I’m Tired of Dying
There is a relatively well known YouTube channel called Wisecrack, who do a lot of philosophy related videos based on nerd cultures like video games, sci-fi, and comics. They did a video once called The Philosophy of Darth Vader, in it, they describe Anakin Skywalker’s descent toward the dark side of the force through something that all people deal with, that being “death denial.” The theory behind death denial is that every small thing we do in our lives is dedicated to fending off the impending void. Those visits to the gym are for building health to avoid heart disease or to extend your life, the types of food we eat the things we do for fun, whether it be a direct road to a longer life or a distraction of death everything we do is meant to suppress death. Death denial also supersedes religion, as religion is believed by some like Ernest Becker, a Jewish-American anthropologist, to be the ultimate form of death denial, death no longer has any power, no crippling hold over us if it has no permanence. Anakin Skywalker had a vision that his the only woman that he loved since his mother’s passing was going to die, and instead of accepting the natural cycle of things he wanted to take control of death through powers he believed could be found on the dark side of the force. For those of you who haven’t seen a mediocre movie from 2005, I won’t spoil the rest but the framework is still there, we are all dying, the one thing we as humans all universally experience but also the one thing that we can never share, that being death.
To Becker depression is a symptom of a failing immortality project, the denial of death is breaking.
I’ve watched my mom suffer for my entire life trying to dull out her senses whenever she could. I’ve watched my dad drown himself in liquor for years just to avoid whatever was going on in his head. All the people around me have run from their demons in whatever they could find, drugs, women, men, money, suicide. An abuse of fear can cripple people, families, and communities. According to Becker, this fear can lead to intense conflicts, as “immortality projects” clash, for example, differing religions clashing leading to entire holy wars. People define themselves by these projects and any contradiction can be world shattering.
I have also been crippled by the same fear for most of my life. I have been too anxious to ride a roller coaster, every tiny bolt maybe just a few rotations too loose, entire steel beams ready to sway and fall. A single car ride on the highway has millions of different outcomes that play out in my head, most of them ending in a gruesome way. Maybe this is why I like journalism because I’m so fucking observant. I focus on the details of things, the minutia and I fixate on patterns. I used to have an escape from that fixation in the capital g God. I was completely prepared for death because I had nothing to worry about after my passing, it wasn’t an empty void, it wasn’t static, it was the roaring gates of Heaven for eternity, I was to be finally complete, at home with my Creator. For whatever reason, I drifted away from the Church and my faith. I drifted until I ended up on my own island, alone, cold, and afraid with no meaning, no endgame, nothing beyond death, just the eternal nothing. I was going fucking nuts.
The fixation I had was on death, what is going to cause my death, when is it coming, I need to avoid everything that my brain irrationally deems dangerous whether it be a car ride or scuba diving, death is always around the corner unless you actively fend it off, and because I didn’t have an afterlife to fall back on. I was spirling. It took some more philosophy to help me escape said spiral. French philosopher, Albert Camus, posed the question, “should I kill myself or drink a cup of coffee?” According to him whatever a person answered this question with, it didn’t matter because life is absurd and has no inherent meaning. This sounds cold and morbid, but it can be freeing as well.
When nothing matters, it doesn’t matter that nothing matters.
I found this way of thinking as a way to convey my impact on the world. To laugh in the face of absurdity, because that was the only way to live a fulfilling life for me. I could help someone on the side of the street or I could eat myself into a god damn stupor and it doesn’t matter. All of the choices I make are entirely my own and my own to live in and make. It can be a powerful and inspiring realization.