On Dying and Living
Let’s face it, the thought of dying is quite unpleasant—and this is a very good thing. This means that our will to live is strong and our actions, both conscious and unconscious, will be in line with this desire, protecting us from harm and being conducive toward achieving longevity. Evolution has all but ensured that we maintain a strong will to live and avoid death, which includes maintaining a healthy aversion to death. Those of our ancestors who welcomed death with open arms, at least from an early age, would have won themselves a Darwin award and all but eliminated themselves from the gene pool. Our ancestors are those who balanced a healthy respect for death with an appreciation for life. To increase our well-being, we don’t need to believe in a perfect afterlife, and we don’t need to lie to ourselves and others by pretending that we like the idea that we will almost certainly one day cease to exist. If we want to increase our wealth, we might cut back on expenses while increasing our income. Likewise, if we want to increase our well-being, we can minimize the negatives associated with dying while maximizing the positives associated with living.
How Did You Feel About Not Being Born Yet?
Of course, this question is meant to be ironic because if we are not born, we don’t exist, so we can’t feel (did I really have to explain that?). But the question is also meant to make one realize that the thought of non-existence is only something those who exist can experience. That is, once we are dead, we are not going to be concerned about anything. The problem is it’s the present “us” that frets about our future non-existence, but why exactly? I will argue that “fretting” can be used to motivate us to live a better life.
Why Do We Fear Death?
As mentioned earlier, from an evolutionary perspective, our fear of death is deeply ingrained, just like other biological drives. But there are also unique reasons why each of us may fear death. For example, one might worry about how his or her death would affect his or her family. Once the fears have been identified, we can address them from a humanist perspective.