How Acknowledging Death Can Improve Your Life

Life’s only certainty: one day you will die.

It might be this afternoon. It might be a century from now. You might see it coming in the form of a looming bus or you might hear its approach in a doctor’s calmly professional diagnosis. It could strike you from behind like a bullet in back of your head, your last thought being whether you need to get milk on the way home. It might come in your sleep, your morning alarm left unheard and a tab of midget porn left open for your loved ones to find. We’re all moving in different directions but we will all arrive, eventually, at the same destination.

Taboo

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Death is one of the very, very few taboos left in Western societies. You can mention sex change operations, furries, cervical cancer, divorce or personal finances at the most refined dinner parties, but even mentioning death while down at the pub with a few mates is considered uncouth.

Why? Do we think that by not talking about it, Death will forget about us? Do we think that mentioning his name, like Voldemort, will stir him from his slumber and increase his power? More likely, people think that death is so utterly horrible that opening expressing its inevitability or potential circumstances simply darkens the mood and detracts from what little happiness we may grab from life before it is forever taken back. Many people refuse to even think about death, let alone talk about it. They perhaps fear that its dark countenance, once entertained, will haunt their every moment and make their already troubled lives impossible. Indeed, many readers will have avoided this article for the reasons described.

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But you and I are still here. So, let’s talk about death. Talking about it, that is—only the dead know what the actual thing is like and they’re not here to tell us.

The Nature Of Death

What is death? If you have a religious conception of death then so be it. For the rest of us, death is the permanent end of our consciousness and therefore our existence. What is it like, to not exist? You already know. You’ve experienced it before. The universe existed for almost 14 billion years before you kicked and howled your way into it. What was it like, not existing for all that time? However it was, we can assume that slipping back into non-existence will be much the same. Is that something a rational person ought to be afraid of?

Perhaps non-existence might not scare you, but the moment of death does. The awesome instant when, if conscious, you realize that it is all over. The experience of the final seconds of life is something we know about from those who thought they were going to die, but survived. We can read about these near-death experiences and they do not seem so utterly terrible. Certainly nothing to keep you awake at night.

The Horror Of Immortality

What is worse than death? The only thing we can compare it to is its alternative: immortality. Imagine that you could not die. You live for centuries, like a character in an Anne Rice novel, watching your friends and relatives grow old and die, seeing ages come and go. It sounds pretty interesting. But what about living thousands of years into the future, when life becomes unrecognizable? Millions of years into the future, when humans, if they still exist, may have taken on a totally different form? Surely you would be lonely. Billions of years in the future, when the Earth has plunged into the sun? When the universe itself either fades out or crushes back into a singularity? What on earth would you do with yourself?

Perhaps future humans might invent a form of limited immortality by preserving their consciousness in a more durable, electronic format, with a non-physical environment to go with it. This carries its own risks. Watch this dark and compelling episode of the brilliant Black Mirror series and tell me there’s nothing positive about our limited lifespans. To me, endless boredom, especially without the mercy of becoming insane, would be a far worse fate than death. Mortality is a blessing. It puts a ceiling on the level of suffering any man may experience.

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Another possible alternative to death might be eternal youth: artificially ending the aging process and, as an afterthought, curing all disease. This would make you immortal unless you had some sort of accident. Would that make you happy? You’d creep around every day like an insect terrified of being stepped on. You might be too terrified to leave the house. The inevitability of death allows us to relax, have fun and take sensible risks because we’re all going to die anyway. It makes us value our loved ones more highly because the time that we share together on this planet is strictly circumscribed.

The Universal Time Limit

So let’s think about death and return to the opening sentence of this article: one day, you will die. It is probably decades away but there’s no way to be sure.

What are you going to do between now and then?

You don’t have unlimited time.  Whatever you want to achieve in life is bound by that most profound of deadlines. Mess around at your peril.

Want to start a business? Get cracking now, even if it is just laying plans, saving capital and setting out a timeline. Want to approach a girl? You’d best do it straight away. What, you’re nervous? Mate, you’re going to die soon enough. Keep that in mind and see if it helps to get you off your ass and busting a move. Want to ride a motorcycle across Siberia? Learn Spanish? Have a family? Move to a warmer climate? Reconcile with your estranged brother? Every day you waste in indecision and procrastination is another day closer to your ultimate demise.

Death is the time limit that makes every single moment on this planet precious beyond measure. Think about death and you’ll better remember that. Ignore death and you’ll miss out like a late child dawdling on the way to the bus stop, totally forgetting that today is the school field trip to the zoo. The average person will live for around 27,000 days. If you are thirty then you’ve probably got less than 15,000 to go. This is one of them.

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The Samurai meditated upon death every morning in order to overcome dread and to better focus their minds upon their duties. The people of Bhutan traditionally contemplate death five times a day and they are famously cheerful people. Since becoming more cognizant of death’s approach I have become more at ease, bolder and even more efficient. There’s nothing like the acknowledgement (not fear) of death’s inevitability to get your heart racing, your adrenaline pumping and your whole mind and body focused upon your goals.

The next time you feel nervous or hesitant, try chanting this meditation: One day I will die. Feel your inhibitions melt away and your being spring into action just as the hungry wolf lunges, the startled deer leaps and the blades of grass reach towards the sun.

Read More: Why You Must Confront Your Own Coming Death (And How To Do It)

159 thoughts on “How Acknowledging Death Can Improve Your Life”

  1. I am of the same mindset. You didn’t know life before your birth, you wont miss it after your death. Can’t dwell on it, use it to your advantage. We’re here once, try to have a good time. I am more fearful of becoming a frail old man than dying. I do hope that my death is quick though.

