Denying Death

“We cannot rationally deny that we will die, but we think of it more as something that happens to other people.”

So said Yair Dor-Ziderman, a researcher at Bar Ilan University in Israel.

From the moment we recognize we have the ability to look into our own future, we come to the realization that, at some point, we’re going to die.

And there’s nothing we can do about it.

Yet while we inherently recognize it’s an event we cannot avoid, we nevertheless put up numerous defenses to stave off thoughts of our inevitable demise.

In fact, Mr. Dor-Ziderman postulates that the reason we confine sick people to hospitals and elderly people to care homes is because we are “death-phobic.” In other words, we try to hide death from view — even though this may very well result in an even deeper fear of death.

Many people in today’s world avoid thoughts of death by getting on the “escape treadmill.” That is, they focus on hard work, spend more time at the local pub, constantly use their mobile phones, and buy more “stuff.” All in an effort to keep from thinking/worrying about death.

So while we may do our best to avoid thoughts of our life’s end, the unfortunate truth is … there’s really nothing we can do about it.

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45 thoughts on “Denying Death

  1. You are so right Nan ! I have been plagued with artery blockages since my early 40’s. My first one was the worst and should have killed me as it does most people. 2 weeks ago was my last narrow escape. A 20 year old bypass was 98% closed. Fortunately I made it to the hospital just in time to have it reopened with a stint.

    I really don’t fear death anymore as it probably should have ocurred years ago. For me, every day is a gift . I live every day as though it very well may be my last. I really don’t sweat the small stuff any more. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ken,

      So sorry to read about your condition … yet VERY happy that you continue to be part of “the gang.”

      I don’t have health issues, but I am approaching an age that’s often mentioned in obituaries, so I’m gradually learning to accept the inevitable future.

      Actually, I think we should ALL quit sweating the small stuff. We’d probably be a lot happier … and most likely live a lot longer too!

      Take care of yourself!

      Liked by 3 people

    • When I was a child, I used to fear the idea of nothingness, but as I got older I realize that if there is nothing after death, I won’t know it anyway so no big deal. What I do fear is a painful process leading to death. Suffering physically or emotionally watching the loved ones I’m leaving behind sounds unbearable to me.

      When my father passed in 1999, I believe he went through a bit of both. First, he went into cardiac arrest, was brought back which was quite traumatic to his body in a physical way. When he was conscious again, he couldn’t move anything but his eyes and squeeze his hands. So all of the family who went in to see him before he died, he had to endure their sadness. He was trapped in his body as my mother cried out in agony, and as my brother and sister said their goodbyes. He was trapped as I cried and held his hand, full of grief. I can’t imagine going through that with my children. Death is a breeze compared to what leads up to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have not filled out any kind of Advance Directive or POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment).

        I know. Shame on me.

        But I have thought about whether I would want a resuscitation attempt to be made. I’ve leaned towards the idea, but after reading about your dad, now I’m not so sure. In many ways, I think that once we get to that point, we most likely don’t know anything anyway so why not just … go.

        There’s no getting around it. Facing our own demise is a scary thought.

        BTW, thanks for sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t have any “end of life” things in place. My wife and I keep saying we need to do it, but keep putting it off. We’re still young-ish (40’s) and should have several more decades in us, but with four children, we should really have something set up in case something happens to us. I would hate for my children to be split up and possibly go to different families who are not capable of taking in four siblings.

          As far as being resuscitated, I am torn. I would want it done if there was a guarantee I would be fully functional afterwards. There is no such guarantee though. How my Dad went is still burned into my mind. He had to endure all of the sadness of his family while not being able to move or speak. He then died that night after we all went home. His last moments on Earth were sad ones. He got to see us one last time but couldn’t hug us or say he loved us. That’s tough.

          I hope that when it’s my time, it’s quick and painless and no one brings me back to have to do it all over again. I’d hate to die quickly only to be brought back and possibly die a different, more horrible death.

          This is not a very pleasant subject to talk about but it is an inevitability for all of us. It’s always best to be as prepared as we can be.

          Liked by 1 person

          • My husband and I both have Living Wills, and I’ll tell you, it’s a lot easier once you’ve sat down and thought about what you really really want at that point. We both chose do not resuscitate, I chose to be parceled out and implanted where necessary and the rest cremated. He said no, he wants to go whole.

            We tended his mother while she was dying, comfortable in her own place, ready to go and quite sanguine about it. Having experienced both the sudden call from the hospital and the tending of the dying, Ill take the latter. You’re there, you’re part of the process.

