Death is an inevitable part of being human. It is something we cannot escape yet this is precisely what we try to do on a consistent basis. According to many existential thinkers, the inevitability of death makes life meaningless. In order to find meaning in the “average everydayness” of life, people feel compelled to suppress the knowledge of their mortality. Anxiety is the reason for this – and also the symptom of truyl facing death. Anxiety is the state at which we realize the possibility of not being around anymore – of non-being. Anxiety IS the awareness of death. This is an unpleasant, uncomfortable, and difficult feeling in which to exist…so we actively flee it.
We protect our denial of death with religious views, philosophical opinions or meaningless conversations. Any talk about death is objectified rather than personal, and in this way, we can delude ourselves into believing we are facing death while continuing to run away from it. And why not? Why should anyone be uncomfortable? For what purpose? Ah, well, here is why the realization and acknowledgement of the inevitability of death should be embraced:
Death-anxiety serves as motivation to live more fully.
Remember the book/movie, Fight Club? Edward Norton played the main character in the film, and his character was only able to feel truly alive when he attended support groups for individuals who were dying of chronic illnesses. He said about attending the meetings, “Losing all hope was freedom. Every morning I died, and every morning I was born again, resurrected.” When he listened to the stories of the group members who talked about their personal impending deaths and how they expressed their anxieties, he realized his death on a personal level. Through the realization of his own death, he felt the meaning of his life. Of course, for him, it was only temporary because he returned to his everyday life filled with pointless chatter and ongoing small-talk relationships. His feelings of living fully disappeared because he went back to ignoring that he would, one day, cease to exist. He only felt the true value and meaning of his life when he entered the meeting rooms again because this was the only time he really faced his death in a personal way.
The denial of death enables individuals to ignore what is important to them and to take life for granted, denying the responsibility of living more meaningful and truly authentic lives. The inevitability of death also reveals how, ultimately, every person is alone in the world because dying is an individual process. In facing this essential aloneness, a person can accept his or her self-responsibility because it is up to the individual to choose how he or she will live this life.
One thought on “Death”
Pingback: Life & Death: the existential crises | allenashleyl