You’re Going To Die

Imagine being told “you’re going to die!”.

Not a pleasant thought, is it? And yet, that’s the reality of life. You are going to die. Possibly those of us who don’t suffer from thanatophobia don’t think about it very often, but it’s something which is acknowledged whether or not you like it. Which is why it’s not so much a question of are you going to die, but precisely how you are going to go.

So just pick your preferred option from the list and sit back and wait for the inevitable.

  1. Not being thin

    Apparently, unless you’re as thin as it’s possible to be without being underweight, you’re increasing your chances of getting cancer and dying. (“Be thin to cut cancer, study says”)

    And of course, if you’re overweight, you’ll get heart disease and die from that, too.

  2. Eating bread

    And let’s not forget that eating bread ‘raises cancer risk’.

  3. Drinking fizzy drinks

    As per seemingly everything else, drinking fizzy drinks increases the cancer risk.

  4. Ebola

    There seem to be quite regular outbreaks of various forms of haemorrhagic fever in Africa, one of the latest having accounted for 170 people since April. Obviously, if the highly infectious disease were to break out and for people to start being infected in airports, it’s be across the world before you knew it.

  5. Aids

    Let’s not forget AIDS; in the 80s we were regularly exhorted not to “…die of ignorance” (which didn’t in itself make it to the list), but the battle against AIDS has taken several steps back since then — lack of availability of condoms, desire to use them and education being important factors — and more than 40 million people worldwide are now HIV positive.

    Just remember kids: if you sleep with someone, it’s going to kill you. At least, that’s how the campaign seemed to me in the 80s…

  6. Houses may drop in price

    To many of us, this wouldn’t automatically be fatal, but seemingly from the coverage given to the possibility at times in the Daily Mail and the Express, it is of such concern to their readers I can only presume it must be fatal in at least some cases.

  7. H5N1

    Or Bird Flu as it’s better known. Obviously it’s only a matter of time until this becomes a global pandemic and kills everyone too.

    But if you’re feeling a little concerned about it, why not read the BBC’s Q&A. That’s bound to put your mind at rest … isn’t it?

    Researchers are now concerned because scientists … found the virus can affect all parts of the body, not just the lungs. This could mean that many illnesses, and even deaths, thought to have been caused by something else, may have been due to the bird flu virus.

    There is no failsafe way of preventing its spread. Despite mass culls, exclusion zones and other measures put in place to prevent its spread, the H5N1 virus has continued to travel.

    If the virus gained the ability to pass easily between humans the results could be catastrophic. Worldwide, experts predict anything between two million and 50 million deaths

    BBC Bird Flu Q&A

  8. Meteor Impact

    And let’s not forget the possibility that we could be wiped out (or at the very least that other mainstay “the end of civilisation as we know it”) by the earth being hit by a sufficiently large meteor. After all, this accounted for the dinosaurs, and there is plenty of evidence that the earth has been regularly hit by large meteors capable of doing this sort of damage.

    Although what is ‘regular’ to a cosmologist is somewhat different from what is seen as ‘regular’ to someone going about their normal day to day business who doesn’t normally think on a millenial timescale. But we can still worry: it was forecast in 2004 that the 320m asteroid 99942 Apophis had a 1 in 17 chance of hitting us in 2029 (although it’s now believed it’s going to miss).

    That’s not really planet-killer size, but approximately once in every 10 million years of its history, the earth has been struck by an object with a diameter of 5km or more. That sort of impact would be the equivalent of 10 million megatons (with the largest ever nuclear device exploded having a yield of just fifty megatons.

    So that’s another thing for you to worry about.

  9. Nuclear War

    Possibly not looking as likely as it once did, but that old mainstay of the Cold War is still a possibility: an itchy finger in the wrong place and pop goes the weasel, as it were. But of course the leaders of our governments are too sensible to lead us into pointless wars that will go nowhere and just cause pain, death, and destruction. Aren’t they?

  10. Worrying

    Worrying too much is bad for you — increases stress, blood pressure, can lead to heart disease, strokes and so on. Of course, it’s a bit difficult not to worry sometimes when it seems that you can’t get through a single day without discovering another fifteen things that are likely to kill you…

  11. Terrorism

    Terrorists don’t actually kill that many people (not when compared to heart disease, cancer, malaria, TB and the like) but my goodness me they certainly make the headlines, don’t they? And with scare stories about terrorists planning to use dirty bombs (including those which involve fictional substances, such as the alleged ‘red mercury plot‘), this is going to be one you can worry about for some time to come…

  12. The Earth Flipping Over On Its Axis

    In just 30 years time, according to the writer Sir Ian Rankin in his book “Doomsday Just Ahead”, the earth will flip over on it’s axis when the magnetic pole shifts around. Now it’s certainly possible that the magnetic pole will shift around — there is plenty of evidence for what is termed “geomagnetic reversal” — but it’s entirely possible that some people in the scientific community will scoff at the suggestion that the earth will suddenly spin randomly on its axis for a bit, have the oceans slooshing about willy-nilly across the land, and then establishing new north and south poles.

