"The brain does not accept that death is related to us."
October 24, 2019 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Warning: this story is about death. You might want to click away now. That’s because, researchers say, our brains do their best to keep us from dwelling on our inevitable demise. A study found that the brain shields us from existential fear by categorising death as an unfortunate event that only befalls other people. (Ian Sample, The Guardian)
posted by Johnny Wallflower (46 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
h/t the man of twists and turns
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:57 AM on October 24, 2019


I think of my inevitable demise as a stretch goal.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:58 AM on October 24, 2019 [13 favorites]


Of course it's not related to me. I'll be the only person who can't experience the world without me.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:01 AM on October 24, 2019 [17 favorites]


Honestly, then, my brain is doing a crap job, because as I get closer and closer to 60 I stare into the terrible void of anticipating my own demise all the damn time.
posted by anastasiav at 10:04 AM on October 24, 2019 [39 favorites]


My brain is clearly missing this, as fear of my own and my husband's mortality can keep me up at night. I read or play on my phone to fall asleep, despite it being terrible sleep hygiene, because it keeps the creeping existential dread away.
posted by stillnocturnal at 10:05 AM on October 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


like, i can't even click through to the article right now at work, because i will likely erupt into a cascade of existential sobbing, and my office mate likes it quiet.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:09 AM on October 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


I hear about people dying all the time but I've never died myself, so it's only natural to assume this arrangement will continue in perpetuity.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:14 AM on October 24, 2019 [37 favorites]


My elderly, scholarly father of late has become an obsessive history reader and damn near an addict of European history and politics from the late middle ages to the enlightenment. I really think this is his way of dealing with mortality.

All that and everything else ever learned or done in human history? **poof** gone...
posted by SoberHighland at 10:16 AM on October 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Due to a bad fear of flying I think about my own death as real and inevitable every time I fly, and for some reason it’s made it much easier for me to accept. I’d prefer to have a very long life and die in my sleep like anyone else, but I feel pretty zen about the whole thing. Life is so incredibly weird, that it happens at all and that it ends. But what else are you going to do about it, other than enjoy it?
posted by sallybrown at 10:19 AM on October 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


Does this not apply to those of us who long for death, or is that longing only possible because our brain is protecting us from it?
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:28 AM on October 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


I would *love* for my brain to do this, but, instead, since about age 14, it has chosen to obsess about it more or less 24-7.

All that and everything else ever learned or done in human history? **poof** gone...

We do have appear to have arrived at that moment, yeah.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:34 AM on October 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


Related: Here's an episode of NPR's podcast "Hidden Brain" that discusses Terror Management Theory. It's only 32 minutes long, so you should have plenty of time to listen to it before you croak.

Some context, from the 'Pedia:
Terror management theory (TMT) is both a social and evolutionary psychology theory originally proposed by Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszczynski[1] and codified in their book The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life (2015). It proposes that a basic psychological conflict results from having a self-preservation instinct while realizing that death is inevitable and to some extent unpredictable. This conflict produces terror, and the terror is then managed by embracing cultural beliefs, or symbolic systems that act to counter biological reality with more durable forms of meaning and value.
posted by notyou at 10:42 AM on October 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