    1. If you’re worried about becoming a frail old man, perhaps you should pick up a yoga practice. It’s all about taking care of the spine, and therefore the central nervous system.

      1. Even better, invest in a good woman and raise your children and family correctly so when the road starts winding down that investment if properly cultivated should pay off.

  2. You could take a pantheistic view of things.. even after you die, you’re still around, since your atoms and molecules (which were briefly on loan anyway) will be returned and recycled into countless beings after you’re gone. More profoundly, you’re never really “gone” anyway.. since you existed, your worldline will always exist in this universe’s spacetime, and nothing can erase that.

  3. I think it isn’t any sort of particular randomness that the human body has a finite time limit on life.
    Imagine a world where the selfish fingers of an increasingly impotent individual were not torn away from their tenuous grip on whatever scrap of perceived power they have claimed, if say, someone like George Soros were eternal…

    1. To view it another way, perhaps the knowledge that an individual will inevitably die one die keeps people from taking matters into their own hands more often. If you knew you were going to be ruled by an evil dictator for all eternity as opposed to the next 20 years, you’d be more inclined to act.

      1. I would still act on the dictator of 20 years as long as I had a band of like minded members with me. I’d rather suffer in good company. Than live comfortably surrounded by delicate men.

    2. ” someone like George Soros were eternal…” Dont worry. he is working on that…

  4. Interesting article; I enjoy your writing Nikolai. But I have to say the “oh well we’re all gonna go someday” has become really trite in everyday life and cliche in media.
    If you’ll permit me a few points:
    1) Samurais had to meditate on death because their lifespans were very short. Even if they were masterful warriors they could be called upon to commit seppuku for even minor offences.
    2) Immortality gets a pretty bad rap in most literature or films. In particular Swift’s struldbrug from Gulliver’s Travels are a great example. They are beings that never die, but keep aging even into extreme decrepitude.
    Often immortality (or increasing one’s intelligence vis-a-vis “Flowers for Algernon”) are met with Icarus-style endings as a warning to those who try to rise above their condition.
    3) Yes you might not want to live FOREVER until the sun is snuffed out, but what if science could slow the aging process to where a human could have 5-10 decades more of quality life? Imagine what you could accomplish.
    4) A shorter life does not necessarily spur this “carpe diem” attitude. At least it doesn’t in my case. I know I have a limited number of years I can work and earn money. There are things I’d like to do but don’t have time, or could but then I will have no $$ later and therefore a much rougher time when I am older and unable to work. The uncertainty is the bitch part. If you told me I have a month to live I’d be more at peace than if you told me I MIGHT have 360 months, make sense?
    It also makes the little inevitable failures of life all the more bitter as you have less time to recover.
    5) As far as peaceful near-death experiences, mine was not so positive. And my sister’s-in-law aunt was passing peacefully of cancer until the last moment when she started screaming in horror right as her heart stopped.

    1. I like you point on Samurais. I’ve read a few books on them and you’re spot on. They meditated on death everyday in order to be fully aware that they could die at any second. This was done in order for them to perform their daily tasks to the best of their ability and avoid a nihilistic lifestyle. What if you’d been squandering your money away and suddenly died? What would happen to your family? Back then, their prospects would be pretty grim.
      I, personally, would like to live 1000 years mainly out of curiosity to see how humanity progresses. I would like to see all the inventions and innovations that we will come up with in the future.
      Lastly -and I hope I don’t touch on a sore subject here- I have never heard of what happened to your sister-in-law’s aunt before. What was the cause of this episode, if you don’t mind me asking (feel free not to answer if you don’t feel like discussing it).

      1. No problem, it was very odd. My brother described it (albeit 2nd hand). His wife’s aunt was in her mid-80’s and had cancer. As most older people she was fairly religious. They had given her some pain meds to make her comfortable, but not doped her with morphine. She seemed at peace and a relative was holding her hand. As her (ekg?) started to fluctuate and she started to code she screamed as though being attacked by burglars with knives or mountain lion and passed. Apparently no one that witnessed it slept that night.

        1. A week before my grandfather died, he was kneeling on the ground, working on his camper. Went for a nap and had a stroke. Got to talk to him for a bit (the nurses also had to keep an eye on him, because he kept trying to stand up and look out the window at the view), then it turned for the worst. He was sedated for the last day.
          But the oddest thing is that he died just moments after I arrived and took his hand.

        2. That is absolutely horrific, I can see why they didn’t sleep.
          A friend of mine who had multiple myeloma, that also eventually took his eyesight came to me in a waking dream… that point where you are almost asleep. We spoke for a bit in this dream and eventually said our goodbyes. I learned the next day that he had passed.
          I was sad for losing a friend but happy that he was no longer suffering.

        3. Perhaps. I look quite a bit like his side of the family and now seem to be inheriting a lot of his stuff. Van, shop-smith, tools, books, renting the house from my grandmother…
          Just today the powered garage door opened and closed several times while I was working in there and wouldn’t stop until I addressed my grandfather to cut it out. Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to scatter his ashes around the yard [amused sarcasm].

        4. There’s a family history of that sort of thing. At my great-grandmother’s funeral there were two dragon flies going around visiting everybody (my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, no doubt) leading to a family affinity with the creature. Then our camcorder malfunctioned (recorded the funeral as my grandfather couldn’t attend due to illness) in the form of a subtitle “Hello!” during the entire recording.
          Even in the afterlife they give cheeky stories.

