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Afraid of death

starlanceriistarlancerii Registered User regular
edited August 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
This is going to be kind of odd, but I'm being completely serious.

I'm 23, agnostic, and the thought of someday dying terrifies me. Well, most of the time, I'm fine, but occasionally, when I'm lying in bed sleepless, I start worrying about someday dying, and what happens afterward, and it really scares me. Then I fall asleep and forget all about it the next day, but I'm trying to figure this out - I've pretty much felt this way as long as I can remember, at least since middle school, though as I said its off and on, mostly when I'm lying in bed sleepless, which is thankfully not that often.

Part of the problem is that because I'm agnostic, I don't particularly believe in some sort of an afterlife - as far as I can tell, death is just the end of consciousness - its like going to sleep forever, without being able to wake up refreshed. And so, I'll just simply stop existing, forever. Within a generation or two, I'll be completely forgotten, even. And well, yeah, its part of the natural cycle, but that doesn't mean it can't freak me out.

It seems to me like there are two obvious solutions:
1) Start believing in a religion. I'd actually like to, but easier said than done - I'm one of those skeptic types.
2) Wait for clinical immortality / to become an cyborg.

At the moment neither seem particularly likely, so I was wondering if anybody had any thoughts on the subject, whether I'm alone in feeling this way, or if others have felt this way sometime during their life.

starlancerii on
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    TheStigTheStig Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Have kids, it's the next best thing to immortality.

    TheStig on
    bnet: TheStig#1787 Steam: TheStig
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    Chop LogicChop Logic Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Welcome to being alive.

    As for a religion, if you're serious, I'm agnostic also, and the Tao Te Chin and Hua He Ching absolutely blew my mind, they are two Taoist books and are not religious in the sense of they speak about God and the afterlife, but and I highly recommend them, though they are more about how to live than dying.

    As a more serious answer, I find that my fear of death subsides when I find myself spending my life productively, spending most of my time cultivating a life long skill, such as drawing or playing an instrument, though I'm not sure how that applies to you.

    Chop Logic on
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    MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    The impression I get from the major religions is that their deities are reasonable when it comes to belief, and are mainly concerned with people being decent to themselves and each other.

    My philosophy is to live life as though I might have to answer for it, and everything will be fine as a result.

    MKR on
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    ZsetrekZsetrek Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Fear of death has nothing to do with what your conception of the afterlife is, and everything to do with how you frame your own place within the living world.

    Zsetrek on
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    ProPatriaMoriProPatriaMori Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Even if you're forgotten, you've irrevocably changed the system.

    ProPatriaMori on
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    Sparticus773Sparticus773 Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    If you have any questions, I can help you find them, by that i mean i have a bible and personal expirience.
    It is important to call on God when you are having problems with life and death. In fact, I would much rather you, instead of asking me or anyone else on these forums for advice, first pray to God.

    For those of you who don't believe that want to rebut, argue, or discuss this kind of thing, I am open to talk, but I just want to say that refusing to belief in something doesn't make it go away.

    Sparticus773 on
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    MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    If you have any questions, I can help you find them, by that i mean i have a bible and personal expirience.
    It is important to call on God when you are having problems with life and death. In fact, I would much rather you, instead of asking me or anyone else on these forums for advice, first pray to God.

    For those of you who don't believe that want to rebut, argue, or discuss this kind of thing, I am open to talk, but I just want to say that refusing to belief in something doesn't make it go away.

    I'm an atheist, but I'll admit to having sent out a few holy APBs just in case. :rotate:

    MKR on
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    starlanceriistarlancerii Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    sparticus, its not that I refuse to believe in god, its just that I simply don't believe.

    I don't want to turn this into a religious argument, but I just do not believe in god because my mind demands rational proof, whereas religion demands faith, and I'm not inclined to simply take their word for it. I'd agree with MKR in that religion helps keep people decent to themselves and others, which I try to live by just for the sake of being a decent human being, but the belief part I really can't get into. Maybe someday I'll have a life-altering event that will inspire my faith, but right now I just simply don't believe.

