Friday, November 14, 2008


Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with an awful awareness of death. These moments are no fun at all. I envy religious people, who "know" they'll enjoy eternal life. The prospect of eternal nonexistence, however remote it may seem when you're in good health, is difficult to come to grips with. I guess the Catholics have to worry about eternal damnation, but I understand they have some procedures in place for avoiding that outcome.

I don't have a perfect salve to heal this hurt. One thing that helps is if I know I've done things during the day that I truly enjoy. When a day is wasted on stress or mired in mindlessness, the day is gone forever. Looking forward to doing some fun things tomorrow helps too.

I also find that it helps if I spend some time with kids. If you have grandchildren, they may be a good antidote. I'm childless, but I teach private music lessons. Right now two of my favorite people in the world are bright, articulate, inquisitive ten-year-olds.

And as some of my friends in 12-step groups like to say, "H.A.L.T." Don't get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. When I take care of myself physically, the anxiety recedes, if only a little.

On my tombstone I want a quote from Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower": "There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke." Sometimes it's easy to laugh, but sometimes it's not easy at all.


writerdd said...

It does make this life so much more precious, when you're not counting on a utopian afterlife!

Phillip Moon said...

On my journey from theist to atheist, I had to shed the various forms of belief. God, gods, universal "Oneness" and all the other deity wanna-bes' went first. Starting with Jesus.

Then came the after life. I gave this up last. I was quite happy without gods, but I was happier with the notion that I would continue on, reincarnate, whatever, as long as I went on.

The the concept of eternal existence went, and I was left with this life. I'd still rather have the other, but that's moot, because I don't get a choice do I?

The other day I got to thinking about death, and tried to get a feeling about what it would be like to not exist. The result was a little unsettling.

This last week, my favorite aunt died (89). She was around to take care of my mother when she died 17 years ago this month, so death is right there at the front of my mind, and still I am at peace with the fact that this is it. Albeit, a sometimes uneasy peace.

Justin said...

I saw Richard Dawkins say he was going to die triumphantly, excited to have lived at all. Me, I'd rather not die at all, thanks. Here's to the Methuselah Project and its hope of extending longevity.

Jim Aikin said...

Longevity may be overrated. The trouble with living to be 110 rather than 90 is that during those 20 added years you'll be too feeble to do much.

I love what William Saroyan said: "I know everybody has to die, but I always thought an exception would be made in my case."

writerdd said...

I'm not afraid to be dead, but I am afraid of dying of cancer or some other painful disease. I also don't want to dye too young, because there's a lot I want to do. It's hard to realize that my life is probably more than half over. So I intend to live fully for the rest of my years and not waste time doing things that are not fulfilling or important or fun.

EmilyLady said...

There really is no point in worrying about death, but I do anyway, since I just don't know what comes after. I am actually a church-goer but still fear death.


cl said...

Hi I'm a first time visitor and this post grabbed my attention. Death boggles my mind as well, but I often feel that if atheism is true, then why worry? If atheism is true, then none of us can even 'feel' the cessation of consciousness so there is quite literally no-thing to fear. Part of the fear likely has to do with the proposition of leaving a place that can be so wonderful, and where we have met so many wonderful people, but the main justification for a fearful approach to death, IMO, has to do with the idea of judgment. IOW, I'm asking, why should anyone fear death if there is no God?

Phillip Moon said...

I'm not sure fear is the right word. I really like waking up and seeing family and friends. Watching T.V., movies and theater. Reading, and writing.

In other words, I am preemptively missing being. Kinda like Tom Lehrer's comment (before singing "So Long Mom") that if we are going to have any good songs come out of WWIII, we'd better write them now.

I've no illusions about an after life or judgment. Just like this on going play I'm in.

writerdd said...

Yeah, I agree. I'm not afraid of death. But I am not ready to die yet because there are a lot of things I still want to do and I enjoy life.

I am afraid of dying a slow, painful death though. I am more afraid of dying than of being dead.