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Death: Should We Fear It?

By mbadros Dec 06, 2006 2007 Words
What is death? Is it good? Is it bad? Should we fear it? All these questions arise when the word "DEATH" is brought up. Death is a mystery. In the article "How to be dead and not care", the author begins to describe this ambiguous term by placing it in three concepts; those of dying, death, and being dead. The article goes on to state that Dying is whereby a person comes to be dead. Death is like the gateway between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Even with this concept, "Death" remains a mystery because it is not clear whether it is a part of the person's lifetime or not, which makes a big difference when it comes to fear. The last of the three concepts is being dead. Being dead is after a person dies. The article summarizes the three concepts by saying "death comes at the end of a person's dying and at the beginning of a person's being dead." (Rosenbaum 121)

Now that we understand the concept of the term "death", we can begin to discuss whether or not we should fear death. Socrates says that he does not know what death is. Socrates feels that we should not fear the unknown because it is simply that, an unknown. What is there to fear if it's unknown? "Don't fear it. I don't fear or avoid things I don't know to be bad" Were the words of Socrates as he described his fearless thoughts of death. On the contrary and in general, people fear the unknown because there could always be a negative aspect to the unknown. Yes death could be a blessing, but if it is unknown, then it could be a curse as well. A fear of the unknown exists because there is no way to shield nor prepare one's self from what could possibly occur. One feels helpless so they fear the unknown. People fear what they don't understand. "They might fear what they only believe to be bad for them. We might thus speculate that people fear death out of ignorance." (Rosenbaum 132)

According to the information above, I will answer the question "should we fear death?" by saying that, we should not fear death itself but what we should fear is what is to come afterwards, "the consequences," which could possibly be hell. We still do not know what death is like, so let's examine Socrates' views on what death could be.

Socrates argues that death may not be bad and that it may be a blessing. "Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is a good hope that death is a blessing, for one of two things: - either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another."

As Socrates states in the passage above, death can be either of two things. If the first one is true, then it is to an advantage as he says. "Nothingness," is compared to a dreamless uninterrupted sleep. Any man would be pleased with a peaceful sleep. Compared to many nights throughout a person's lifetime, a peaceful night of sleep is one of the greatest. Therefore, if death is one long peaceful night, a dreamless undisturbed sleep, then it is an eternal blessing. I see the point in his argument but my opinion would differ in that throughout humanity, mankind had refused to accept the finality that death brings to life. Death brings a stop to one's life. Death interrupts a person's work, plans, relationships, responsibilities, and future. Death has become to be thought of as a terrifying mystery and a sudden intrusion to one's life on earth. In the article, "How to be dead and not care" Nagel argues that "the time after a person's death is a time of which his death deprives him. It is a time in which, had he not died then, he would be a live. Therefore any death entails the loss of some life that its victim would have def had he not died at that or any earlier point." Many people love life and love themselves, so for death to depart them from what they love and to end them completely (assuming no after-life/Nothingness), that in itself brings fear.

The other concept of what death may be suggests that death could be the immorality of the soul by separation of the soul from the body and the relocation of the soul to a better place. It would be a blessing in that case because a person will finally learn perfection and the true form of everything that exists in the physical world. A person would see the unseen, hear the unheard, learn the unlearned, and define the unknown. It will basically clear the ambiguity of the forms that exist in the spiritual world but exist as imperfect and unequal in our physical world. To back up my view in regards to the benefits of the "better place", I will state a statement of Socrates. Socrates wants to make his journey to that better place because of the following:

"I, too, shall have a wonderful interest in a place where I can converse with Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and other heroes of old, who have suffered death through an unjust judgment; and there will be no small pleasure, as I think, in comparing my own sufferings with theirs. Above all, I shall be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in that; I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not" I do agree with the doctrine of the relocation of the soul to another world. Coming from a religious background, and having surviving death by what I believe was a Godly miracle, I believe that there is a higher being and an after life. "God originally created a perfect universe (Genesis 1:31). There was no death until Adam disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3). Because of Adam's rebellion (sin), God cursed His creation with death and suffering." What this indicates to me is that our life on earth is like a journey. By death, we departed from paradise, and by death our soul will be relocated. Our life on earth is merely our pilgrimage and trial period to see if we are worthy to go back into our "perfect universe" or not. Therefore, the after life is eternal and there will be no death since death is a curse that was brought upon us due to our pilgrimage to earth. Going back to death as a relocation of the soul, this doctrine has been coming to light in the recent years with the increasingly publicized topics of communicating with the spirits of the dead and near death experiences. Communicating with the spirits of the dead is based on the concept that death is not the end of life, but merely a transition to a higher plane of existence. Nationally known, Virginia Essence, who claims to be speaking as a channel for a heavenly being states that, "Death is an automatic and nearly immediate entrance into a greater sphere of learning, growth, and service to which you are well-accustomed already. You simply live at that higher level of purpose, joy and understanding." This agrees with Socrates when he says:

"Above all, I shall be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in that; I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not." As I've mentioned, the doctrine is also becoming popular due to its support from "near-death experiences." Many experiences reported by people who have had a close encounter with death often portray the after life in Paradise. Even though, all reports differ from each other, some of the common characteristics are: 1. the impression of peacefulness, 2. the sensation of being pulled very rapidly through a dark space of some kind, 3. floating in a weightless, 4. spiritual body, 5. the awareness of being in the presence of a spiritual being, 6. an encounter with a bright light, often identified with God or an angel, 7. and a vision of a city of light. Such experiences support the belief that at death, the soul departs from the body and lives in a disembodied condition. I believe those near death experiences to be true, because I've heard a few testimonies myself. (Bacchiocchi, 1) Thus far, we've been speaking about the benefits and the advantages of that other world our soul will depart to, but what about the bad things that could occur? Hell. Hell is an eternal torment. Hell is described as a furnace of fire and lakes of fire, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Gruesome life in darkness and everlasting pain is a summary of hell. So even though, the soul could be relocated to a better place, it could also be relocated to an everlasting excruciating place. Based upon the concept of the relocation of the soul, we have thus far learned that death could be good or bad based upon the after life. It may be a blessing because the after life could be a blessing (heaven/paradise) or it could be Hades, all of this will be decided on what is called judgment day. The souls of the dead either enjoy the beatitude of Paradise or suffer the affliction of Purgatory or Hell. At judgment day, either of 2 paths will be taken, salvation of the saints or damnation of the wicked. In conclusion, I believe that it is not meant for man to know what is exactly to come in the after life. Socrates argues that we should not fear death because it is unknown, but it is more logical to fear the unknown because of ignorance and the fact that it's unknown, and that what is to come could be bad. Second, Socrates states that death could either be Nothingness or Relocation of the soul. Both quite contradict each other. One suggests that there is nothing, which would suggest that there is no higher being and that there is no purpose in life because you reach a dead end. The other suggests that the afterlife is full of life. He paints a picture of a greater life that is joyous, just, good, and more insightful. However, that is a one sided view. Although I do agree with the doctrine of the relocation of the soul, I see it being good or bad. Good in the sense that if one's after-life happens to be in heaven, then it is a blessing and eternal life will be full of joy. It's bad in the sense that if one's after-life happens to be in hell, then eternal life would be full of sorrow and everlasting pain. Back to the original question, Should we fear death? Death is bound to happen so we should not fear death itself; the portal between the world of the living and the world of the dead as defined by Rosenbaum, but fear the possible horrific after-life/Hades and its disadvantages. I believe that if one does not fear the relocation of the soul to a better place, embraces the concept of everlasting joy, but fears Hades and its consequences, one will become a better man/woman on earth and will live a better life which will result in the betterment of our society.

Work Cited:
Plato, Five Dialogues. 2nd. Indiana: Hackett Publising Company, 2002. Rosenbaum, Stephen. "How to be dead and not care: a defense of Epicurus." Bacchiocchi, Samuele. "Immortality or Resurrection?" 10/19/06 .

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