    Chop Logic, I'll take a look at those two books, they sound interesting.

    And yeah, even though I'll eventually be a forgotten name in the archives somewhere, I'll have irrevocably changed the world, but in a completely insignificant way. In the big picture, the universe will go on without me. Its like in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where somebody invents a machine that shows you the entire universe and your place in it, overwhelming the viewer's sense of significance and causing them to fall over dead. Kinda like that.

    starlancerii on
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    EverywhereasignEverywhereasign Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    For those of you who don't believe that want to rebut, argue, or discuss this kind of thing, I am open to talk, but I just want to say that refusing to belief in something doesn't make it go away.

    and believing in something with all your heart doesn't make it so.

    To paraphrase Penn Jillette; For me being dead is just like 1922. I just won't be there, no matter what, ever. I won't exist at all.

    Just like others take comfort in the fact that they believe in an afterlife, I take comfort in not believing in an afterlife. I won't be uncomfortable, I won't be sad. I won't worry about my friends or family. Me, as I know it, will cease to exist. For this exact reason I like to make what I can of the time I do have here. I don't expect a do-over, so I make the most of the time I have.

    To Sparticus733 and the other religious types, someone once told me that his idea of an afterlife would be that you experience every single moment in your life where you acted in such a way that you hurt another person. Except you experience it from their point of view. If I were afraid of an afterlife, that would certainly do it for me. I couldn't think of a better reason to be a good person then that.

    Everywhereasign on
    "What are you dense? Are you retarded or something? Who the hell do you think I am? I'm the goddamn Batman!"
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    ZombiemamboZombiemambo Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I don't have much more than blatant truth to offer you:

    Everybody dies. Everybody. You will die no matter how much you don't want to. So you can choose to live your life fearing death or understand that death is inevitable and spend your time making your life enjoyable.

    Zombiemambo on
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    starlanceriistarlancerii Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Just like others take comfort in the fact that they believe in an afterlife, I take comfort in not believing in an afterlife. I won't be uncomfortable, I won't be sad. I won't worry about my friends or family. Me, as I know it, will cease to exist. For this exact reason I like to make what I can of the time I do have here. I don't expect a do-over, so I make the most of the time I have.

    To Sparticus733 and the other religious types, someone once told me that his idea of an afterlife would be that you experience every single moment in your life where you acted in such a way that you hurt another person. Except you experience it from their point of view. If I were afraid of an afterlife, that would certainly do it for me. I couldn't think of a better reason to be a good person then that.

    Dang, I've never thought of it that way. I'll ponder on that as I go to sleep (dead tired tonight, will collapse and immediately fall asleep)

    starlancerii on
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    OremLKOremLK Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Commit yourself to doing something you think may be important to future generations. I understand exactly how you feel, truly--not necessarily fear in the sense of mortal terror. More worry that when I'm dead my life will have had negligible impact.

    It drives me to achieve. I don't know what your constructive passions are for, but I'm convinced that everyone has them, even if they're buried deep for some, or hidden under layers of fear and lack of motivation. Find out what those passions are and pursue them. For me, I wrote a novel; I made a game. I write music, and fiddle poorly with art. But I have serious problems with sticking to any one pursuit, and I tend to flit about from one thing to the next.

    You don't have to be so "Jack of all trades, master of none", but do something. Maybe your secret passion is simply to raise children, as mentioned earlier in the thread. Maybe you want to pursue science, or business, or education, or any number of other things. Do something impactful. Make it your goal and work toward it, whether it's your day job or whether you do it off the clock.

    In other words, funnel your fear of mortality into something constructive. True satisfaction is, and should be, a myth. Be afraid, and be great. Not everyone can be, but everyone can try to be.