This reminds me of a passage from "Echopraxia", by Peter Watts, about people with electronically enhanced brains:
“They know what they’re doing, Dan.”
“That’s one hypothesis. Want to hear another?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Ever hear of induced thanoparorasis?” he asked.
“Uh-huh.” Lianna shrugged. “Common procedure among the augmented. Keeps ’em from collapsing into existential angst.”
“It’s a bit more fundamental than that,” Brüks said.
“Have you got it?”
“Thanoparorasis? ’Course not.”
“Are you going to die?”
“Eventually. Hopefully not for a while.”
“Good to know,” Brüks told her.
“Because if you were a victim of ITP, you wouldn’t be able to answer that question. You might not even have heard it.”
“Dan, I don’t—”
“You and I”—raising his voice over hers—“we’re blessed with a certain amount of denial. You admit you’re going to die, you even know it intellectually on some level, but you don’t really believe it. You can’t. The thought of dying is just too damn scary. So we invent some Fairyland Heaven to take us in after we pass on, or we look to your friends and their friends to give us immortality on a chip or—if we’re hard-core realists—we just pay lip service to death and decay and keep right on feeling immortal anyway. “But some folks”—he nodded at the feed—“just get too damn smart. They put their heads together and develop insights way too deep to paper over with a few million years’ worth of whistling past the graveyard. People like that would know they were going to die, they’d feel it in the gut. They’d know what death means in a way you or I never could. And the only way they can keep from collapsing into whimpering puddles is to give denial a hand, cut a cognitive hole into the middle of their heads. We may live in denial most of the time but those people—they didn’t even show a fright response when it looked like their whole damn hive was an hour from the morgue. Like those agnosiacs who’d die of thirst in their own homes after some tumor’s destroyed their ability to recognize water.”
“I don’t think they’re like that,” Lianna said softly.
“Sure you do. You told me as much, remember? Reset the sensory biases, randomize the errors.” They watched in silence as the hive poked a stick at something dangerous. “A lot of them died, not so long ago,” Brüks said after a while.
“I remember.”
“Me, too. And you know what I remember the most, you know what I can’t forget? Luckett rolling around in his own shit while his spinal cord shorted out, smiling and insisting that everything was going according to plan.”
posted by Hatashran at 10:56 AM on October 24, 2019 [10 favorites]


I've been conscious of my inevitable demise since age twelve. It just sort of happened one night. The fact of it landing like an atom bomb in the center of my being.

What I continue to find strange is how many people this hasn't seemed to happen to yet. Oh, they know they're going to die and they accept it in an abstract sort of way. But they don't own it. They don't live it.

To paraphrase a Richard Brautigan poem -- boy, are they going to be surprised.
posted by philip-random at 11:08 AM on October 24, 2019 [10 favorites]


In the not-so-distant past, Zor-Diderman pointed out, our brain’s defences against thoughts of death were balanced out by the reality of death around us. Today, he believes, society is more death-phobic, with sick people confined to hospitals and elderly people to care homes. As a result, he suspects, people know far less about the end of life and perhaps come to fear it more.

So how does seeing a reference to death -> shutting down anticipatory thoughts compare to {other concepts the subject has limited experience of} -> shutting down anticipatory thoughts? It's neuroscience journalism, so I'm not surprised or even particularly mad about the splashy "your brain PROTECC you from fear of DETH but it's all a lie" presentation, but ... skipping over guessing how something you haven't experienced will play out, especially when that guesswork won't help you thrive (or survive, ultimately!) kind of seems like a reasonable conservation of mental energy. Way to prioritize, brain!

(Though of course, here in 2019 the world isn't so free of horrific experiences that include repeat exposure to other people's deaths. and I bet there're some painfully large databases somewhere where you could find people who have had those experiences and would be really interested in being part of research that offers hope of getting their brains back into "don't bother thinking about death" mode... [/salt])
posted by Tess of the d'Urkelvilles at 11:12 AM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


It has always seemed weird to me that most people do not have satisfactory answers to questions about death. When I was a child, I was appalled by the callous way my questions on this subject were treated. I just couldn't understand how a responsible adult could exist without having a thoughtful answer to the question. I later understood this negligence to be a signal aspect of our culture (see Becker's The Denial of death).

I have also learned that there are in fact some individuals who have provided thoughtful answers to questions about death. There is Phaedo, of course. There are others, but I wouldn't want to drag this thread into some kind of polemic.
posted by No Robots at 11:32 AM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


When I was about 25, I was seized by this fixed idea that I was about to die. I thought it was going to be a car accident or something like that. This was very odd because I didn't normally entertain delusions that I got precognitions, or anything like that. The idea just came into my head and stayed for a while.

It was kind of a spiritual experience. I felt sad about it, and I didn't want to die, but I discovered that I could accept it. That the short time that my life, with all its flaws, would have lasted was actually an infinity of riches and that it was a complete mystery why I should ever have existed at all.