        5. See that’s the kind of stuff I like to hear. I don’t think anyone actually dies, they just go into another form.

        6. Not to sound offensive, (I’m just being inquisitive) I wonder was she being taken into Hell? I know you said that she was fairly religious, but some old people act religious and then do evil things.

      2. I, personally, would like to live 1000 years mainly out of curiosity to see how humanity progresses
        “The greatest tragedy of life; is dying not knowing your place in history.”

      3. There’s no such thing as progress of humanity, because not only is progress a very relative term, and the concept of a unity of ‘humanity’ absolute nonsense, when something becomes better something else somewhere becomes worse and vice-versa.

    2. All thoughtful points. I agree that living longer in good health would be great.
      On your final point, the linked book of advice for samurai contains a chapter about preparing oneself to die honorably. Someone once reproduced the entire chapter on this site but I couldn’t find it. The book was written during the long peace of the Edo period when samurai had little fighting to do and so focused their minds on administration, philosophy and the arts. The author’s main point is that it would spoil a warrior’s hard won reputation to die in undignified manner. Instead, a man should die bravely and gracefully. I find this advice inspirational but I don’t think it should apply to women or children.

    3. I think there is no reason to assume that if we added decades to a humans useful life that the average human would be more successful than they currently are. We would need to completely turn this culture around, otherwise the average person would assume they just had a couple more decades of partying before they had to get serious. We would need a culture that pressed people to not only enjoy, but create and be useful as well.
      You Krampus, might contribute more good to the world, but the bad people would just have decades more of contributing bad to the world.

      1. “I think there is no reason to assume that if we added decades to a humans useful life that the average human would be more successful than they currently are”
        Or happier. Ok if I could live to be 150 yet look like 25 and still have the same energy or stamina that might be different.

      2. The day after we attain a 300 year lifespan, the life insurance companies will close up shop, and banks will offer 200 year mortgages.

    4. “5) As far as peaceful near-death experiences, mine was not so positive”
      Near death experiences (NDE’s) are always interesting to read about. Most (like 98% aprox) are very memorable in a very positive way. Could I ask you about your NDE?

    5. Indeed. Some of the views espoused by western intellectuals and not just Samurai culture can take a somewhat romantic view of death. Immortality may not be the dream life some would imagine it to be, but living a few more years has got to be a good thing.
      You may well live life more richly when staying fully conscious of its inevitable end, but if you had more days you could live and experience much more, and probably make better more productive and measured choices because of the increased time and space to do that, along with the wisdom of age.
      Existentialism is a western discourse that attempts to put a positive spin on the time limited nature of existence, (Knowing you have limited time in a universe without meaning makes you live life more intensely with the freedom to construct your own) but its approach neither satisfies my craving for meaning, or quells my angst around the time limited choices of living.
      The bottom line is nobody wants to die, unless their quality of life is so low that life is not worth living. My mother died of cancer a couple of years ago at 60 and she fought every inch of the way. Her last few moments were spent saying as much as she quickly could, scolding my dad for all the things he hadn’t done for or failed her on. A last panicked outburst with her last few breaths.
      I’ve found the older you get (You have less time and therefore less choices and potential) the more important making the right decisions over the wrong ones are. Time is invaluable, the more limited it is for us the more precious it becomes. Who wants to live forever? Well I’d give it a go…

    6. Death currently come for most in old age, at night, when you are alone.
      Had to many female relatives who were life long nurses in old folks homes. When old people start to go down hill, the best they can do is try to minimize their pain. If the family is able and willing, they are taken home to basically pass amongst family, but that doesn’t happen to often.

  5. It is also important to avoid turning this acknowledgement of death into a YOLO mentality, where you just live a hedonistic and arrogant life without any consideration for others.

    1. Barring some kind of eye-opening experience, the yolo/hedonistic lifestyle ultimately becomes suicidal. Men either seek greater and riskier thrills, or become bored and depressed with an inability to find entertainment and pleasure. Both routes usually result in a short, pointless life.

    2. I think an honorable life above all, which allows us to contemplate death, live well and not hedonistically. It’s like those people who refuse to renounce there religion with a gun to their head. To die that way is honorable. To look into your would be killers eyes and say, even with a gun to my head, you can’t control my actions. Very courageous in this day and age, and it should be considered honorable as well.

  6. Is the meaning of life merely about pleasuring the senses until they can no longer sense? Falling in love, creating a family, making friends, all seem like the natural course of life, but all of these will one day come to an end. There has to be more otherwise it’s all futile, sure these things have great value and meaning, but they come with a time limit.
    To know and love God then, is the highest good we may ever attain. To join our soul with the eternal Creator is the ultimate meaning of life.

  7. “The average person will live for around 27,000 days.”
    Damn. I’m gonna have to notch two a day to catch up with Wilt the Stilt.

  8. The Greatest Weight
    What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”
    Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?… Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?
    Nietzsche. The Gay Science, Walter Kaufmann translation

    1. “”This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more” Isn’t the prospect of existing in eternity without a start, middle or endpoint more foreboding than the idea of our own extinction?
      It’s difficult to conceptualize, let alone imagine, what this type of existence would amount to, but, as an analogy I can only think of information that exists regardless of its form (Plants, Animals, Humans, systems information in computer networks, non terrestrial information in other parts of the universe or different dimensions) that can possibly exist indeterminably for long periods of time, but, perhaps not in an eternal state. The question, would still remain relating to the quality of who and what we are as “information” when we exist in an eternal State. Are we men, machines or gods…or the stuff stars are made of?