    OremLK on
    My zombie survival life simulator They Don't Sleep is out now on Steam if you want to check it out.
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    TerrendosTerrendos Decorative Monocle Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    You might also consider that, though people may forget you, you have ultimately contributed in some way to the creation of tomorrow's world. I may not do anything particularly amazing during my life, but as Clarence says in It's a Wonderful Life, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" If you believe that the world is chaotic, you have to accept the truth that your very existence irrevocably altered the future. Your name may be lost to time, but what's a name? Even the teenagers Romeo and Juliet recognized how worthless a name is in the big scheme of things. Even if everyone forgets you, you've still left your footprints in the sand.

    I think people tend to ask themselves these questions when they don't think they're going anywhere in life. If that's the case, perhaps now might be the time to re-examine yourself, and especially your goals. More importantly, remember that every action you make will echo throughout eternity. Do you want those echoes to be good ones or bad ones?

    Terrendos on
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    TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu PIGEON Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    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

    TychoCelchuuu on
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    I'd Fuck Chuck Lidell UpI'd Fuck Chuck Lidell Up Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    conservation of energy dictates that in essence you will still be around long after you are dead even if you aren't conscious of it. that thousands of years into the future the energy required to maintain my body will still exist in some form thrills me entirely more than the thought of my soul existing in heaven.

    but i'm pretty weird so there's that

    I'd Fuck Chuck Lidell Up on
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    ProPatriaMoriProPatriaMori Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    And yeah, even though I'll eventually be a forgotten name in the archives somewhere, I'll have irrevocably changed the world, but in a completely insignificant way. In the big picture, the universe will go on without me. Its like in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where somebody invents a machine that shows you the entire universe and your place in it, overwhelming the viewer's sense of significance and causing them to fall over dead. Kinda like that.

    This has yet to be seen. Everybody starts somewhere. Little changes can lead to big ones.

    Not that it matters, really. Looks like the universe will just keep on expanding anyway.

    ProPatriaMori on
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    El Puncho McCrazy FistsEl Puncho McCrazy Fists Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    In response to your original post, I think you should try simply accepting that everyone dies and try to live your life to the fullest. I do not think you should start following a religion. I know it's easier said than done but everyone fears something(s). You're gonna be fine.

    Also I have a general wondering to put out there. Why do some people who follow religion condemn people who don't believe in what they do. However it seems at the same time they are trying to convert the very same people they condemn. Why can't people simply follow a religion and leave others to believe whatever they want to believe.

    I too don't want to start a religious debate. I guess it's one of those unanswerable questions.

    El Puncho McCrazy Fists on
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    KenninatorKenninator Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    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

    I remember reading that quote somewhere else on the forum during a time where I was extremely frightened of death. It provided me much comfort. Death is an inevitability. Nothing lasts forether, and even the universe might cease to exist at some point. Make your life worth living to it's fullest, and just be a good person in your interractions with other human beings, who have undoubtedly experienced the same thoughts you are at some point in their lives.

    Also, Mark Twain is my Great-great-great-etc.-Grandmother's cousin. So I'm related to Mark Twain.

    Kenninator on
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    blakfeldblakfeld Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    For those of you who don't believe that want to rebut, argue, or discuss this kind of thing, I am open to talk, but I just want to say that refusing to belief in something doesn't make it go away.

    and believing in something with all your heart doesn't make it so.

    To paraphrase Penn Jillette; For me being dead is just like 1922. I just won't be there, no matter what, ever. I won't exist at all.

    Just like others take comfort in the fact that they believe in an afterlife, I take comfort in not believing in an afterlife. I won't be uncomfortable, I won't be sad. I won't worry about my friends or family. Me, as I know it, will cease to exist. For this exact reason I like to make what I can of the time I do have here. I don't expect a do-over, so I make the most of the time I have.

    To Sparticus733 and the other religious types, someone once told me that his idea of an afterlife would be that you experience every single moment in your life where you acted in such a way that you hurt another person. Except you experience it from their point of view. If I were afraid of an afterlife, that would certainly do it for me. I couldn't think of a better reason to be a good person then that.

