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Poll
Are you afraid to die?
It terrifies me 0
I find the thought of death very unpleasant 4
I find the thought of death somehow unpleasant 5
I never really think about it 0
Total Votes: 9
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Death
Posted: 06 February 2007 01:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I also can’t answer the question.

I am only 42, but so far I have lived a very full and adventurous life. There are times when I see the possible future of immobility and ineffectually that I am concerned with living “too long.” And of course the hedonists in me wants “to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion..” [1] But to hold fear of the undiscovered country? What adventurous soul would do that?

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Posted: 06 February 2007 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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George,

I don’t see any differences with regard to age when I euthanise animals. Despite what some owners believe, I don’t think the animals have any concept of life and death as such, so they only fear strangers, pain, etc., and some have more or less fearful temperments. I have euthanised many dogs who were happily wagging their tail and licking me, as well as many that had to be sedated before they could be euthanised because they were extremely fearful, and I try very hard to avoid causing any more fear or suffering than I have to. Age doesn’t seem to be an issue with them.

I do think age affects how we feel about our own death. Young children have to gradually learn the intellectual concept of death, either through explanation, fiction, or experience. But I don’t think any meaningful, visceral sense of oneself as truly mortal sets in for most people until well into adulthood. The young feel invincible and immortable, though they may know rationally they are not, unless they have experiences which make them believe in their own frailty and mortality, which for most of us if we’re lucky doesn’t happen until the body starts degenerating noticeably (say mid 30s?). Obviously this is not always true, depending on one’s personal brushes with death.

Now, in my early 40s, death seems more real to me than when I was younger. I’m not sure that makes me more afraid of it, but I truly know it’s on its way, and that informs me feelings about the relationships and experiences I value.  I can’t say personally if death is more or less frightening at greater ages (Occam?). I would think it might be, due to being likely nearer, but also perhaps less so for the same reason.


Doug,

Do I really fear death, or just dying and the consequent loss of the people and experiences I value? I think when I say I fear death, I really mean the losses that go with it, and any attendant suffering, not the experience of being dead, which I suspect is the absence of experience and, as Occam points out, there is nothing in nothing to fear. So I guess my fear is “rational,” as you describe it, though that seems something of a contradiction. But I think part of the intial idea that started the thread was does fear of death lead people to religion. I can see how it would, if religion promises that we will not truly lose those things we fear to lose with death. But I think I value my life and regret the inevitablility of losing it as much as any believer, yet knowing that death is inevitable, and most likely a true ending of what I am, doesn’t lead me to try and escape it through comforting fables. I started life very open-minded about such fables, and my skepticism about them grew along with my growing acceptance of my mortality. So, as I suppose we all agree, fear of death
may be a factor in driving religious belief, but it does not have to be a factor.

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Posted: 07 February 2007 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Hmmmmm

Maybe the question should not be do we fear death but rather, do we expect what comes after death to be just like it is now? 

Does God live in New England and run a really big commune there?

grin

Elder Norm

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ARO "www.aro-religion.org"  The belief in Reality and the organized seach for its measure.

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Posted: 09 February 2007 02:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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You should have another option:  All of the above!

I do think about death from time to time, but not often because there doesn’t seem to be much point in it.  You can compare death to just going to sleep and never waking up, but even in sleep you have some level of awareness, even if only unconsciously.  Sleep doesn’t frighten you, because I think a lot of our awareness is really memory.  You feel something, and half a second later, you remember how it felt to feel that way.  You wake up in the morning, you are aware that a great deal of time passed during which you had no consciousness, but you have a sort of subliminal memory of having been asleep.  But try to imagine if you didn’t wake up….there is just no way to make any sense out of that mental image.  That’s why it disturbs us to try to imagine what death would be like.

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Posted: 30 March 2007 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I would say even another option should be added: Does your eventual death help focus your life’s meaning?

The fact that we die, and that to our lights that there is finality in that death, means our individual lives are very rare and precious, and therefore more valuable as a life than the view that holds this life is just a starter-home on the way to a more permanent place (to use Lauren Becker’s great metaphor). 

I value my life all the more because it is limited, all the more because I’m going to die. My flourishing (and though its a longer argument than this topic allows for, the flourishing of everyone) takes on much more import given that this is all we have, the here and now.

This awareness of death actually heightens my daily happiness and appreciations: if this is all I’ve got, I am damned well going to make the most of it. It helps me avoid petty arguments, long grudges, encourages “domestic tranquility” with my spouse, and helps me not waste my time doing things I dont enjoy that serve no larger purpose. I think I am happier as an atheist than most any religious person I know of, and I think this is a direct result of my appreciation of death.

Believing I am going to die someday and that there will be nothing for me after that death is one of the best bits of awareness I have ever accepted about me being in the universe.

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"Few have the courage of their convictions. Fewer still have the courage for an attack on their convictions." - Nietzsche

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Posted: 30 March 2007 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Posted: 30 March 2007 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I also like what DJ said too.  I think it does help us focus on this life to give it meaning.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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