      1. Oddly enough I’m working on a short science fiction film about that very topic.. My interpretation is it boils down to eternally chasing the next high… To awaken to a never-ending series of hangovers.

    2. Be it my respect for God but I would not stand to listen to a demon. A demon’s a demon, you can’t turn a demon into an angel, no good can come out of it.
      To all of you guys out there, remember this discussion.
      If by any chance, you ever encounter yourself with such a being (demons, devils, shadows etc.) always remember to ask God for help and say the ,,Our Father” prayer. I can’t describe it, I’m just giving you the solution. The world is now a open battle-ground between Good and evil and evil has a shit-load of ground. So…be aware.

  9. In our fetishistic and narcissistic culture of banal pop stars and celebs, aging and death are unfortunate incidents that happen to losers who live in the real world. The light from the stars can never be allowed to dim.
    And so their followers who eccentrically orbit them like the satellites caught in the gravitational field of a black hole cannot cope either with the notion of their own approaching extinction. Astrophysicists speak of information that becomes distorted and distended near the threshold of an approaching event horizon which eventually disappears like those myths and rituals that once passed on those heroic values that enabled the generations to transcend the mere facts of life and death.

    1. In my opinion, it’s legacy; to try to leave enough resources behind for your loved ones so they can enjoy a better quality of life than you did….

  10. When it comes to the prospect of death, I tend to follow the approach of the Borg:
    DEATH IS IRRELEVANT.
    Cremate my body and save my progeny from the burden of having to financially support or pseudo-worship the remnants of my former splendor.
    In the words of Dinobot from “Transformers: Beast Wars:”
    “Tell my tale to those who ask. Tell it truly, the ill deeds along with the good, and let me be judged accordingly. The rest… is silence.””

    1. Have to admit, never thought I’d see a Dinobot clip posted on this site. Always suprises from the peanut gallery.

    2. Gotta watch the entire battle that leads up to Dinobot’s death. Dinobot battles the entire Predacon army with no backup and no upgrades, and accomplishes the mission.
      What kid’s cartoon nowadays can compare to this epicness?
      “I have no choice at all…” *pause*
      “I am a warrior. Let the battle be joined”

      1. Hei Superman, former Johnny & TheNewJohn ( guy with Conan’s avatar ) here. Nice to see you guys are still around. How’ve ya’ been, mate?
        Cheers!

        1. Pretty good man.
          Spring fast approaching in Canada. Winter came and went.
          Just finishing a year of school and taking a few weeks break soon.
          How’s you? You’re in Romania right?

        2. Yup. Working on that coding language. So & so…for the first time in 26 years, the undercover infiltrators in our Gvment agencies are being prosecuted here, so I could mildly say that God has answered our prayers around here. Signs of sunlight are showing at the horizon. Even though poverty still rains and you have to keep your eyes open, now there is some light, and the people feel it’s warmth. Spiritual revolution has started here in Romania. Glad to hear from you ! All best and see you around !

      2. Damn straight! Most cartoons nowadays are J pop garbage or animated faggotry.
        THIS…is the gold standard!

        1. 1996-99 first 3 seasons of Beast Wars.
          It got kinda weird after that, but the original show was epic.

      3. I actually hated when they brought him back later. It seemed like it lessened his sacrifice here.

        1. Yeah.. imo Beast Wars lost it’s charm by the end.
          To me this is the last episode of the show.

    3. Hey Daniel, this is formerly CaptainObvious here.
      Good to see you are still around.
      I’d rather be cremated as well. However I think we should bring back a form of ancestor reverence so that one remembers where they came from and the strength their ancestors had which allowed them to survive while many others perished at the hands of that unforgiving bitch mother nature

      1. Sounds like Shinto to me. If that’s your thing go for it, i prefer to abide by the tenets of Christianity and only worship the ELOHIM whenever possible.
        Good to see you back though.

        1. Not a religion. Just recognition of the sacrifices your ancestors made which is partly responsible for you being here today.
          The death of heroism in the modern world is one of the main reasons men are so gelded.

    4. LOL I remember watching that episode as a kid being absolutely shocked that it went that far…needless to say looking back it has now become my favorite episode.

  11. Religion is the best illusion we use to deny death and putting up with our sufferings and procrastinating until it’s too late. If a belief in God didn’t vouchsafe a form of personal immortality for the believer, religion wouldn’t have any value for most people, but, I suppose this doesn’t deny the fact that it might just be true nevertheless.
    It’s like the ethical question of who really performs a selfish act. The religious believer because they know God will reward them in the afterlife or the agnostic who performs the same act without any guarantee of a posthumous reward?

    1. This is a question I have been pondering on for months. What determines justice? Is it a collective agreement or something set by intrinsic moral laws? Justice is necessarily spiritual, as it can’t be scientifically determined. It depends on our answer to two things: death and human imperfection. How do we make up for those things?

      1. I suppose ultimately it must relate to our own values which are composed through one’s unique instincts as a person and the macro environment we were reared in as children.
        Justice, is doing right by a person whom you may have no intrinsic or selfish motive towards helping. It’s to stand back and consider the person’s situation and circumstances in an impartial and fair manner, even, if this causes you to question you our values in some shape or form. I suppose the just man is the man who wants to know himself and his value and sense of worth in the eyes of a higher power, but, I doubt whether we always consciously think about in this manner on a day-to-day basis.