Then it kind of went away, and I did not die.
posted by thelonius at 11:32 AM on October 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


At the entrance stood a carriage and two cabs. Leaning against the wall in the hall downstairs near the cloakstand was a coffin-lid covered with cloth of gold, ornamented with gold cord and tassels, that had been polished up with metal powder. Two ladies in black were taking off their fur cloaks. Peter Ivanovich recognized one of them as Ivan Ilych's sister, but the other was a stranger to him. His colleague Schwartz was just coming downstairs, but on seeing Peter Ivanovich enter he stopped and winked at him, as if to say: "Ivan Ilych has made a mess of things—not like you and me.
--Leo Tolstoy, "The Death of Ivan Ilych"


There is a device common to the genre of journalistic writing about "our brains," where the writer announces to us that our brains tend to do this or that thing, that they are "wired" to think in certain ways, to avoid thinking in other ways. Often, the wiring explains why we, as a social whole, don't solve some pressing political or social problem. But the readers of these articles are almost certainly those who care about the problem, want it solved, and therefore somehow don't fit into the mass whose brains are not wired to solve the problem. Indeed, by writing about this problem and how "our" brains are not wired to deal with it, the writer encourages the reader to distinguish herself from those other people driven to make bad decisions by the wiring in their brains. A separation is effected between those who are free to think correctly and those who are compelled by their neuroanatomy.

This device is at work in this article as well. Who are these other people who think about death as something that happens to other people? Who are we, whom our brains have evidently failed to protect? What is wrong with us that allows us to see beyond the imposed blindness of our own brains?
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 11:42 AM on October 24, 2019 [15 favorites]


So no one else has been contemplating death since 5 years old??
posted by kanata at 11:45 AM on October 24, 2019 [10 favorites]


Taking LSD in my late teens cured me of this.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:49 AM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's because of having nearly drowned at a very young age or some other childhood trauma (there are plenty to choose from, remembered and unremembered), but I don't understand why people find it difficult to confront their eventual nonexistence.

Regrets, I get. Fear of a long slow decline, I get. Fear for the people who depend on us, I get. I don't get why it a person should dread the fact that someday they won't be, unless the belief in an afterlife where eternal torture is not unlikely is involved, and I'm pretty sure that is entirely learned.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the immediate fight or flight response to an imminent risk of death/bodily harm. What I think I'm missing is how the thought of not waking up one morning, for example, causes anxiety and dread. Or maybe I'm making a distinction that doesn't really exist?

If anyone has a good primer on what, exactly, is scary about (abstract future) death and where that fear came from/how it develops, or even anecdotes that might explain, I'd appreciate the effort, because it really is no more real to me than unicorns.

(And yes, people in my life have died, hence the distinction between fearing for what your death will mean to others and the fear of no longer existing as a conscious being.)
posted by wierdo at 11:52 AM on October 24, 2019 [6 favorites]


The whole thing read as BS to me. I'm in my mid 60s. My father died at 72 and my mother at 82. I will die in the not too distant future. I just hope the process does not affect my family too much.
posted by baegucb at 11:53 AM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


my brain has not generally done a good job of shielding me from existential fear...
posted by supermedusa at 12:15 PM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Why worry about dying? I mean, it's something that's never going to happen during your lifetime, so...
posted by bartleby at 12:27 PM on October 24, 2019 [8 favorites]


I had some existential angst for a short period of time as a child. And then it went away. Today, it's further refined into a casual acknowledgment of death, which does not scare me. There was a time before I was alive, then I was alive, and there will be a time after which I am not alive. No idea what, if anything happens after that. But...it happened once (being alive), so...¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So death, no big deal.

Pretty sure that dying is likely to suck, though.
posted by chromecow at 1:08 PM on October 24, 2019


Little Bill Daggett: I don't deserve this... to die like this. I was building a house.
Will Munny: Deserve's got nothin' to do with it.

Will Munny: It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.
Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.

Little Bill Daggett: I heard that one myself, Bob. Hell, I even thought I was dead 'til I found out it was just that I was in Nebraska.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:52 PM on October 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


Phaedo, yes. But also Gilagmesh and Utnapishtim, which answers the question "Why don't we live forever?" and Orpheus and Eurydice, which answers the question "Why can't people come back after death?"

The Gilgamesh one has been on my mind recently, so here's the short version in my own words:

Gilgamesh, in mourning after the death of his best friend Enkidu, goes to find the only people in the world who are immortal: Utnapishtim and his wife. After a long journey, Gilgamesh arrives at their house and asks to learn the secret of immortality. Utnapishtim says "Yes, I have the secret and I can tell it to you, but you must do one thing first: stay awake for seven days."

