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Thread: Fear of (method of) death

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Fear of (method of) death

    Interesting thing came up with me today. I am quite generally not afraid of death. BUT I am afraid of horses; seriously, while riding a horse I have an incredible fear that I will fall and the horse will step on my head and kill me, or else I will just die from the fall. Yes, of course it is just a phobic reaction, a delusion extreme, but it got me to thinking:

    Do you fear death, or do you fear how you will die?
    Is there a difference like I found?

    I don't feel I have any problem dying from other causes: car accidents are a frequent vision, illness is also a recurrent theme. Old age as a means of death has never, ever, been a consideration. I don't contemplate living more than another decade or so, which would put me in the early 60's, because my body is breaking down pretty rapidly due to disability, which I fully accept. To give a little background, this is an improvement. I was convinced for the longest time that I would die by 42, another wild delusion extreme.

  2. #2

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    I believe you are right. There is a big difference between the two. One is the end of a single cycle of life. The other is the suffering that would bring you to that end. Your fears feel normal to me. I am not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of a painful death by methods I have always feared.

    I think I will recite the Metta Sutra, or just the core sentence. In Pali: Sabbe, Sabba, Sukhi, Hontu.

    in Metta,

    Nick

  3. #3
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Interestingly enough I never really think about death. Just never seems to be something I ponder at all. There are obvious moments where thoughts arise, but I really don't dwell on it. And definitely not to the level of how or where it might happen. I'd like to think that I don't because I am too busy living... but in reality I am probably too shallow or maybe just easily distracted by shiny baubles. :lol:

    Gassho

    Dokan

    Sent from my SGH-I897 using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Do you fear death, or do you fear how you will die?
    Is there a difference like I found?
    I do fear death. It has been something of an off and on obsession for me. I'm not really afraid of how I'll die, though that is part of it. I am simply generally afraid because I know, at some point, my body will lose its function, that I will most likely be in pain or high stress as it happens, and then at that point everything I know will be gone, all afterlife theories aside. Sometimes, when I'm feeling quiet, this knowledge will rise up in me, real and tangible: I will die. Maybe soon, maybe far off, or maybe in-between. I get the feeling of a panic attack. It reminds me of when one of my pet rats was dying of respiratory illness. I couldn't afford to put her down, so all I could do was to try and make her comfortable. It took her days to pass away. Every once in a while, she would start to bounce around in a panic, looking like she desperately wanted to escape from the fact that her body did not work like she wanted it to. It seemed to happen after her quieting down, like once she was on the verge of actually dying, she would try and snap herself out of it. It was heartbreaking to watch.

    We have so little control.

  5. #5

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    I fear sudden death, because of the awful shock it gives those left behind, and hope that death will come in a way that gives people time to say goodbye. The downside is that they see you waste away, but it is better than a shocking death. In terms of my own sensual experience, getting eaten by a large carnivore is at the bottom of my list.

  6. #6
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Amelia: We have so little control.
    Yes, exactly. But to what degree of loss of control brings up a fear of death?
    At what degree of loss control do we start to fear death? or anything for that matter?
    At what point is it loss of control of life or loss of control of death?
    And isn't the whole point of control something our practice teaches us to let go of?
    YES

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    This is a topic I have thought about a lot in the past. I don't fear death because I have lived the way I want to live and I know that every path has an end.

    I am okay with the idea I will cease to exist. Sometimes I think it's pretty much like sleeping. When you close your eyes, you lose conscience until morning. The difference of course is that you don't wake up on death.

    Of course I have never been in a situation where I see the end of the road. Only time will tell how I really react to that.

    Now as for the way I will die, I feel a little fear since I'm a big chicken for pain. But then again, no one knows how the end will be.

    But knowing that life has an end, makes my life precious and I cherish every waking moment. I have no idea if I will live to see tomorrow, so as for now, my life is perfect in all its imperfections.

  8. #8
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    For me, there are at least two things. I don't think I fear death as such, but I fear dying; the pain or suffering that leads up to death when you're sick.

    The second thing is that this world is such a wonderful place - in good times or in bad - that I'd miss it. Not that I'd know I'd miss it, since I won't be here, but it seems that there is so much to discover that I'll never have time to discover...

  9. #9

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    I used to work in palliative care, slow death.
    Now I work in intensive care, sudden death.
    You never get closer to life.

    Many people say they are not afraid to die, and it's great that they don't go around feeling a constant fear of death. But I have seen many people who have said they are not afraid of dying be very, very afraid when the time comes, even when their pain and physical suffering has been alleviated. Other times, people who have been afraid to die ever since they got their diagnosis eventually accept their condition and die very peacefully. It's hard to tell beforehand. Death is sometimes ugly. Sometimes beautiful. Sometimes, when a person died in peace, in their home, surrounded by their familily, when I left, I couldn't help crying. Not because the person had died, but because it was so beautiful.