            But you HAVE to have that Living Will in place, or they will, by the harry, keep you alive far past the time it makes any sense.

            I agree, dying is the biggest fear, not death. When that happens, if we guessed right, all thats on the other side is nothing. If there is Something, a lot of us are going to be in serious trouble (oops)

            Liked by 2 people

            • We do have wills, but not “Living” wills. A bit different setup that neither of us are comfortable with (for personal reasons). But the Advance Directive is definitely important. However, when you’re well and comparatively healthy, it’s difficult to take yourself to “that” place in order to fill it out.

              I have no fears about a Something. I put that aside long ago. And if I may add one more thing about “that” — it’s inexcusable that RELIGION has embedded such a terrible dread into so many lives.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. the reason we confine sick people to hospitals and elderly people to care homes is because we are “death-phobic.”

    I have some experience with this subject and he’s full of it. The reason elderly people go to care homes is that people with dementia and extreme physical disabilities require specialized care which is far too burdensome for most families to provide. Old people who never develop dementia often don’t go to such places.

    we’re going to die. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

    Such fatalism is unworthy of an advanced species. The mechanisms which underlie the aging process are already fairly well understood. Developing cures for them is just a research and bio-engineering problem to be worked out, no different in principle than eradicating smallpox or polio. The day isn’t too far off when people will be able to live as long as they choose, and will look back on involuntary death as the mark of a barbarous age, like the Black Death.

    Anyone who has seen the ravages of aging and dementia up close knows that it’s nothing to be romanticized or viewed with equanimity. On the whole it’s as bad as death from AIDS.

    I can’t imagine ever accepting death if remaining alive and healthy were an option. I don’t want to lose out on the experiences the future might bring, or on seeing the progress and discoveries of the future.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I can’t imagine ever accepting death if remaining alive and healthy were an option.

      I agree. But I seriously doubt such a condition will appear for many, many years. Yes, we are living longer in the modern age due to medical advances and more emphasis on healthy living. But I think we’re a long ways off from actually preventing — or viably extending — the time of our death.

      Until we learn how to prevent the natural breakdown of the human body during the aging process, I think death is going to remain on the horizon.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well, therapies have already been proposed which could treat each of the seven or eight processes which make up the overall disease of aging, and which are within the reach of current technology or not too far beyond it. The real question is how soon we’ll make the necessary investment of money and research resources, which would be very considerable (I suspect that it will be somewhere other than the United States, when it happens). My own reading on the subject has convinced me that it’s decades away, not centuries.

        I’m sorry, I just find fatalism and passive acceptance to be nauseating. People like the Hindus and Buddhists can sit around trying to philosophize themselves into a mantra-mumbling state of indifference to the horrors of reality. Our civilization has always fought back and tried to better its situation, no matter how long the odds, from the Greeks down to today. We owe our achievements to that spirit.

        Liked by 4 people

    • Ok I usually agree with you, but…

      I do agree about people with dementia needing out of the home care unless they are super rich and can afford total in home care. But I do think our culture avoids talking about death. We are definitely not comfortable with it.

      But as to living much much longer and at our desired choice, I don’t agree. It may be scientifically potentially possible, but I have a feeling Mother Nature will find a way for that not to happen.

      And think of the financial costs to society if this were to occur and probably just for the more well off people to boot.

      Would I want to live to 200 years even if I was healthy? I honestly don’t know. For me, I think, there comes a point when this desire could cross over into selfishness. I already am more tired, lose interest quicker and just enjoy being home and putzing more and I know eventually I would have putzed until there was no more to do. Maybe I’m older and you’re still younger….anyway, just my thoughts.

      Liked by 3 people

      • It’s no different than increasing the typical life expectancy from 40 to 80 years over the course of the 20th century. That was done by technology — vaccines and public sanitation. This will be the same thing, just with more advanced technology.

        “Nature” is horrible and evil. All the progress we’ve made in the thirteen thousand years since the dawn of agriculture has essentially consisted of progressively liberating ourselves from the ghastly misery of living in harmony with nature. We haven’t entirely won yet, and nature sometimes pushes back — antibiotic-resistant bacteria, untreatable cancer, etc. — but in the end we will win. We have brains and science while nature is just blind malignancy.

        There’s nothing wrong with the “selfishness” of wanting to live. Even an ant will fight like hell against a threat of death. I merely demand the same privilege as an ant takes for granted. Many people claim they wouldn’t want to live indefinitely, but those people still fight to stay alive if faced with imminent death. I’m skeptical of their objections.