Gilgamesh is tired from his journey, and instead of staying awake, he sleeps for seven days. During that time, Utnapishtim's wife bakes a loaf of bread every day and sets it by his bedside. When Gilgamesh awakens, he sees seven loaves: one fresh, one stale, one dry, one hard, one moldy, one soggy, one dust. In a world without calendars or clocks, the bread is proof that time has passed.

Utnapishtim comes and greets Gilgamesh, and says words to the effect of "How do you expect to be able to cope with eternal life if you can't even stay awake for seven days?"
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:05 PM on October 24, 2019 [15 favorites]


I suspect Little eirias of having some existential anxiety. Pretty sure that’s part of what underlies her fixation with pretending she is Harry Potter.
posted by eirias at 3:35 PM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I actually have lived quite a bit in a state of believing that I was going to die this day, as a child (this occasionally was actually the case, but for something intervening) and then later as my brain misfired as an adult. So I did quite a bit of therapy about it, including and especially when I was pregnant past the first trimester and thought it was important in becoming a healthier adult-soon-to-be-mother that I stopped believing that my life and everything good would be yanked away by the kind of awful things that made me think that in the first place.

Then my daughter died, and honestly, I think I was the least surprised person in the room.

Now that was many moons ago and now I have living children and mostly at least once a day I allow myself to think that they might come home okay.

So basically, my brain seems to have been shielded in the other direction.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:35 PM on October 24, 2019 [8 favorites]


how else do you occupy your brain at night without thinking of how death is coming to all of us but you've made your peace with it and then endless streams of spinning spinning always spinning how do we know we are not dead already and no one can actually prove it and how trustful we are of each other and our animal instinct to survive stops us from turning the wheel 2 cm and rushing to our death and it's a beautiful thing that trust and humanity is so fragile and we should be kind to each other in the time we have..and why are corners called corners?? That's like my full time hobby.
posted by kanata at 5:43 PM on October 24, 2019 [4 favorites]


I had an out of body death-like experience when I was like 16. Despite being a total atheist, this life is all you have, kind of person...

It has impacted my thinking forever, and nearing 60...
posted by Windopaene at 5:47 PM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]



What I continue to find strange is how many people this hasn't seemed to happen to yet. Oh, they know they're going to die and they accept it in an abstract sort of way. But they don't own it. They don't live it.

To paraphrase a Richard Brautigan poem -- boy, are they going to be surprised.


being proud of knowing about death is hilarious, like a combination of bragging about knowing of a popular band you think is an obscure indie & being proud of repeatedly jamming your thumb into your eye.

people talk like they think they're saving up for good-behavior coupons in hell, & they're sure to be rewarded for their knowingness on their deathbed with a softer passage. in fact you can't pre-pay for death agonies on an emotional installment plan or by being smarter about existential issues than other people. you, too, are in for a surprise.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:11 PM on October 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


A free man thinks of nothing less than of death, and his wisdom is a meditation, not on death, but on life.--Spinoza
posted by No Robots at 9:22 PM on October 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


I remember when I was 11 or 12, sitting on the grass next to the tennis courts one afternoon, when I realized that in a hundred years, everybody I knew, including myself, would be dead and forgotten, which meant that nothing I did or felt mattered.

In the past 17 years, I've had two serious hospitalizations for pulmonary problems which could have been fatal. I was a little surprised to realize that I had absolutely no fear of death.

FWIT, I'm not at all religious and don't believe in any sort of post-mortem existence.
posted by bcarter3 at 11:04 PM on October 24, 2019


I take my cue from John Yossarian -- I'm going to live forever or die in the attempt.

I never really thought about it that much but had a heart attack in 1999 (in bed with The Lovely And Talented Sandy From San AntoneTM) that didn't really get me to thinking about it that much either except from then on I would be riding my mountain bike or swimming maybe and that inner voice that runs says "I'm dying." No kidding, this began happening to me.

It got my attention.