    I have the same issues, to the point where I would have massive breakdowns at school (were talking like senior year of highschool) and I actually had to be medicated, And Penn's line, and the Mark Twain line, actually make me feel a lot better then I have in years.

    blakfeld on
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    NisslNissl Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I think most people get a bit of this from time to time. In my opinion, it's not a terrible thing as long as the fear isn't crippling. I generally apply a "deathbed" test to major decisions - i.e. what would I be happy about looking back on things from my deathbed. Some people have told me it's morbid, but I think it puts a lot of things in the proper perspective.

    A third option besides the two you listed? I guess this is a bit of a pitch, but I wound up doing zen awareness practices; you could still easily still call me atheist or agnostic, or "spiritual but not religious" as I haven't adopted any concrete beliefs. Zen is not about approaching reality by using your logical mind to artificially construct or adhere to specific beliefs, which is obviously a useless approach in my opinion. Rather it is about slowly, continuously identifying internal tensions (?) that are currently constricting your internal experience of reality. Personally, I found a lot of what I thought was severe existential angst was based on some of these unidentified tensions.

    Nissl on
    360: Purkinje
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    RubberACRubberAC Sidney BC!Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    This happens a lot. And for me it really is crippling. It's never a problem for me unless i'm alone, in the dark, trying to sleep... Does that happen to you? I haven't slept without the radio or tv on (to distract my mind) for years.
    I'm starting to get better about it because I've just stuck to the "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it" mindset. I'm young. You're young. You don't have to worry about this for a long time. The advice given here ( not the religious advice, you sound pretty unsure about that right now ) is exactly what you need. I think I have a bigger problem with other people dying than me. I mean, once I'm gone, I can't complain. That's that. Done. Living without other people, knowing they aren't thinking about you anymore is the hardest.
    I probaby shouldn't have said all that ok don't read that.
    Find lots of hobbies, and if you have to think about dying at all, do what others here have said; accept it. There is nothing you can do about it.

    RubberAC on
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    oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I don't really know how to help you except to tell you my approach.

    I'm an athiest. I know that this life is all I have, and I accept that. Honestly, death is what gives value to life and the time each of us has. If we lived forever, our time wouldn't be worth anything. Therefore, I make the most of my life. I live the way I want to and take advantage of what the time I have.

    oldsak on
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    KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Maybe try some sort of exercise where you vest your faith in a wider concept of life itself - try to empathise and associate yourself with your family/community/species/life/gaia (I can't say that without thinking of Captain Planet) etc - with the goal that your fear gets lessened because you understand life generally will go on. I'm not sure if this exercise will be effective, but I think it is sort of what I do.

    Of course personal mortality can be a hard thing to get over, and the religions of the world reflect this paranoia in part (while conceding there is a broader purpose for religions than addressing this). There may be little you can do to fight this fear. So if you must find religion to give yourself something to hope in, then try something with reincarnation (Buddhism?).

    Kalkino on
    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
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    JurgJurg In a TeacupRegistered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Regardless of it's religious connections, the Tao Te Ching is an interesting book anyway. I just read it a few days ago, actually.

    The easiest way to break a fear of death, in my opinion, is to spend your time in ways that would make your life worth it. Like, think over the course of your whole life: was it worth it?

    When weighing things out, the positives always seem to win out, if I even finish calculating. Normally, I am distracted by good memories.

    Jurg on
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    OremLKOremLK Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    oldsak wrote: »
    I don't really know how to help you except to tell you my approach.

    I'm an athiest. I know that this life is all I have, and I accept that. Honestly, death is what gives value to life and the time each of us has. If we lived forever, our time wouldn't be worth anything. Therefore, I make the most of my life. I live the way I want to and take advantage of what the time I have.

    I like this line of thought; death is the price for life, and without a cost, can there be value?

