Fear of Death

When I was sixteen, a boyfriend said during one of our many debates on the existence or not of God: “What if we decide not to believe, and wake up one day to realise we were wrong all along. Maybe we should hedge our bets just in case.” I tried to do that, but I was the original “Doubting Thomas. I went through periods of believing in a higher being; then sometimes my belief would evaporate like the morning dew, just as quickly as it had appeared.Until quite recently I was afraid of death. Bit by bit I came to realise that my fear might be linked to an inability to believe strongly in an afterlife or at least a continuation of consciousness after death. I made a conscious decision, then, to believe, not in God “out there”, but in something “other” that exists, quite possibly within, rather than without (I’d been studying Tibetan Buddhism and had learnt how to meditate). As a sort of experiment at the time, I took an action akin to jumping from a cliff into the void: I became a believer. With that decision my fear began to subside little by little. Today I am no longer afraid of death. Just what I believe in I’m not so sure… Perhaps it was a necessary fiction?

A psychologist friend recommended recently that I watch the video from which the above trailer is taken. The underlying assumption of the film is that we, as consciously aware animals, all fear death and take part in rituals that attempt to sublimate or help us to rise above the knowledge that we must die. If I’d watched this film at an earlier date, my belief system would have been shaken to the core. I’d have run with the premise of the film and agreed that the existence of multiple religions are proof of our thirst for immortality and our knowledge that we must die.

However, now I strive to hold together the two sides of the paradox: Yes, we must all die, but No, we continue to exist…


existence (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

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