So I went to my doc. EKG. Nothing. Stethoscope here and there, heard nothing. Set me up an appointment at The Austin Heart Hospital -- another EKG, a stress test on treadmill while wired for sound, maybe (?) an MRI. They found nothing. Had they shot dye into me and taken a peek they'd have slammed a stent into my cardiac artery -- The Widow Maker ArteryTM -- before they let me walk out the damn door.

But they didn't do that test.

Damn them.

The "I'm dying." tape kept running. It spooked me. It never said "Hey, I feel weird." It never said "Hey, what the hell is this?" Nope. Always it says "I'm dying." Almost always when I was on the mountain bike, or swimming. "I'm dying." It didn't happen every time I rode or swam but it happened enough.

It'd spook you, too.

So then come July 2004 I had The Heart Attacks That Killed Me Dead As DillingerTM. That whole affair really fucked me up, took an awful lot of time, and energy, and recovery, etc and etc, blah blah blah.

What it's left me with is real annoyance, a hot temper. I'm like "I've already done my bit for death." I'm like "I gave at the office." I'm like "Go away." "Beat it." I'm all like "Get the fuck outta here." I was 47 when I croaked and damned if I'm not going to have another 47 before I even consider any proposal that I'll allow the show to end again. Because fuck that.

It's why I'm so berserk on the bike-riding bit. It's why I'm so berserk on the whole eating right thing, except when I don't but still. I watch my cholesterol like a miser counting his gold, blood pressure, too. Because these are things I can do. I watch people smoke, or eat fistfuls of twinkies, I cringe.

And I do think that not allowing myself to even consider anything else does help me keep my chair at the table here. Because since I know that I am going to ride 11 miles on that bicycle every goddamn day whether I feel like it or not, I don't seem to get sick. Because who wants to ride sick? (Not I.) When flu season hits, I stay away from crowds inside. I push my body hard and it seems to pay -- my cardiologist laughs his ass off to see my numbers, which are just ridiculous -- my resting pulse rate is just above death. (OK, so not really, but it's low.)

So yeah. I'm with Yossarian: I'm going to live forever or die in the attempt.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:32 AM on October 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


Count me among those who worried about death from an early age, to the point of having panic attacks, and sort of knowing that heaven was just a fairy story even when I was still a believer in God. I can still to this day bring on a panic attack if I think about it, but I've got better about avoiding that. After all, what can be done? So what is the use in worrying?

So it surprises me not a bit that the brain might have a part to play in that shielding. I think it's needed to some degree. Not to the point of total denial though - obviously fear of death plays a part in keeping you alive. But if I was being controlled by that fear I'd never have bought a motorbike. The danger is that fear of death ends up stopping you from living, I suppose.

I have at times tried to remind myself that living forever is just as horrifying a thought. I'm not sure humans are even wired to understand the concept of forever. But it's not really much solace, if I'm being honest.
posted by Acey at 4:52 AM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


"The scientists found that if a person’s own face flashed up next to deathly words, their brain shut down its prediction system."

So this article about how our thought processes hide in a hole when faced with the inevitability of our own death is predicated on a claim that we can detect when a human brains "shuts down its prediction system".

I have a bad feeling about this.
posted by hat_eater at 5:30 AM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Sally: Amanda mentioned you had a dark side.
Harry: That's what drew her to me.
Sally: Your dark side.
Harry: Sure. Why, don't you have a dark side? No, you're probably one of those cheerful people who dots their eyes with little hearts.
Sally: I have just as much of a dark side as the next person.
Harry: Oh, really. When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first; that way in case I die before I finish I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.
Sally: That doesn't mean you're deep or anything. I mean...yes, basically I'm a happy person...
Harry: So am I.
Sally: ...and I don't see that there's anything wrong with that.
Harry: Of course not, you're too busy being happy. Do you ever think about death?
Sally: Yes.
Harry: Sure you do, a fleeting thought that jumps in and out of the transom of your mind. I spend hours, I spend days...
Sally: And you think this makes you a better person.
Harry: Look, when the shit comes down, I'm gonna be prepared and you're not, that's all I'm saying.
Sally: And in the mean time you're gonna ruin your whole life waiting for it.
posted by mefireader at 6:38 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I was a super-morbid kid. My family was small and most relatives were elderly, so my youth was a steady stream of funerals. I was also in chronic pain from a birth deformity and saw no way out of that other than death as my pain was seen by my folks as some kind of moral failing.