    OremLK on
    My zombie survival life simulator They Don't Sleep is out now on Steam if you want to check it out.
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    JamesKeenanJamesKeenan Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I have very much the same issue, and have since I was around 14. Add in basic insomnia, vomiting, constant anxiety, hyperventilation, panic fits and that's about where I am.


    Except those lines make me feel worse, and wanna throw up or punch something until I calm down. Usually the air...

    JamesKeenan on
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    NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I'm agnostic as well, and I've dealt with the idea of death by considering ways I could help people. If I've been able to change peoples' lives for the better, then that means I've made an impact in the world. Even consider the butterfly effect - your mere existence could have a huge effect down the road at some point, even after your death.

    Also, I'm sure for hundreds (thousands?) of years, lots of people have been thinking the same thing...that one day, they'll be forgotten. And almost all of them have been. It's kind of bizarre, but I feel that once the memory of me fades, I can at least take comfort that I'm not the only person that's been forgotten, I'm one of billions, at least.

    In the meantime, however, I feel that the larger impact I can make in peoples' lives, the better. Even just being kind and smiling to somebody you see in the street could have an impact on their day, you never know. Maybe they were horribly depressed, and you helped brighten their day somehow. Maybe that makes them feel better the next day, and that week they start to feel better, they start thinking in a more positive way, they change their life for the better the next month, etc etc etc. I'll admit a lot of it may be a long shot, but still, you never know, and things like that could happen.

    Small things that acquaintances/strangers have done for me in the past have affected me in such a way, sometimes, that I think about it long after it happened. If you can have that effect on somebody, you're leaving your mark on the world, somehow...and knowing that, I feel, helps me cope with the idea that eventually I'll cease to exist - part of me will "live on" through the changes I've brought about.

    NightDragon on
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    The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited January 2009
    Totally normal, and I'll be happy so long as it makes you drive more carefully and be nice to retards and old people. If a large whale and a small pot of african violets lands on you... now, will you feel that you've done ok up until the point where you were done in by blubber and terracotta?

    The Cat on
    tmsig.jpg
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    joshgotrojoshgotro Deviled Egg The Land of REAL CHILIRegistered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Did you just quote what I think you just quoted?

    joshgotro on
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    Aoi TsukiAoi Tsuki Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    joshgotro wrote: »
    Did you just quote what I think you just quoted?

    Forty-two.

    I was never much afraid of death myself, because when my dad's mother was on her deathbed (before I was born), Dad was holding her hand as she passed on, and at the very last second, he said she suddenly looked up, and she had the most pleased, surprised, and joyous look on her face, as if she'd seen something too wonderful to even begin to describe. Then she died.

    Unless you're a total asshole, I doubt you have anything to worry about.

    Aoi Tsuki on
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    joshgotrojoshgotro Deviled Egg The Land of REAL CHILIRegistered User regular
    edited January 2009
    strangeness. I'm holding my towel.

    joshgotro on
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    AsiinaAsiina ... WaterlooRegistered User regular
    edited January 2009
    This thread is all too familiar to me. Ever since I was a kid I would lie awake at night in an absolute panic about my death. I still do it. I feel like I'll just die any day now and it terrifies me. But then I think that I thought that the night before, and I didn't die today. And the night before that, and I didn't die that day. Panicking about it isn't going to make it happen or not happen.

    But I understand that it's difficult to get your mind off it. I just hate the idea of something some infinite and incomprehensible. I can't wrap my head around it. Lately I've had a bit of insomnia since I've practically associated going to bed with being in a panic about death.

    The only thing that truly helps is having a goal. Having something to look forward to. Not a generic goal, but something specific with a date. Saying that you're not going to die before this happens. Then, after it happens, you set a new date goal. Then when you worry about death and dying, just think towards that goal and how much fun it will be and how you will look forward to it. I've been using this goal approach for many, many years and it usually does the trick. The worst times I have are when I'm between goals.