        It’s a common objection to the idea of anti-aging technology that it would be available only to the wealthy, but that would not be the case, or not for long. Every new medical technology starts off expensive and unreliable and eventually becomes cheaper and more effective, and more widely available (in normal societies — the effect of the ridiculous American system of health insurance coverage is a separate issue). The technologies that defeat the aging process will be no different.

        I already am more tired, lose interest quicker

        If the aging process were curable and you could stay at the equivalent of age 25 for centuries, that wouldn’t be happening. And it would reduce the costs to society, since there would no longer be a large population of people too aged to work who had to be supported by the working people.

        I’m sure there will always be some people who reject anti-aging technology and will be free to do so, just as today some people reject blood transfusions or other therapies on religious grounds. I think in practice there will not be many. Certainly no one has the right to tell me I shouldn’t have access to such things. That’s no different than the mentality of the religious groups today that want to prohibit life-saving stem-cell research because it violates their taboos.

        The last century saw incredible advances in science, technology, culture, and artistic creativity. The next five or ten centuries will each probably bring far more. I want to be around to see that, if it’s at all possible.

        From lightning rods to vaccines to airplanes to stem cells to the internet and on and on, at every stage of progress there have been those who said we shouldn’t take the next step and prattled about hubris or going against nature or the will of God or whatever. But in the end, the bold have always won out over the timid.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Well I certainly don’t view nature as horrible and evil.

          I view it as beautifully uncaring and peacefully providing beauty and awe and a means to get out of your own head and get perspective on life.

          Also a vehicle for change and a persistent at maneuvering around man’s foolish and destructive ways. We are not so special to think we can control it.

          As for man living for centuries or indefinitely….from what I’ve read that will likely occur when we become a mixture of being a biological entity, as we are now and artificial body parts, artificial blood, enhanced brains through implantable means etc. and we truly lose the designation of being a natural human being like in Blade Runner..

          Sorry that’s just not for me but to each his own…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Nor for me, Mary!

            I tend to think from some of the responses that the younger you are, the more receptive you are to the idea of extended life. As you age (into your 70’s and 80’s), many things in life become less important and of course, the body breaks down little by little. As a result, some of the appeal/excitement of living “forever” gradually drifts away.

            Now if science eventually figures out how to keep the body at its “prime,” then the whole idea becomes a bit more appealing. Of course to do that may require some of the “adjustments” you mentioned in your comment. Even so, I don’t doubt there would be many who would jump at the chance.

            Liked by 1 person

        • A lot of longevity is genetic. I come from a family where many of the older women were well into their nineties, and still up and about and raising hell in the process. My father was 90 when he died.
          My husband’s family was the same, long-lived on both sides.

          We were in our 50s, and I’ve never regretted that health care directive. At that point, it becomes not about you, but about who you choose to have as a caretaker. Once you accept that point of view, it makes a lot more sense. Refusing to accept the possiblities makes it so much harder on your remaining families.

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          • A cure for aging of the kind I’m talking about would eliminate such issues. If people didn’t get old any more but simply stayed young indefinitely, there would no longer be any need for caretakers for the elderly. Similarly, the huge economic burden societies currently bear, of taking care of elderly people, would cease to exist.

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      • Hi Mary Plumbago,

        Having been a carer to my late mother for many years, I do understand your sentiment about the limits of living well and the importance of aging gracefully with a decent quality of life, which is not always guaranteed even in the presence of the best medical interventions and palliative care. I would love to know what your thoughts are on these matters, some of which I have mentioned in my latest post published at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2019/08/31/khai-khim-for-always-and-beyond-goodbye/

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      • but I have a feeling Mother Nature will find a way for that not to happen.

        This is a religious statement if you actually think about it, and is completely counter to so many advances that we have used to increase human well-being and life expectancy.

        Although I too appreciate the beauty and awesomeness of nature, Infidel’s point is correct. There is a reason we left the hunter-gatherer lifestyle behind. Being able to secure our own food supply through agriculture, having a small portion of the population to grow food so others could have more leisure time to try and understand the natural world to improve quality of life and to protect against the dangers nature throws at us is really the story of human history. People don’t want to be at the mercy of nature and we have developed quite a lot of technology to try and prevent that. We’ve also developed a lot of technology to put other humans at our mercy as well, but this is also our nature. A part of our nature we also want to minimize.

