Death - an essay

by [anonymous]2 min read2nd Feb 2017No comments

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This essay may not hold a position by the end. See [the original meaning of writing essays if you're confused](http://www.paulgraham.com/essay.html).

[A cursory search for discussion articles on death](http://lesswrong.com/search/results?cx=015839050583929870010%3A-802ptn4igi&cof=FORID%3A11&ie=UTF-8&q=death+good+bad&siteurl=lesswrong.com%2Flw%2Fup%2Fshut_up_and_do_the_impossible%2F&ref=&ss=2344j623296j14), though not necessarily optimized to exploit the best results, [yielded](http://lesswrong.com/lw/f4q/ambitious_utilitarians_must_concern_themselves/) [several](http://lesswrong.com/lw/joh/thoughts_on_death/) [results](http://lesswrong.com/lw/wq/you_only_live_twice/) [that](http://lesswrong.com/lw/2pv/intellectual_hipsters_and_metacontrarianism/) [I wasn't](http://lesswrong.com/lw/k3k/lsd_meditation_enlightenment_and_ego_death/) [necessarily satisfied with](http://lesswrong.com/lw/c39/quotes_about_death_from_the_conventional/). Particularly because nothing was definitive, nothing particularly convinced me one way or the other. Why?

Testimonials of how awful the death of a loved one was to a person doesn't satisfy me since I get emotional evidence, not necessarily empirical evidence. There were cultures that revered honorable deaths, I think of the Vikings that searched for the opportunity to die if it meant dying well, and I'm sure there were many other complex emotional testimonies one could have gleaned from such figures, and still might. Historical stories about the systematic killings of members of certain nationalities, religious groups and other affiliations strike me as the result of politics at its most grizzly, where death is the ultimate punishment. And yet I can't help but think of what a martyr must have been thinking in their minds as their doom drew to a close. Or what people do when death is an inevitability that they cannot control, and have to cope with the idea of dying. One might claim that there is an almost universal understanding of death, yet research suggests that the fear of death in children is a [learned phenomenon](http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/mfr/4919087.0001.107/--children-s-concepts-of-death?rgn=main;view=fulltext), that understanding the dread of death is [developmental milestone](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_development_stages). (Note that these are not definitive sources on such subjects, and further discussion can improve or mitigate the effects of this potential evidence).

Some might find death a liberation from their lives of pain, whether they be attributed to individual circumstances or otherwise because they convinced themselves their life is hell, or for other reasons. I will occasional see a promoter for death, talking about lowering overpopulation, elder influence, and stagnation as a result of not having a timed lifespan to operate under. I'll see people arguing death is a meaningless concept, where time is an illusion, or where there are infinitely many copies of you existing in the multiverse, making immortality a moot concept and goal. Otherwise, some may claim that the fear of death is an evolutionary bi-product, where those individual organisms that feared death had better overall selection over those that did not(another cursory search of source on this subject yielded myriad soft paywalls, additional verification would be highly appreciated).

And of course, who can forget the group of people interested in cryonic preservation, in the hopes of being saved by a new technological age. I imagine in such a group, death should not even be an option. Either because it would do the most good, or because it is the ultimate solution for the more ego-centric utilitarians. One could argue here about the cost-effectiveness of such ambitions, and that brings up a whole other kettle of fish that could simply be left without debate if more basic assumptions about death are argued about instead.

Personally, I've had only one near-death experience (though mild compared to others). It involved nearly drowning in the ocean as I was getting pulled away by tide from shore. I don't think I've ever worked so hard in my entire life before, my life depended on me being able to swim back. Of course I understand the urge to live. Ironically enough, I've had suicidal thoughts as well, though attempts at such were not very creative, and ultimately scraped for fear of putting my family in a bind. I can't really say anything on the nature of my personal stance, other than the fact that I'd like to accomplish more things before I kick the bucket, if I ever want to kick the bucket.

I am aware that this is a broad topic, and I suppose I'd prefer the topic stayed fresh in the discussion realm. Consider this an act of curiosity, exploration. I'm not so eager to declare any stances on the subject, vast subjects rarely get my eager conclusions. I hope very much that I'm the only one, and that discussion will alleviate some of this apprehension.

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