live, we begin to have realizations of what is real, what we value, and what we will take with us to the other side.

Since almost everyone realizes they take nothing but their soul, and some not even believing in that, they come to the realization that death, and nearing death, is an affirmation of LIFE.  They see more clearly that it is not material things that matter, that they have lived, loved, laughed, cried, been amazed, and been devastated, and that what really matters is connection to those we know, the places, events, beauty and awe of earth and sky, knowing we have experienced it, and that we have shared all of this with loved ones.  We may leave behind our wisdom, our art, our charity, our dreams, and, or our determination to make a difference.

If we can leave a legacy, we hope it is that people will feel we have lived life in such a way that people rejoice when we are born, and cry when we are gone.  But grief, if we have lived well, should be only for a brief time.  For those whose lives we touched, will smile and know, we are yet with them, always.

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