    2. In terms of egoism, it’s a trap. Everything we ever do in our lives is selfish, so it does not matter with the religious believer/agnostic as in both cases the act is selfish. I can explain further if needed.
      Religion – while immortality like that gives value, I think having a personal relationship with god, the prayer/meditation of connecting to a higher power, is something that is attractive as well.

  12. I only fear natural death because of old age. It seems so miserable. I would prefer dying in a battlefield…Good article Nikolai 👏
    Anyway what do you like about socialism if I may ask ? Maybe you could write an article about it.

      1. Anybody up for resurrecting the Knights Templar? Of course, no spitting on the cross or other weird rituals. lol

        1. Can we still do some form of a blood oath and ceremony and similarly strict guidelines? I’m all for keeping a similar uniform but I feel rather dejected that we have to conform to modern weaponry as opposed to swords. But Spike Tactical does make a Crusader AR-15 so we’re covered there.

        1. God says in the Bible ,,He who stands in my name, even alone, I will make powerful to strike 100 men.”

      2. I would also choose that-dying with sword in hand locked in grim battle against hordes of my enemies with absolutely no chance of survival cutting down as many as I can and taking them to hell with me; that is a manly way to exit.

  13. Good article and a subject which I’m going to write about on my blog.
    Meditating on your death daily is a requirement to living a savage life. Knowing at any moment the cruel hand of fate may snatch you up will put a fire in you to accomplish whatever goals you may have.
    There are no guarantees and we as men are expendable by society. We should do best to make sure our end comes in a way that most benefits our tribe and not society as a whole because the matriarchal west hates masculinity.

  14. Modern Western culture is absolutely terrified of death and aging.
    Other societies, and civilizations of the past understood and accepted death as a cyclical thing, just as the seasons change or the sun rises, so too does life end for everyone. Americans will flip the fuck out if someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly, when really, that’s just a part of life. Just as a gazelle will be one moment happily feeding on grass, and the next its neck will be snapped by a lion, humans are not immune from death, not even sudden death.
    Just look at the reaction to 6,000 people dying on Sept 11. A 15 year trillion dollar war, a huge new bureaucracy with hundreds of thousands of employees bumping into each other hoping they will somehow prevent more death, and daily patdowns of innocent travelers and confiscation of their water bottles and deodorant, this is all really just because Americans had a huge and overwhelming reaction to the sudden death that we had been insulated from for a while.
    Talk to a wise priest or a Buddhist or even someone from a traditional conservative society, and they have a far more honest, calm, and rational outlook of death. There are even holidays like the Day of the Dead in Mexico where one parties at the gravesites of one’s ancestors and communes with their spirit, knowing full well that death is an inevitable part of everyone’s life.
    I still have a fear of aging and growing old, but less than I used to. The best one can do is live as if this is your last year on earth (not your last day because then you’d just go on a fuckfest and run through Macchu Picchu naked or skydive onto the White House or something).

    1. Its my belief that the fear of death has been escalated by the Western power structure. Once you instil fear (and fear of death is the ultimate fear) in people’s minds, they are easy to control. When I started travelling around Asia, I started putting 2 and 2 together. Death is not as taboo in Asia and almost in direct correlation, people here seem to be happier and living life with a certain sense of ease.

      1. I noticed when I was in Africa that family members would celebrate rather than mourn at funerals. I’m wondering if the threat of eternal damnation in the abrahamic religions dampen the western outlook on death?

        1. Mexico is very Catholic and they still celebrate at funerals. You mourn for the dead then celebrate their life.
          I blame the sour mood of American funerals entirely on church organs. You can’t be happy around a fugue.

        2. I’m not sure if you were in a highly Christian populated part of Africa but they may have just been following Ecclesiastes 7:1:
          A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.

    2. Great points, but 9/11 aftermath was more of a natural proper revenge response. If someone pushes you, you push back (though I admit it was not well handled).

      1. You can blame invasion of brown countries (although, oops! We tried twice and missed the country the bad guys came from both times!) on revenge. But setting up a police state at home and confiscating people’s water bottles? That sounds like a system of control the politicians had ready to go, and unleashed it to control and oppress the population while they were distracted by fear. I think the Patriot Act was released within days of the attacks… and it was several hundred pages long.

        1. The Patriot Act had been in draft form one way for most of the last century. We just update it every once in a while. Just find-replace “The Commies” with “The Muzzies” as needed.
          It was nothing more than a temporary extension of war powers which had been on the books since we wrote the book… and had a sunset clause built in.
          This administration chose to greatly expand and renew parts of it which will remain effectively permanent as they found an enemy they can declare a perpetual state of war against for decades to come. One that can’t simply be “beaten” by throwing bombs at it till it stops moving…
          It is all about power. It’s what Governments do.

  15. Immortality is rather stupid. Even the value of experiencing or accomplishing certain things within a finite lifetime is ultimately relative (i.e. what’s the difference if I write one bestselling novel versus ten?) The main benefit of long life is social: the only reason I want to live to a normal life span is so that when I’m dead my parents won’t have to be the ones to bury me, my siblings won’t feel regrets for me, and so that my children’s upbringing won’t go neglected by my absence.

  16. Bhutan.. I really want to visit that place soon. They measure everything by “Gross National Happiness”. Every decision. Some nosy neighbor wants a stop sign put at an intersection? They will first measure whether it will increase or decrease the overall happiness of the people the stop sign will affect.