    It may not work for you, but that's the approach that's kept me sane.

    Asiina on
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    PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    When I was younger, I saved a child from drowning.

    I feel pretty comfortable that if nothing else, at least one person will remember me after I die. They may not remember my name. They may not recognize my face.

    But they'll remember me.

    PeregrineFalcon on
    Looking for a DX:HR OnLive code for my kid brother.
    Can trade TF2 items or whatever else you're interested in. PM me.
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    SammyFSammyF Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?" ~The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    SammyF on
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    TalithTalith 変態という名の紳士 Miami, FLRegistered User regular
    edited January 2009
    People need to die. That's just the way of it. An interesting mental exercise is envisioning a world where absolutely no one dies. How would you regulate it? What would society be like? Would having children be a bad thing?

    One of the modern problems of the world is how to deal with the ever increasing amount of old people.

    I'm not trying to say that you should live and die young; what I want to say is that you should strive to live as long as you can, as healthy and able as you can. Strive never to be a burden.

    I'm an atheist and believe that once you are gone it's game over. I thought about death, and it led me to my own (but probably not unique) idea I call the centurian plan. The idea is to live to 100 years of age. The jist of it is that through constant everyday physical and mental stimulation, along with clean eating, I should be able to reach a healthy 100 years of age. My quality of life has already skyrocketed. I feel that if I should die somewhere along the way, I at least know I gave it my best run.

    I will have succeeded at life if I can pass on these ideals to my own progeny. In doing this I can ensure that my line lives on and stays strong. That in itself is immortality.

    I also think it would be absolutely bitchin' if I give my son my name, and he in turn gives his son his name. I am "Talith" the third, the fourth, etc.

    Talith on
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    Chop LogicChop Logic Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I don't know if it would actually make you feel any better, but someone mentioned before how in most religions, the 'God' or deity is more concerned with people being good than actually believing in him. This is what I've found also. I know that, for example, even in Buddhist scriptures, a religion that teaches that you have to dedicate your life to achieving nirvana, give up all possessions and desires, etc., there are often people in what I guess you would call their version of heaven that just did good things.

    Chop Logic on
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    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I also am afraid of dying—not because I am worried about the experience of being dead (there isn't any), but rather because I am having a pretty good time being alive and I'd like to see what happens to humanity.

    I don't think there's any easy answer. You could become religious, but I think you know that would be dishonest (plus, I don't really find the idea of being created by a Mesopotamian sky deity as his slave, then threatened with torture and hellfire unless I submit to his rather bronze-age rules, and only then get rewarded with an afterlife that seems to entail blind, unintelligent worship of this deity for all eternity—this doesn't sound comforting to me, I don't know about you).

    The immortality/cyborg route might pan out, though. Have you heard of the Singularity? Personally, I'm going to do everything within my power to push humanity in the direction of technological immortality, because fuck dying.

    Qingu on
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    Sir Red of the MantiSir Red of the Manti Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I figure I somehow managed to pop into existence at least once, so chances are I could probably pull it off again. Knowing this keeps me from fearing death.

    Sir Red of the Manti on
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    SakebombSakebomb Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I went through this for a while. Completely terrified of the inevitable day when I will cease to exist.
    Your rational mind has gotten you into this debacle, since the idea of an afterlife is unlikely, so approach this from a rational perspective:

    If there is an afterlife, then you have nothing to worry about, you will continue to exist after you die.

    If there is not, then you will cease to exist. Your life, your memories, you emotions, all gone. But that also means emotions like anxiety, regret, worry, and fear, will also be gone. You will be in a state of complete rest. Something you can look forward to.

    If that’s still not enough for you, look into getting cryogenically frozen.
    That’s what I plan on doing when I die.

    Sakebomb on
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    MagnumCTMagnumCT Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I'm with you, friend, only I add night terrors to the list. I have them almost every night now.

    MagnumCT on
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