“The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns” is Shakespeare’s eloquent prose in Hamlet that perfumes the stench of what many consider the most futile of all the 7 basic fears: the fear of death.
As a child, did you fear the dark…why? Is fear of death a birthright; preparations for witnessing all that we love die, and replaced by a pain that only ends when we, too, are taken from those who love us?
Fear of death is fear of the unknown. The uncertainty of what’s after life is a compelling dilemma drawing multitudes to religion. These prescribed dogmas of prayer and faith assume insurance against fire and eternal damnation.
Empirical research proves that people with strong religious faith are the least afraid of dying. Religious fanatics – suicide bombers by example – take the extreme and willfully obliterate walls between life and nirvana using death as a stepping-stone. By contrast, it is proven that people lacking religious faith are the most anxious about dying.
The exceptions are non-believers – atheists, agnostics, infidels and skeptics – who consider the concept of humans possessing a supernatural soul as farcical, if not fraudulent. The irreligious and unspiritual assert that all life ends at death. The only extension is decay or recycling into new organisms.
Science professes that all that matters is energy and matter. Atoms and molecules form matter while light, heat, electricity and respiration create energy. Humans are a complex universal soup of matter and energy that can’t be created, or destroyed – only transformed. By logical conclusion, the essence of all humans is without end.
Which is your belief…faith or science? Both make convenient coping mechanisms for managing death anxiety. If science strips away the anxiety of mortality, and faith relieves the fear of what comes after life, what is there to fear from death? If the question is when, then therein lies death’s true gift.
Not knowing when death will come – only that it will – engages the living in living fully in the moment. NOW is the only force as powerful and as certain as death.
“Death is the passing of a stone through the surface of calm waters, disappearing beneath the unknown churning ripples into currents of emotion and fear for those having passed on to a place beyond the reach of our love.” ck