    Particularly since it seems that his book says that:

    …more radically still, he claims that human civilisation has reached its current sophisticated levels many times before - and on each occasion was obliterated by a pole shift.

    …gravity doesn’t exist…

    …the Sun isn’t the centre of the solar system…

    Telegraph review of Doomsday Just Ahead

    …Hmm. Maybe I’ll not worry about that theory just yet, then…

  13. What about that scientific one, then — Geomagnetic Reversal?

    No, this isn’t going to kill you. Current estimates are that the earth’s magnetic field is currently weakening to the extent that the field may collapse at some point between 3000 and 4000 AD. There are theories that this will be unpleasant: it may lead to a damaging increase in cosmic radiation (although our earlier ancestors seem to have survived prior shifts), and almost certainly it’ll play merry hell with your in-car sat-nav. But it’s quite a way off, so you can probably ignore this one.

  14. Global Warming

    Ah yes, you remember those millions of tons of CO2 we’re pumping out into the atmosphere, all that energy we’re wasting and so on? Well apparently, that’s a bad thing too.

    The planet is warming up, and some models predict that as it warms up, the sea will be unable to store as much carbon, making it warm up more, and that there are deposits of methane under the ocean beds which will bubble to the surface if the seas get warmer, and as that’s a greenhouse gas, they’ll warm it up even more. Basically, we’re seriously arsing up the planet simply because it’s deemed more important to keep businesses running smoothly and not to upset the economy more than it is to ensure we’ve still got an inhabitable planet in another hundred years.

    And it’s not just the warming that’s the problem: it’s the idea that whole swathes of continents will effectively become dry climates and become uninhabitable…

    You can’t call it a drought anymore, because it’s going over to a drier climate. No one says the Sahara is in drought.Richard Seager, quoted in New York Times (Online)

    …then there’s the freak weather conditions: the hurricanes, the tornados and the like which are increasing in frequency. There’s the fact that with a warmer global climate, the malarial mosquito will have a far greater effective range and diseases previously generally only associated with sub-saharan africa can spread into temperate climates.

  15. Superbugs

    Then of course we have MRSA and Clostridium Difficile: the new superbugs that are antibiotic resistant, that you’ll obviously contract if you do so much as go near a hospital, and then will kill you.

  16. The Rest

    Then there’s traffic accidents, suicide, various other infections, accidents at home, accidents in the workplace, necrotising fasciitis, murder (what with you being likely to be shot or stabbed seemingly if you visit the wrong city — “ooh, isn’t society violent these days?”), there’s drugs overdoses, there’s liver failure from everyone who’s now binge-drinking 24 hours a day — in between fighting of course — there’s salmonella in pretty much everything. And if isn’t that something kills you, you’ll end up going senile or you’ll get CJD and your brain going all spongy and only then you die.

So there you have it: you’re fucked, basically. It’s just a question of what kills you.

Alternatively, you could just go through life enjoying it; accepting that the inevitable will arrive at some point but not living your life so choked up with fear that you’re actually afraid to live

8 Responses to “You’re Going To Die”

  1. Mike Cherim responds:

    I should not have read this on a Monday morning.

  2. Georg responds:

    Sounds reassuring - I was afraid I had to live forever.

  3. Rob Mason responds:

    F**k it…pass me another beer.

  4. mark fairlamb responds:

    i’m going to have a go at death by sloth

  5. Zeke responds:

    Greetings Jack,

    I don’t know if you believe the last sentence of your piece, but whether you do or not, its declaration was typical of many of the bygone and pollyanna existentialists, and I judge their sentiment toward death to be a foolish one - please allow me to elucidate this proposition . . .

