| | |Memento Mori- The Phrase that Scared the World | |Alice Greider | |Elizabethtown Area High School |
|Death, the ultimate unknown, pervades every aspect of human life, crossing geopolitical, racial, and religious borders. The overbearing arm of| |the death system protrudes into society so much that society wouldn’t exist without it. A mixture of seventy-five students and teachers at a | |high school ages 13-60 participated in a survey that asked questions regarding their fears and beliefs about death. In addition, the Director | |for Palliative Care at a local hospital was interviewed for his insight. It was found that despite age and religious differences in the | |participants, the uncertainty of death forces people to turn to religions and cultures to develop a life-sustaining death belief which | |explains its meaning. Despite this however, the fear of death and the anxiety it brings is intrinsic to human nature. Ultimately, people | |simply deny their mortality in order to live their life, adopting a culturally-binding identity that defines their relations with other people| |holistically. Using studies from the Terror Management Theory, and the works of Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death), it was found that our | |most aggressive behaviors are even a result of this fear, which is the cause of one’s relations with other people and societies beyond one’s | |own. The beliefs that people hold in their views and fears of death are instrumental in shaping society, whose elements would have no purpose | |if death was not there to generate fear of it. |
In the next 12 months, 54 million people will die. Death is universal, experienced by every living thing on this earth. Every society has different views, mythologies, and cultures concerning death. We have conquered our physical limitations, exploring space and beyond, developing the means to become rulers of the natural world, defying gravity in moving faster and farther than anything else. We even scientifically manipulate and conquer our own body and genes. “All this, yet to die” (Shen & Bennick, 2003). Our greatest limitation is the only thing left to conquer: Death. It is the only thing we cannot master, arguably rendering every single one of our accomplishments insignificant and futile. On a day-to-day basis “we participate in a multitude of activities to distance ourselves from harm and death.” Everything from choosing clothes to wear in the morning to putting our seat belt on in the car is meant to prevent death. Yet we know that “these day-to-day strategies are doomed to fail.” The fact that we will die is irrefutable. As a species, we have the mental capacity to ponder the infinite, “yet [are] housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping, decaying body”. We know that we will die, but we are wholly unable to do anything about it. Philosophers and ordinary people alike have conjectured about what death is, what comes after death, and what place it has in our lives. But as the author and philosopher Sam Keen says, when it comes down to it, “Death is unacceptable. I did not sign that contract….we love life, and death is an insult to our spirit” (as quoted in Shen & Bennick, 2003). The fact that people do not know what happens after death, coupled with the fear of the process of dying, makes them even more afraid of the inevitability of their own...
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