    1. I’ve been wanting to go as well. Apparently the visa is quite expensive, maybe $100/day or something around that. But essentially that includes accommodation, food, transport…

  17. Achilles in The Iliad:
    “I’ll tell you a secret.
    Something they don’t teach you in your temple.
    The Gods envy us.
    They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last.
    Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed;
    You will never be lovelier than you are now.
    We will never be here again.”

  18. At my grandfather’s funeral (a simple ash-scattering held at my grandparents house) I had to lie down with a headache, and had a nice long conversation with him. It was a dream, yet not a dream. While everyone talked out in the living room, he and I sat in the laundry room and talked for hours, yet when I awoke only an hour had passed. He was old -as I remembered him- yet at the same time young. His news on the afterlife was quite interesting: its pretty much what you make of it (or something to that effect).
    We talked about some other stuff too, but much of it is rather hazy, perhaps to be remembered when needed.
    Ever since then I got less nihilist and more traditionalist.

    1. It’s the question of an afterlife and hopes that there is one (a good one of course) is always in the back of my mind. If I knew there was some plane of existance far better than what we are currently existing in, it would make life on Earth much more tolerable.

      1. The way I figure it, it doesn’t particularly matter (even if that dream-thing is proof of one) so long as I live a life I am content with. Probably helps that I went to a catholic church when I was young, and my family has (loosely) christian beliefs.
        In any case, we’ll all be finding out one way or another eventually.

    2. A few years ago my grandmother had a stroke. She was rushed to the hospital, but in the end there was nothing they could do for her. She died a few days later. My mother said the night before she found out her mother had died she had a dream of her coming to her and saying goodbye. My views on theism and afterlife are a bit complicated, but writing it all off as nonsense is in itself nonsense. It’s definitely an interesting subject which needs more research.

      1. I recall on an episode of morgan freemans “through the wormhole” one scientist was medically dead for a few minutes. Apparently during that time he was reincarnated as a caterpillar and metamorphosed into a butterfly.
        Theories the mechanics of quantum physics could be used to explain the afterlife, but its rather complicated.

  19. Your rational meditation on death is inaccessible to most because they are not rational. The truth is that the rising fear of death is correlated to the abandonment of religion. People need something to assuage their fear and religion gave it to them. I personally believe in God, but my rational side could also accept your explanation about a return to the status quo that has existed for most of the universe’s history. But you have to be rational to accept that if that’s to be your primary belief, and most are not rational.

  20. I think a related discussion is how in the old cultures of the world, things like honor and duty, were held above most other concerns. Now, life is the most sacred thing and must be preserved at all costs. I get why we want to preserve and extend life, but it can’t be saved and maybe the way we die is just as important to a life that has to end, as the length of time we prolong it. Or the way we live, even more so.

    1. “, but it can’t be saved and maybe the way we die is just as important to a life ”
      One question exist, assuming that is there is an afterlife, is whether or not one’s fate is different if he commits suicide as opposed to dying by causes out of his control.

  21. “Life’s only certainty: one day you will die. It might be this afternoon. It might be a century from now. You might see it coming in the form of a looming bus or you might hear its approach in a doctor’s calmly..”
    Or you might go out like this: (deleted)

      1. I’m not trying to shock anyone, but a while back a friend of mine took Aaron Clarey’s retirement plan. That clip is not him, but nonetheless it is the exact same plan. A disclaimer might be a good idea, what do you suggest?

        1. Dwyer claimed that he was innocent. Still, it does take courage to go out the way he did. It would have been in better taste if he had not done it at a press conference

  22. “To the Parcae” -Friedrich Hölderlin
    A single summer grant me, great powers, and
    a single autumn for fully ripened song
    that, sated with the sweetness of my
    playing, my heart may more willingly die.
    The soul that, living, did not attain its divine
    right cannot repose in the nether world.
    But once what I am bent on, what is
    holy, my poetry, is accomplished:
    Be welcome then, stillness of the shadows’ world!
    I shall be satisfied though my lyre will not
    accompany me down there. Once I
    lived like the gods, and more is not needed.

  23. I quit my 6 figure job 4 years ago to travel and ultimately move to Asia. It was the internalisation of the knowledge of death that allowed me to make that move. We. All. Die. Its a simple truth. And the Truth, shall set you free.

    1. Having a six figure income helps set you free a lot faster than truth.
      Money doesn’t buy happiness; it buys a slave’s freedom. Once free, then you have the luxury to find what makes you happy.

  24. “The next time you feel nervous or hesitant, try chanting this meditation: One day I will die.”
    Oddly enough, with the coming dystopia and overall shitty World that awaits us, those words are tonic and calming.

  25. There is a manga/anime by Osamu Tezuka, the creator of kimba the white lion and Astro Boy called Hi no Tori (phoenix) There is an episode which examines what true immortality might be like. Its rather enlightening, and somehow both depressing and uplifting.

      1. Hi no Tori is the Japanese name, Phoenix the English. There are three main arcs, the past, the present and the future. The future are the last two episodes that examine what being immortal in a post apocalyptic world might be like and the implications thereof.

  26. Very good article and a good introduction to the deeper layers of whatever is here. If you conteplate death, you have to contemplate birth. What made you say “I am alive” after being born? What will make you say “I am dead” after dying? You did not know then, you do not know now, and you will never know. Maybe “death” is just a reorganization of atoms around some blueprint, just as “becoming alive” has been a reorganization of atoms around some other (or maybe the same) blueprint… Maybe there is no being alive nor being dead, maybe there is only “Dis – Play”…
    Whatever. As it is very well said in the article above, avoid wasting time, although THAT might not exist, either.

