Momento mori


About 150,000 people die every day in the world. You and I will die too. Could be from a vein rupture in 5 minutes, could be from a car accident next year, could also be 20 years from now or even more. I am currently (October 12, 2021) 68 years old and that is 25107 days. According to the death clock, I would die on October 9, 2025, 74 years old. Not so good. Okay, maybe I should do something about my BMI, exercise more and not drink 'tinto de verano' every day.

In addition to some alcohol, I take a blood thinner, a cholesterol inhibitor and an antacid every day. And I eat almost no meat. Hopefully that will help too. Anyway, one day the day will come, which will be my last.

I don't want to die. I have a huge fear of not being there anymore. The idea of not being there anymore just baffles me. I also find the many painful ways to die terrifying: suffocation, burning, decapitation, a heart attack. Horrible.

Someone recently posted on Facebook:

"At the end of the day, the only purpose of spiritual seeking is to make peace with one's fear of death."

I think that's true, but I find it anything but easy to dwell on that.

In fact, the fear of dying is our most fundamental fear. This fear is described as the fear of destruction, of ceasing to exist. This is a more fundamental way of expressing it than just 'fear of death'. The idea of no longer existing arouses a primary existential fear in all normal people. Just think of that panicky feeling you get when you look over the edge of a tall building.

And what would happen at the moment suprême? In all likelihood, I think, it would be similar to going under anesthesia: whack, lights out, no consciousness, nothing. Without ever waking up again.

The body has been dying for years and one day the heart also gives up, the brain gets no more blood and also dies and that's it.

This is what I think, but of course I don't really know. This would only be true if our whole existence is only material. Maybe there is 'something' in us that is not material and this 'soul' or separate spirit survives physical death. Perhaps our life is just a phase in a larger whole in that spirit and we enter a new phase after death, perhaps in a new body? Many people believe such a thing. But why should I believe that? Is there evidence for an 'afterlife'? Is there evidence for the idea that spirit is primary and the world merely a phenomenon in and as that spirit?

I think not. For example: some spiritual teachers use the following reasoning: you can never experience anything that is not in the mind and therefore the conclusion is: there is only mind. But such a reasoning actually only says that there is spirit. Yes, of course it exists. But it says nothing about the primary beingness (the 'ontology') of mind. On the other hand, there is also no evidence for the opposite, which is called physicalism 1). Physicalists have the greatest difficulty with the existence of this same mind; they call this the 'hard problem' and it boils down to the following: the experience of the color red (or any other perception) cannot be reduced to properties of elementary particles and forces. There are also physicalists who completely deny that there is such a thing as 'mind' or 'subjectivity' or 'consciousness' at all, which is of course absurd.

Conclusion: no conclusion. And by extension to the question of whether there is a personal survival after the death of the body: we don't know. No one knows. So it comes down to learning to live with the uncertainty and with the real possibility that there is simply nothing after death.

One thing I do know for sure is that I am alive and I am living now, and that is absolutely incredible. Hence the poet Horace compared the day to a flower:

[...] sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi spem longam reseces. dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.

[...] be wise, finish the wine and set your dream of the future against the short time you have been given. As we speak, the envious time has already flown: seize the day and count on tomorrow as little as possible.

1) Fysicalism: the assumption that everything is physical, and that immaterial properties - things of a psychological, moral, or social nature - arise from the physical, that is, the properties of elementary particles and associated force fields