Journal Entry – Wed Oct 28

Yeah! So I barely made it through Evil Eye. Like barely by the skin of my burning eyeballs. I will have to get caught up on movies this weekend. Another day, no naps. I’m reading Applied Software Project Management and skimming through Software Development and Professional Practice (I’ve had that book since 2012/13, I use it as a reference guide.) I think they will help with preparing my job aids.

I was following the senate hearing on Bloomberg of Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet CEOs related to Section 230.  Whenever a CEO responds with, “we don’t have the data.” That’s bullshit. Twitter’s CEO got hammered, but he remained calm the whole time (that’s commendable). 

It’s taco night! Do you prefer hard or soft tacos? It feels like Friday now and it’s only Wednesday – I’m only gonna make tacos on Fridays from now on cause this feeling sucks. If it was Friday but felt like Wednesday, that would be alright. (Does that ever happen?) When you eat your Smarties do you eat the red ones last? Smarties make me wanna hurl. 🤮 So do Starburst.

I can’t remember the last time I ate sunflower seeds. I think I eat more candy now than I did when I was young. Am I growing down?

You should watch Assassination Nation (2018)

Lecture 10 – The Fear of Death

We all know we will die, and maybe worse than our own demise, we know the people we love are going to die as well. According to Ernest Becker, a cultural anthropologist, in his book The Denial of Death, most of what we do is driven by our fear of death.

[Death] haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity – activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny of man.

Ernest Becker

Becker thinks there is a paradox at the core of humans because to survive, we must be aware of the possibility of death. That fear lies behind what we do. But for us to function, death cannot be on our minds constantly, so we push it down and remain oblivious to the fear in our conscious life. To bury our fear of death, we do heroic things because this helps us believe we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Heroic things are meant to last beyond our physical end, which grants us immorality on some level (Becker)

Roman philosopher Lucretius and Chinese Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi agree with Becker. – The fear of death dominates our attention, driving us towards organized religion and makes us act in ways that go against our best interest. Lucretius says, “Death is nothing to us and no concern of ours.” We shouldn’t be worried about death because it doesn’t matter in the way we think it does, and when we realize this, we will see that we shouldn’t be spending our time worrying about it.

The Lady Li Story: One day, a duke came to take Lady Li away to a palace. She cried and cried and cried because she didn’t want to leave her family, but she was uber excited when she got to the palace, and she regretted her tears.

How do we know that the dead do not regret that they ever longed for life? How do we know that hating death is not like a lost child forgetting their way home? We don’t know, yet we fear it as if we know unequivocally that death is something to be feared. 

Socrates on Death: ” In Plato’s Apology, Socrates provides a different reason to think that death might not be so bad after all. He states: “Being dead is one of two things: either the dead are nothing, as it were, and have no awareness whatsoever of anything at all; or else, as we’re told, it’s some sort of change, a migration of the soul from here to another place.””

If death is a lack of awareness, then it lines up with Zhuangzi’s view that death is a rest from life. Socrates thinks death could be like a deep, dreamless sleep. (but I like dreaming). The bottomline is that we don’t know enough about death to fear it. Death might be better than life. Fearing the unknown is irrational, and we don’t have a good reason to believe that death is bad – In terms of risk management, death is an unknown unknown 🙂

We all have Qi (energy or breath). When we die, the Qi moves on or maybe because Qi is ready to move on, we die (I’m not sure) – Anyway, our bodies will nourish plants, animals and soil (I don’t think that’s possible because we are buried in a casket, and some are impenetrable but I think some cultures bury people in wooden boxes). 

It gives me comfort to know that my body will be put to good use in death – it would be fantastic if you could pick where you want to be buried instead of being buried in a cemetery. After I donate my organs, I plan to donate the rest of my body to science – one of those forensic body farms or a university for dissection. Or I could become a museum statue. I haven’t decided yet, but I think any of those would be cool.

The other day I read an article about changing how we treat the dead and getting the family more involved in preparing their loved one for a final send-off. I got to put clothes on my mom, and someone else did her nails. Even though she was gone and it was sad, it felt good to participate in that way because as everyone did their thing, we would reminisce – which caused lots of laughter. Preparing her wasn’t this secret behind the scenes thing, then she magically appeared in the casket. 

We spent a lot of time and money picking a casket/coffin, which feels so silly in retrospect. There are many online articles on the cool things you can donate your body to if you are interested. 

Back to the lecture, Zhuangzi views life and death as having the same value because it is a transformation. Birth->Life->Death->Afterlife (maybe) but Zhuangzi doesn’t talk about an afterlife in the lecture. Qi is the transformation. From the Dao perspective, “nothing is gained from birth, and nothing is lost from death.”  

For Lucretius, before we are born, we also failed to exist, and our non-existence was indefinite. Hence, our post mortem non-existence is analogous to our prenatal non-existence. And we don’t think about our pre-existence (before birth) and if we do, I don’t think we would be afraid of it or consider it a bad thing. The reason for this is that we now know what we will be missing out on when we die – provided you were happy with your earthly existence. Meaning we care more about our future existence vs our past existence.

The Transformation of Things: One night, Zhuangzi dreamed of being a happy butterfly, showing off and doing as he pleased, unaware of being Zhuangzi. Suddenly he awoke, drowsily Zhuangzi again. While awake, he could not tell if Zhuangzi dreamt the butterfly or if the butterfly dreamt Zhuangzi. But there must be some difference between them – this is called the transformation of things.

Terror Management – Inspired by Ernest Becker’s suggestion that the fear of death drives us, the psychologists Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynski have developed the terror management theory. Meaning, our awareness of the inevitability of death stimulates a devastating terror in us. We culturally manage this terror by developing and maintaining shared beliefs—or worldviews—that reduce our terror by giving our lives meaning and value that transcend us as individuals.

Fear of death is relative or should be. A person who believes in a life after death might fear that they are going to hell; however, that person probably fears hell, and not death itself. Another person might think they’re going to heaven, and if heaven is the place to be, then that person shouldn’t fear death, because death is the transition that gets you to heaven.

What about immortality? – do you think living forever would be grand? Immortality is desirable, Bernard Williams suggests, only if two conditions can be met. 

  1. We have to be able to recognize that we have survived the process of death. This is the identity condition.
  2. We have to find our future life appealing. This is the desirability condition. 

Given these conditions, Williams considers a dilemma: Either who we are (our goals, desires, and the like) remains the same or who we are changes. If we stay the same, we will face painful boredom or alienation while living an immortal life. This is because the desires that ground our life projects are finite and exhaustible. Let’s say, on the other hand, that our interests will change over time. We can’t possibly evaluate whether the future life we’ll have will be appealing. According to Williams, whether we remain who we are or change in the afterlife, immortality is undesirable.

(Source: Great Courses – Understanding the Dark Side of Human Nature)

What does this lecture have to do with the dark side of human nature? Right! I was asking myself the same question. I don’t know.

Feature Photo Credit: @Arpadesigns via Twenty20

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