  27. Just lost my great grandmother at 90 something. When I was born I had 6 greats and now I have none. Who is going to tell my kids that black people hate rain and “melt”? Who will make them go cut a switch? I’m just glad we have a picture of 5 generations. FTW

    1. Don’t worry… most kids learn to hate black people the same way everyone else learned to hate black people; they’re forced to live around them.

  28. It’s worth acknowledging just how random the actual existence of each person is. Each of us had a biological mother and a biological father. And each of them had a biological mother and a biological father and so on back through time. Now if just any one of those people had not met and had sex with the female getting pregnant and safely giving birth then you today would not exist.
    And your death will also be random. You may live to a ripe old age and pass away peacefully in your sleep. You may be a young man and die because of a reckless driver going through a red light and slamming into your car. Or you may be diagnosed with a terminal illness in middle age. Anything can happen during the course of your life.

  29. I read the Hagakure and have ruminated upon it-the essence of Bushido is to die and if you choose to live but fail to hit your target you are a coward whereas if you choose to die and fail to hit your target no shame comes to you as your body eventually dies. In order to master the essence you must die anew daily.
    You must burn with mad death every day. Naoshige once said that the Bushido signifies desperate death and several sane samurai could not kill a single one that burns with mad death-from there all your obligations and actions will naturally flow from your madness.

  30. Good article. For a long time now, I have not been able to get over a recent death. It has rightfully put a strain on all family relations and even acted as an extra stressor on my person. In a sense the depressing thoughts are a death before death. Could I have spent more time? Helped with their pain? It might be odd to say but reading what you stated, while not directly resolving my own anger on death, it might be a bright spot worth focusing on. I guess there is some truth to being willing to die a little each day and come to the realization that there is no death. That is not an easy message to recognize though.

  31. I often wonder what happens to our conscious energy when we ultimately perish. It cannot be created or destroyed, so it has to go somewhere.

    1. Exactly. Where? Somewhere for sure but we don’t know. And neither has anyone told us coming back from the dead…the world will never know. That’s why faith should be part of every man whatever the hell they wana believe to give us “Hope” of somewhat.

  32. Nice sincere, clear article exalting a rare sense of morbid positivism. I like it because it echoes nearly every major insight I’ve had about the matter. I sometimes find it healthy to view each day as a microcosm of our full time span — a little life, a little death, wrapped up in each 24-hour cycle. The “unconsciousness” of deep REM sleep plays temporary stand-in for the quiescence of death, because our hibernating mind can’t tell the difference. Every morning, born again. As many say, life is but a thin shaft of light sandwiched between two
    infinite reams of eternal darkness. Carpe Diem so that someday you may also “seize the night.”

  33. Very well written, thank you. I agree, a certain sense of urgency is important, but you have to be measured as well. “You could die tomorrow” is true but you should wager that you won’t – but you COULD.

  34. “Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” -Luke 12 NASB
    “Man, who is born of woman,
    Is short-lived and full of turmoil.
    “Like a flower he comes forth and withers.
    He also flees like a shadow and does not remain.
    “You also open Your eyes on him
    And bring him into judgment with Yourself.
    “Who can make the clean out of the unclean?
    No one!
    “Since his days are determined,
    The number of his months is with You;
    And his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.
    “Turn Your gaze from him that he may rest,
    Until he fulfills his day like a hired man.
    “For there is hope for a tree,
    When it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
    And its shoots will not fail.
    “Though its roots grow old in the ground
    And its stump dies in the dry soil,
    At the scent of water it will flourish
    And put forth sprigs like a plant.
    “But man dies and lies prostrate.
    Man expires, and where is he?
    “As water evaporates from the sea,
    And a river becomes parched and dried up,
    So man lies down and does not rise.
    Until the heavens are no longer,
    He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep.
    “Oh that You would hide me in Sheol,
    That You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You,
    That You would set a limit for me and remember me!
    “If a man dies, will he live again?
    All the days of my struggle I will wait
    Until my change comes.
    “You will call, and I will answer You;
    You will long for the work of Your hands.
    “For now You number my steps,
    You do not observe my sin.
    “My transgression is sealed up in a bag,
    And You wrap up my iniquity.
    “But the falling mountain crumbles away,
    And the rock moves from its place;
    Water wears away stones,
    Its torrents wash away the dust of the earth;
    So You destroy man’s hope.
    “You forever overpower him and he departs;
    You change his appearance and send him away.
    “His sons achieve honor, but he does not know it;
    Or they become insignificant, but he does not perceive it.
    “But his body pains him,
    And he mourns only for himself.” -Job 14 NASB

  35. This is nice to read as I prepare to take off in my light aircraft. Near Heathrow controlled airspace. With a faulty transponder. With an approaching squall. With an out-of-date chart.

  36. I had a personal “Dark Night of the Soul” this past Sunday night…I kept waking up in a panic and was convinced I ~WOULD~ die…I wasn’t in pain — just kept feeling if I closed my eyes I would never open them again. I said if I made it to morning I would make some changes. I woke Monday morning and you’d think I was Scrooge on Christmas day! I wrote a note about what I was feeling to be found if anything happens to me and I have been fasting ever since. I want to stop being bogged down and I am moving forward with all those things I have been putting off.

