Had a terrifying vision of my own mortality the other day

This is either Frankenstein crossed with an octopus or Abraham Lincoln crossed with a spider.
This is either Frankenstein crossed with an octopus or Abraham Lincoln crossed with a spider.

I was sitting in my room at midnight, reading The Passage, when my heart started racing a little bit, and I suddenly realized, “Oh my god, I am going to die.”

I got up from my chair.

“Oh my god, I could die right now. The human body is incredibly fragile. I could just die at any moment. Oh no, I don’t want to die!!!”

And I paced my room thinking about that for a bit. It was disquieting. This happens to me roughly every year about in December / January. It’s usually an indication that I am in a pretty good mood, since the rest of the year, I’m like, “Ehh, death will claim me someday, whatever.”

But even though this has happened before, it is still disquieting.

Honestly, at least 50% of my fear of death is about the actual, physical pain of death. I imagine that it has the potential to be extremely painful. And that does not sound very pleasant to me. I know it’s silly to worry about it, since it’ll only take a few days (at most) and possibly won’t even be an issue at all, but I still don’t like the thought of all that being up there in my future.

As for the rest of it, the not-being-alive part. I guess that’s a bit existentially odd, but, in general, it’s alright. Not ideal, but not terrifying. I agree with whoever said that if we are not terrified by the time before we were born, then we shouldn’t be terrified of the time after we die, because the two things are fairly similar.

As a result of my terrifying vision of my own mortality, I did realize that all my anxieties are pretty trivial. Like, it all comes out to nothing in the end. Even though he won the Nobel Prize, Hemingway is no less dead than, well, Lloyd Biggle or well…someone else who didn’t win the Nobel Prize. Also, success doesn’t make people that much happier, nor make their lives experientially richer. Really, success is valuable because it gives you the illusion that you’re so important that death will never come for you. But it will.

All of this is stuff that I already knew, of course. But after my TERRIFYING VISION OF MY OWN MORTALITY, I started to actually believe it a little more. And, since then, my life has been much less anxious.

7 thoughts on “Had a terrifying vision of my own mortality the other day

  1. Matt Farrell

    My favorite quotes about death are:

    “Remember, death is only a problem when you’re alive.” – Adyashanti
    “Its just death, everybody does it.” – Unknown

    I do agree with you that it would make sense that it would be best for it to either happen extremely violently, or extremely non-violently, and that the middle ground would be preferable to avoid.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Yes. And people seem to be able to get used to a certain level of disability, but any kind of chronic, protracted pain seems like it’d be truly awful. Sometimes people die in such a manner that they’re in pain for MONTHS.

      Still, not worth worrying about, I suppose.

      1. Matt

        My mom is a hospice social worker, so she sees all kinds of deaths. If they’re really terminally ill and in large amounts of pain they usually just get pumped full of morphine until they don’t feel anything even if their actual death is months away, and they have no concerns for morphine addiction because they are going to die anyway.

        A worse position would to be in chronic pain but NOT terminally ill, because then you can’t just medicate the crap out of it because there are long term considerations. Or occasionally there are people who have chronic pain that does not respond to medication.

        On a more positive note, there’s always this story: http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/world-of-sport/95-old-belgian-bolt-holds-big-party-committing-164624847.html

  2. Lavelle

    Have you read Samuel Delany’s THE MAD MAN? There’s a character in that book, a young Korean philosopher, who experiences these kinds of panic attacks regularly, and they become a part of his philosophical outlook on life/death. You might find it interesting.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Haven’t read it. I’ve heard good things, though, and I like some of his other work. Maybe I should check it out. I wouldn’t describe what happened as a panic attack, since I didn’t feel very incapacitated or even terribly out of control. My heart was racing, though, and I think that if I was a more anxious person, it certainly would’ve led to a panic attack. I kind of think that the racing heart was what _led_ to the realization, though (rather than being caused by it), because the racing heart made me very aware of my own biological machinery.

      1. Lavelle

        Ah, OK. Certainly the description Delany gives in the book is more severe and more debilitating than what you described here, but there are similarities. The character’s name in the novel is Timothy Hasler. (He’s unfortunately murdered in a Hell’s Kitchen hustling bar in the 1970s, but that’s a tangent from this.) I saw you had written about Delany before, so I wondered if you were familiar with it. I like reading your blog, so if you ever get around to it I’d love to read your thoughts on it.

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