Last week, I said that if you want to know what a society fears, tap into their fiction. We write our fears into stories that we can control. But if you want to know what terrifies a society, tap into the stories they’re afraid might be fiction. For humankind, as long as we’ve been aware of death, those stories have to do with the afterlife.
The fear of what comes next inspires us to make the most out of now. It also inspires us to be on our best behavior just in case that dictates the quality of the time after our time. Then there’a the fear that there is nothing after our time, and with that fear we do an interesting thing.
We bury it. People don’t think about death. Not really. There’s this odd kind of willful denial that even as we plan for it, are aware of it, and let our ideas of the afterlife dictate our behavior, we don’t really think about it. It’s an omnipresent fact to our existence but rarely do we dwell. It’s always a shock when it happens, either the death itself or the diagnoses that tells us its coming.
Part of that is self-preservation. The knowledge that time is running out doesn’t change the fact that it is. Being sad about it doesn’t change the fact that it is. Seizing the moment can get you in major trouble or give you a momentary joy but it doesn’t change the fact that the clock is ticking.
I don’t know my thoughts on the Afterlife, but I like the version I came up with. That life just goes on but we’re happier for it. Here’s to hoping.