  37. “Perhaps future humans might invent a form of limited immortality by preserving their consciousness in a more durable, electronic format, with a non-physical environment to go with it. This carries its own risks.”
    No they won’t. This is not a ‘maybe’ statement or an opinion, this is an indisputable fact. Consciousness isn’t something separate from the body that can be uploaded in a computer or whatever retarded shit transhumanists come up with.
    Also, the commonly repeated nonsense of ‘you know what it’s like to be dead because you were dead for trillions of years before you were born’ is a terrible logical flaw. There was no ‘me’ or ‘you’ before we were born, if we die and there is no after-life or such things, you and me would be something that exists in the past.

  38. I’ve done something scary. For myself, I have proven immortality. This is because I’ve proven idealism to be true, and idealism entails that while your personal self can die, your awareness must continue as a jumbled up mess without your identity. Worse still, if one thinks about what the mind is, even without idealism, a curious result occurs. Take, for instance, the idea that the mind is a physical process. Assume nothing quantum is going on here (quantum would entail the mind being more fundamental than the classical matter we see, so let’s leave that out). Then your mind is the result of discontinuous neural firings. There’s a problem here, though. There should be no you existing from moment to moment, because the process of neural firings is discontinuous. Your consciousness should cease to exist completely and get replaced by another at each firing, with the same memories. There should be no actual “you”. You can verify for yourself that this isn’t happening. So what can you be? Well, ultimately, the only thing that remains continuously is the information between brain states, or the particles comprising them. This creates a massive problem, however. Information cannot be destroyed, according to the second law of thermodynamics. Even when you delete files, the information isn’t destroyed, but merely transferred to the environment and jumbled up. So if the information is what you are- which is also what would be necessary for the singularity to allow people to transfer their minds- then when you die, ultimately, you just get jumbled up and absorbed by the environment. Your experience becomes ridiculously different from what it normally is- perhaps becoming an empty void, or less optimistically- more like a massive hallucination beyond your control, and now you lack a body like the one you’re used to. So there’s one way. There is, however, an even more terrifying idea. Our universe doesn’t seem to be open, and seems to be advancing toward a DeSitter space. With that, Poincare recurrence is highly likely to happen. What this means is that the molecules of your body will spontaneously reassemble, and one day, you will be doing the exact same things you’ve done. Every event will repeat itself, eternally, not due to magic or anything supernatural, but merely due to the fact that probabilistic sampling in a closed universe requires every single event repeat infinitely as time goes on infinitely. You will spontaneously resurrect, just as the discontinuous brain states constantly ressurect you upon completion- and you will live out your entire life again and again, forever. You will be back at ReturnOfKings, complaining about how messed up society has become, over and over again, into eternity. The only savior can be the Big Rip to destroy the cosmos completely, but that doesn’t seem likely. Oblivion is a blissful wish. Unfortunately, this world doesn’t care about wishes. So how does one escape? Even a black hole cannot save you. The only possible escape is to create a bubble universe with an open cosmology, preferrably with a big rip, and venture into it.

    1. Why escape rather than embrace it? Eternal recurrence of the same is the ultimate life-affirmation. Nietzsche expands on this

  39. Related- My sensei taught that if you were attacked with a knife accept the idea that you’re going to get cut. The idea being, that most people attacked with knives are so busy freaking out trying NOT to get cut, that they forget everything they know about fighting and let the other person kill them. Better to take a blade in a bicep or shoulder than in the neck or chest.

  40. The worst part of death is the fact that I have no children, and if I die childless then no part of me will continue to live after I am gone, and I might as well never have been here at all. Children who outlive their parents are a form of revenge for the latter against the people who gave them a hard time while they were still alive.

  41. regarding immortality, it would suck to be a true immortal that could not die under any circumstances. To have godlike immortality without the godlike power to create a new reality for yourself. Eventually just floating in whatever void is left after the universe itself long ago died, maybe a new universe eventually forms naturally or maybe not, and who’s to say if life would even evolve in that universe? And where would it appear?
    The time it takes you to float planet to planet, galaxy to galaxy, it might have died out by the time you arrive. It appears to be quite rare. after all. And just because you can’t die doesn’t mean you can’t feel pain, maybe you’re suffocating and starving the entire time with no relief. You’d spend countless years alone with only your insane thoughts as company, whatever identity you once had is probably a distant memory, if even that – you would be far beyond ancient.
    I would however like to be able to extend life to the point that I’ve had my fill of it. Natural human lifespan is incredibly short all things considered, and I wouldn’t have any problem with not aging or dying of disease but still being able to eat a bullet when I get tired of living.

  42. When I was a kid I was scared shit about dying. Every time I heard about some young person who had died I was truly upset by it. Living up to 100 years of age seemed like the very minimum back then.
    Now I am 26 and whenever I think about death it is almost always positively, as a liberation from this absurd world. I say death and not suicide because I don’t really feel suicidal, but I do often find myself wondering how I would react to the announcement of death: a doctor telling you that you have a few months left, for instance. And I think I wouldn’t care. I am supposed to care, but I simply do not. I feel like I have nothing to lose, and my only worry would be the suffering of my family.
    I liked the article because I want to believe that such feelings are the product of a healthier attitude towards death rather than anything else. Death as something to be accepted. Or even, as some have said here, as a good thing, as mankind’s greatest equalizer: we all die no matter our wealth or social position. And also this: “Mortality is a blessing. It puts a ceiling on the level of suffering any man may experience.”
    Some people I have shared these thoughts with tend to say that I might be depressed, but I don’t think so. While a bit pessimistic and risk-adverse person I don’t fit in the clinical definition of depression (being sad from time to time is not being depressed). Anyways, it would be interesting to know if somebody out there has similar ideas about this.

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