You are going to die.
How did that sentence make you feel? When you think about it, the correct response is probably something along the lines “well, duh, no kidding”… after all, the whole human thing comes with that pesky you’re going to die thing. It’s all part and parcel of this mortal coil (I could go on but the clichés are already getting a little thick), but to reiterate you already knew that,
You are going to die.
However, I get the feeling that most of you didn’t have a completely rational response. Probably some small measure of revulsion, shock, or even, dare I say it, fear, came up while you read it.
Why do I bring this up? Well, mainly because I realized part of this whole healthcare reform thing is based on this absolute fear of death. Because we all are afraid of coming down with something and we are all have no trust in the insurance companies not to be there. But is this a legitimate fear? Are you likely to come down with something that will get you killed? Right now if you’re reading this, the statistics say that you should reach your 80′s. Now no offense here, but who really wants to live past their 80′s…yes we all know the occasional person in their 90′s who is still lively and active…. but lets be honest they’re the exception not the rule…most people in their 90′s are in nursing homes or kept in that back guest room and are not exactly the best conversationalists.
But still isn’t it natural to fear death?
No. Why would you fear something you know is coming? You know that prayer, “God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” This is the ultimate thing you cannot change. Accept it.
But most don’t accept it. How do I know this? Well look at how many people set up shrines on the side of roads where family members died. How many parents become nothing but obsessed with their dead children, even to the exclusion of their living children. There are probably few things worse than to out live your own child, but I seriously doubt that you honor your child’s life by ending your own. And back those roadside shrines. I have seen them where they will put up new pictures, flowers, toy and other monuments on a WEEKLY basis. Good lord! We are talking about possibly thousands of dollars a year being spent on someone who isn’t even around any more. And this is not at a grave sight; it’s at the sight of the person’s death…talk about morbid. This is somehow not what I would call moving from grief to acceptance; it’s more like digging a trench hole fortification in grief and never leaving.
And then there is the rest of society. Look at the box office. When was the last time you saw a decent Romantic Comedy? Might take you a moment to find one. When was the last time you saw a zombie movie come out? Every other month. Horror movies, a genre that has never produced more than a handful of movies that could be labeled as anything but crap
But doesn’t a fear of death, and what may or may not lie beyond, motivate us to live our lives? Carpe Diem. Seize the Day! Eat, Drink, and Be Merry for tomorrow we die! It’s a nice idea…but when did focusing on the negative ever get anyone anywhere.
Lets look at what really happens when you’re obsessed with death.
When you think only about death and the fact that it might come any minute you think short term. You don’t plan, you don’t save, and you don’t expect anything because you might die any minute. In other words you have lost hope. People who supposedly “live in the moment” aren’t living in the moment, they’re trying to get every last thrill in before what they assume is a rather quick end. They see life as only a series of a few short thrills, a rather insignificant number of experiences to be experienced before the end; life as only a “bucket list” to be checked off and then there is nothing else. Now let me ask you a question. Once I ask it you will know rationally which is the correct answer, but ask yourself if you look forward to life this way? The question is, if you had before you your own personal and extensive bucket list of all the things you would want to do and were given an option between the bucket list and then death or a reasonably loving marriage, good kids, and a reasonably fulfilling career for a lifetime that was at least 80 years, which would you take? Rationally we would say we would take the longer more meaningful life because rationally we know a whole of lot good experiences are better than a few great experiences. We know that one dive out of a plane, one sight of a famous painting, one moment standing at a famous monument will not compare to years of happiness, even if those years never quite reach the momentary high those single moments.
However because we have no hope that we can attain that lasting true happiness, because we are afraid that death can come any moment we don’t strive for it. We make our lives a series of meaningless moments that may in of themselves constitute a momentary high, but sadly have a sum total of zero (or less). I’m not saying that this society is nothing but a society of base hedonists (although we are close), but how many people are stuck doing a job they hate and don’t take the risks necessary to better themselves to do better. How many of us the thing we look forward to all week is our favorite show on TV and not our friends. …. Or how many in this country are wiling to vote for the person who promises the quickest fix with the most immediate gratification over a politician who has real plans? Long-term thinking is a reflection of hope. Now does that mean someone who thinks long term should just live by themselves and never engage in any of those short-term pleasures? No. Any full life has a balance of things.
Now you may criticize me as a hypocrite. Don’t you practice that Buddhist meditation of envisioning your death, Cris? Aren’t you focused on death more so than the rest of us? Yes to the first, no to the second. The Buddhists teach to constantly meditate on your death not to be focused on death, but to prepare your mind for the inevitable so it won’t be too shocked by the crossing over and thus will be able to make it back here as quickly as possible. … …Again long-term thinking coupled with an obsession with life.
But how does this obsession with death relate to politics? Only to directly. What do you think drive this call for healthcare? Think about we’re talking about insurance. Something that isn’t needed for the vast majority of humanity. Yeah we all use our dental insurance on a yearly basis, and if we have glasses we use the Vision insurance…but the medical insurance. I mean honestly now, most of us can go years without going to see a doctor if we take care of ourselves. But that’s not what the argument is over, the argument over health care, at least from the side of the people advocating for it centers around when we need a doctor not as a precautionary checkup but when we’re dying and need massive medical care! Again why we should all prefer to live, why should the thought of death push us to action? It’s going to happen to all of us. But some of these ways to die are terrible and painful! The cry goes. To which I respond are the treatments that cost massive amounts of money (that’s partly why this is going to be so expensive) often painful in of themselves, and only buy you a few months, maybe a couple of years. I very much believe in fighting to live every last moment you can. But fighting for three more months in a hospitable bed isn’t life; it’s fear of death. Nothing anything Democrat has argued in calling for universal healthcare is about the improvement of the quality of life, it’s about delaying death for as long as possible. (Because in fact basic economics tells us this will make healthcare far more inefficient and thus ruin the average person’s access to medical treatment).
The fear of death causes nothing but stupid decisions. And this culture needs to get over it.
(bonus points if you get the reference in the title)