Then when I was 20, a very close friend was diagnosed with advanced cancer. I witnessed his parents‘ struggle, saw every step of his anguished march toward death. Marc was an unusual man with a powerful intellect and he was outraged to find his life truncated.

One afternoon near the end I was alone with Marc, when I burst into tears. He looked at me with anger.

“Okay,” he mustered his breath to speak. “You can get up, leave this room, go get in a car, drive into town, go into a diner and enjoy food and drink, pay for your meal and then drive away. I will never again do any of these things... Don’t sit in front of me crying. If I could trade places with you I would, and I wouldn’t be crying. I’d be hiking, eating, making love! Your time is short—don’t waste it! Live, because I can’t. Live, because I will never forgive you if you don’t.

I’ve spent little time pondering my own mortality since. There are so many better things to do.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:56 AM on October 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


#DeathPositive

I never used to be afraid of death at all, but as I creep toward middle age, I do get twinges of death-related terror, because I'm dealing more in the long-term, both forwards and backwards. One day, all the learning and skills I've built up will disappear. One day, all the planning I've done for the future, all the saving and scrimping and looking forward, will be no use to me.

I try and let that be a source of motivation - to live in the moment, or to create things to leave behind. A little bit of memento mori is healthy. So long as it doesn't take over your life. Understand the seven sources of death anxiety - You will die. And everything will be OK.
posted by Glier's Goetta at 9:35 AM on October 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


I never used to be afraid of death at all, but as I creep toward middle age, I do get twinges of death-related terror, because I'm dealing more in the long-term, both forwards and backwards.

I have definitely found that it is more difficult to be stoic about death after age 50.
posted by thelonius at 10:02 AM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


"I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." -- Mark Twain

It doesn't really help, though, does it?
posted by sneebler at 11:09 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I think an important part of living a contented life is being comfortable with the inevitability of your death. Like a lot of others I went through a crisis soon after the birth of our first child and I was convinced I was going to die and abandon those who depended on me. I slowly came to realise that if I was to live my life fearing death that I would be better off dead. I made a bargain with myself that I would do what I could to reach 50 and after that everything would be a bonus. I hit 50 more than 10 years ago and I refuse to bow down to fear. So to Death I say, "Bring it on, I got what I wanted".
posted by night_train at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


It doesn't really help, though, does it?

No, not really. Twain is swiping an argument from, I think, Lucretius, called the "symmetry argument" in the literature, but most people, in the intervening 2000 years or have not found "you didn't exist before you were born so what do you have to complain about?" persuasive.
posted by thelonius at 11:43 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


people put up numerous defences to stave off thoughts of death. The young in particular may see it as a problem for other people, he said.

Erm.

For the young, it pretty much is a problem for other people.

I mean. There are some exceptions, as noted in this thread. But. The reason the average 8- or 12- or even 22-year-old doesn't think death is a personal concern, isn't because of increased denial.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:21 AM on October 26, 2019


Cattle die
kinsmen die
all men are mortal.
Words of praise
will never perish
nor a noble name.

-The Havamal

To win any battle, you must fight as if you are already dead
Miyamoto Musashi

I spent a lot of time, in total, over my life poking at my stats and actuarial tables. (I find it fun, for a given value of fun.) I figure that I should make it to my mid- to late sixties, barring misadventure. Body size, family background, health conditions, not being sufficiently enamored of life to put in the intensity of work that would push the margin by three to five years, all seem just like one more form of data manipulation to me. Everyone ceases to be.

There has been a group of people saying that life extension is just around the corner since the late 1800's (different people, same group), probably at the same intersection that has usable fusion power, and that once we have that immortality is easily within our grasp. It is the same bollocks that powers the, "We will just upload our minds into computers," people. At some point we are all going to die. The technology they hunger for has no basis in the theory we currently possess. Live well, leave a legacy that others can admire or at least not find worthy of vilification, and fill out a living will. Assume that life extension will happen after you die. Probably long after. Focus on what you want people to think about you when you are gone. Don't care what others think, prepare to be forgotten, or remembered as a cautionary tale.

Taxes can be evaded, Death will always find you.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 7:58 PM on October 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


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