        And as infidel pointed out, the costs of a longer life are not obvious. First, we don’t know how such a thing might impact birthrates. The drive to lots of children may not be as strong if we have simply more time to do it in. We also have people working on problems whose death interrupt that work and can sometimes set that work back years. In general, part of our success as a species is the long life of our species and the ability to pass down knowledge through generations. Right now, part of the reason for our inactivity on climate change is because we have trouble as a species taking action on a problem that has long downstream consequences. At this point I know that I am very unlikely to see the worst that climate change has to offer. This will be my children and grandchildren who experience this. Our short lives make us less likely to act for the sake of the younger generation, but if we had a longer life, it’s quite possible that we would make more decisions that we know will impact our lives.

        So I think there are a lot of unknowns, but when thing for sure is that given the option of living longer, provided you could be in good health, a large majority of people would do it. It’s the survival instinct. A species that welcomes death…well they wouldn’t be species for very long.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I didn’t mean that statement in a religious strain at all…just an evolutionary one…and we often think we can control more than we actually can and are we always right?

          I agree with any health improvements and some extension in longevity….but just for me, not for say 200/ 500years or more…

          Liked by 2 people

          • Well I agree that we definitely have a lot of hubris, and we make mistakes in some of the measures we have taken to keep nature’s risks at bay, but it has led to overall improvements in health and longevity and we often do better the next time around. I agree that nature might always win in the end, but we can certainly make some headway into putting that end off, and we have already.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Putzing is what I do best. One of the nice things about aging, you get to play more, if your constitution permits it. I have always had a love of games, and of constructing, and now I give in to it, both online and on the card table at home. I don’t have to go to meetings, to seminars, to churches, unless I want to. I can have a nap, mess about with my Legos or scrabble, or spend all day making curtains.
        Age is not a bad place to be, right now.

        I cannot imagine enduring 200 years, however. No. 90 would suit me just fine.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hello SoundEagle.

        I do appreciate your visits and your comments, but would request that you not use my blog to promote your own posts. I have no problem if you wish to invite others to your blog (which they can access by clicking on your name) and even providing the name of a particular post that may relate to the topic being discussed. But please do not provide the actual link.

        Thank you for your understanding.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you, Nan, for your clarification. I have been dealing with my late mother’s dying and then most recently her actual passing away. Hence, the topic of your current post has brought up a lot in me and also prompted me to make several comments here with respect to what I have been through. I hope that you can understand. Besides, it is not something that I can simply and easily discuss at length through a comment box in your post beyond a brief mention and a link to the said post.

          Like

          • My sympathies for the loss of your mother. And I do understand how writing out our feelings can be very healing.

            As I mentioned, I have no problems with you inviting others to your blog — or even a particular post. I just ask that you refrain from providing the actual link.

            Liked by 2 people

  3. On this subject of unavoidable death, I cannot avoid copying here a short tale. Although probably well-known by most readers, I think Somerset Maughm’s “An Appointment in Samarra”. is worth being read again.

    There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions, and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra, and there Death will not find me.

    The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and, as fast as the horse could gallop, he went.

    Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threating getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning?

    That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
    .-

    Liked by 5 people

    • I agree John. I think that’s why some physicists look for an afterlife in quantum theory or the question of consciousness or even in parallel universes or multiple universes etc. Its all a search, much out of dread of not existing ever again, just like religion. Animals don’t know they die (we presume), so therefore no fear, no anxiety, no religion…

      I’m an atheist, but I feel it, as I get closer….it’s part of the human condition.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. I came across this “Limited Series” program on Netflix last night. It’s called Unnatural Selection and discusses gene editing — or as one reviewer put it: “it covers the science of biohacking, a practice that seeks to replace parts of our DNA.” It also reaches into genome editing technology (CRISPR/Cas9) which, in its simplest terms, opens up the possibility for us to manipulate our genes in order to “fix” issues such as degenerative disease.

    Since Infidel touched on how “bio-therapy” and “anti-aging therapy” might play a role in the future, I felt the ideas expressed in this program might be of interest.

    I’ve only watched the first episode so far so I can’t vouch for the entire series.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your right most of us live life and try not to think about death because we were not originally created to die. Death came into the picture when Adam and Eve sinned. By means of his son,Jesus ,God promises there is going to be a resurrection, Acts 24:15. He also promised that time will come when “death will be no more”, Revelation 21:4. I hold on to those promises and death doesn’t overly concern me.

    Like

    • Thanks for stopping by, Michelle.

      If it gives you comfort to believe in an after-death “resurrection,” then so be it. As for me, I long ago put such fairy tales aside and fully accept that Death is Final. There is no resurrection; there is no afterlife.

      And this perspective has given me the incentive to live this life as fully and completely as I possibly can.

      Like

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