    Stop and really consider the following:

    IF we will be forced to one day witness some of our cherished loved one’s (children, parents, siblings) writhe in pain and agony as they succumb to a horrific terminal disease and leave this world forever, if we will likely be cast into eternal nothingness the moment of our physical death which is to be construed as the total eradication of our being and loss of ALL sentience forever at the moment of our personal death, if we will probably NEVER see again after death those whom we love the most, AND, if what we desire most is PERPETUAL LIFE with our loved one’s, but it is this very yearning for continual life WITH THEM that can, and will, NEVER BE, then, carefully explicate HOW we can simply CHOOSE to go through this life “enjoying it” as you so blithely assert at the end of your piece? Well, I believe the answer is there to be known for those rare brave souls who dare to CRITICALLY REFLECT on the problem of death: we CANNOT be happy during the finite interval of anguished existence between the poles of our birth and death, our mortality PRECLUDES lasting and genuine happiness, and our knowledge of mortality is the SOURCE of our unhappiness. So, have sufficient courage to admit that Jack, that is, if you believe the last sentence of your piece.

    If anyone wants to read some tremendously penetrating thoughts concerning human ontological status and the problem of non-being, then read the Pensees by Blaise Pascal - peruse the section titled “Against Indifference” in which he claims that our primary activity in this brief life should be to diligently seek an answer for how we CAME TO BE and WHERE WE WILL GO, IF ANYWHERE, AFTER DEATH. The experience of our existence in this world is shockingly brief and precarious, and so we must not waste this brief existence by dissipating our lives in vain pursuits. Pascal concludes that avoiding philosophical musing about the possible meaning of death for us is a monstrosity - choosing to pass one’s time in drunken revelries and opting to pursue one’s pleasures in a hedonistical fashion, is for Pascal, utter folly– I cannot disagree.

    shame on you Jack if you espouse such a monstrous view as your last sentence seems to reveal. I am a fellow thanatophobe and consider us to have a type of solidarity with each other by virtue of this shared mental scourge, but I must call your bluff, do not feign to be more courageous than you are as you await your inevitable death, it is of no benefit to behave as such. Admit your terror of death boldly, do not shrink from it by trying to talk yourself out of fearing death, it will not work, AND YOU KNOW IT. Rather, EXULT IN THE MIDST OF YOUR FEAR, do not seek to be like the masses who deliberately blind themselves to the reality of their own eventual death, but rather do this, exult in your awareness, because it is that very awareness that will drive you to seek to find the purpose of your/our existence, if there is indeed one to be found.

    Cheers from Boston, Massachusetts, USA

  6. JackP responds:

    Of course I believe the last sentence:

    Alternatively, you could just go through life enjoying it; accepting that the inevitable will arrive at some point but not living your life so choked up with fear that you’re actually afraid to live…Me

    I might suffer from thanatophobia from time to time but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think it’s stupid. There’s nothing noble or courageous about trying to think about death. It’s pointless. Thinking about it won’t change anything. (Unless it’s your way of fighting the fear of death, in which case get stuck in).

    Saying “you’re going to die anyway so you might as well enjoy life” is not avoiding it, or blinding yourself to the reality of death; it’s just simply about acceptance - you can’t avoid it, you can’t change it, so why worry about it?

    If I’m going to be technical, I’d suggest that thanatophobes would normally start at stage 2 of the Kübler-Ross model - with the rest of the human race starting at stage 1. I’d argue that I’ve just progressed further down the chart…

    You’re also assuming that Pascal’s quest for a meaning has an answer: if there isn’t one, you’re not only living your life in fear, but you’re following a road to nowhere. Why not just accept you’re going to die, move on, and then enjoy it while it lasts?

    And by ‘enjoy it’ I don’t just mean hedonistic enjoyment, I mean stuff like family life; the sense of pride in a job well done; the sense of joy in learning new things. If there isn’t an answer to Pascal’s question, you’re just wasting the little time you do have…

  7. oliver responds:

    I agree Jack - yes, fear and hatred of death is pefectly reasonable, but to think about it all the time and not try to enjoy yourself is pointless. Great thinkers through the ages have not come up with any definitive answers to the ‘ meaning of life’ - we know some of the options: believe in God (Pascal’s choice), be existentialist and boldly give your life your own meaning by making strong choices and sticking to them, be a hedonist, use drink and drugs, or , like you say Jack, just try to accept how things are but be a decent, respectable person and continue to take an interest in the world, be caring to others etc. I read some of EKR’s books and understand your point. Yes, we might as well work through her stages BEFORE the end, a good thought. I also know she convinced herself of the reality of life after death through studying NDEs. However she also allowed herself to be fooled by a fraudulent (and criminally intentioned) medium. I think she wanted very much to believe, and who wouldn’ t after all the dying children she had seen. I hope she was right

  8. oliver responds:

    I also lived through the 80s and basically felt those ads were saying ‘ have sex and die’. Wish I’d been a teen in the 60s instead

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