So I was walking my dog Norma yesterday, thoughts floating through my head. Started pondering death, and the awareness of such.
If you think about it, human beings are uniquely gifted with such an awareness of their inevitable demise. Dogs and cats and fish and lions know fear, but do they know what they’re actually fearing? In other words, does a cat run from a dog because it fears death, or because it simply fears fear?
Humans fear death. And with good reason. It’s inevitable, it’s an ending, it’s often painful and it can’t possibly conclude well. I actually embrace this fear, because it also allows us to appreciate the intricacies of life; the sunny mornings; a cool sip of lemonade; the smell of a grilled burger. I mean, perhaps we’d appreciate those things anyway. But when you’re aware that life doesn’t last forever, you’re surely more willing to have moments of, “Man, I better soak this all in—because it’s fleeting.” I know I sure do.
Which is where the idea of an afterlife is troubling. If one believes he’ll live forever, why any sense of immediacy? If one believes the next life will be so much better than this one, why exist with passion and oomph and heart? Seriously, what’s the point—things are only going to improve.
So while I fear death more than the believer, I think—mostly—I cherish that fear.
It reminds me to live.