    In this moment, I'm not afraid of dying. When the time comes, maybe I will be. If so, I hope I will be able to let go and just be afraid.

    /Pontus

  10. #10

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Amelia - I feel like you do - sometimes I feel afraid thinking about death.

    But what Omoi writes is true - the manner in which a person meets their death can't be
    predicted.

    My father and mother in law both died in recent years, and their death's were very diffferent, one
    peaceful (after much suffering) and one distressing.

    I am hoping that when my time comes - because I have been afraid - I will recognise my fear as an old friend - rather than an enemy.
    I am trying right now to make peace with my fear.

  11. #11
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    When afraid be afraid. I think that's part of our Path.
    But don't be afraid of being afraid.

  12. #12

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Fear is a funny thing. If I completely experience fear, it is no longer fear. For fear to be felt as fear, it needs to be only partially conscious, while attention is absorbed in the object (real or imagined) that is triggering the fear. The feeling of fear goes "poof" the instant it is completely experienced, completely conscious. It can't stand alone. Fear can only flourish in the shadow of awareness. When there is a fearful situation, I find there tends to be an alternating between being awake and fearless, and being absorbed in the story and fearful. This is the edge of practice for me, where something is not integrated.

  13. #13

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Something has happened to me recently that has never happened before: Every night when I lie down to sleep, I am about to drift off and just when the drifting starts, I feel a big shock, more than fear because when I feel fear I have learned to bring awareness to it and it is just a funny feeling in the pit of my tummy.

    This is something I have never felt before and the thoughts in my head at this time is that "One day I will die and will no longer exist" It was as if before I have this thought I was going around all day thinking I am somehow invincible to death.

    Will Kabat Zinn had suggested sometimes sitting and repeating the words "I will die" over and over again. Sounds like lots of fun especially before the start of the weekend. I tend to just return to the blue sky. However, I can understand the benefit in occasionally accepting that we will one day die in a way where we are fully accepting of it. I guess dying is the only certainity in this life.

    Gassho

    Ray

    ps as The Foo Fighters sing "Nobody is getting out of here alive"

  14. #14

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    I do not fear death, but I do fear the repurcussions for those around me.

    I am in my early-30s, however... check with me again in 10 years and maybe I will have a different attitude!

  15. #15

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Some day this body will disappear and there will be some fear and anxiety about that. During the dying process my late wife had to deal with that and found the way thru it and died. Very happy and peaceful. I think she understood that there is a universal consciousness. Or substance of which we are a manifestation of so we just return to it.

    If the death process is painful, painkilling drugs are acceptable. We'll see.

  16. #16
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    I have become unafraid of death over the years, knowing that it is inevitable and also having been around it, especially over the past 12 years as the last of the entire previous generation of my family has met death in one way or another. I have also meditated on and comntemplated the fact of death as part of my spiritual exercise and life.

    I did have a subtle fear of dying and strangely that was diminished in me when I had a stroke about a year and a half ago. There was a point during the process of the stroke that I felt the numbness creep up my body reaching my chest and I "knew" my heart was going to be affected and that I would die. The flicker of fear was there, but for no more than a few seconds; and then I was enveloped in a calm surrender to whatever this was that was happening. Was it my training? Was is "belief"? Was it simply logical assent? I really cannot tell...it just happened in a matter of a few seconds, and fear of Death and Dying left me.

    I still have a number of other fears that may affect me throughout a day, week, month or year but my death or dying is not one of them.

    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill

  17. #17

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray
    This is something I have never felt before and the thoughts in my head at this time is that "One day I will die and will no longer exist" It was as if before I have this thought I was going around all day thinking I am somehow invincible to death.

    Will Kabat Zinn had suggested sometimes sitting and repeating the words "I will die" over and over again. Sounds like lots of fun especially before the start of the weekend. I tend to just return to the blue sky. However, I can understand the benefit in occasionally accepting that we will one day die in a way where we are fully accepting of it. I guess dying is the only certainity in this life.
    Thich Nhat Hahn suggests that meditating over dependant origination (interdependant co-arising in his case) is the key to understanding that death is only a notion, an illusion. But in my view, death is an idea that is hard coded into our brains throughout evolution, which makes it hard to get rid of completely. No fear of death was not a recipe for survival when there were sabre tooth tigres lurking behind every bush... TNH often talks about the wooden table that couldn't exist without the carpenter, the lumberjack, the trees, the sunlight, the rain, the soil and so on. They are all part of the table. The table could not exist without them. It is not a separate entity. In a way, human life is like a wave rising from the sea, asking "Who am I? What am I doing here? What will happen when I die?" before being swallowed by the sea again. When the wave returns to the sea, does it die? Cease to exist? One way of realizing dependant origination and impermanence according to TNH is meditating on the image of your dead body (if you want an even better friday night!), watching it go pale and cold, rot, get eaten by maggots, crumble and wither down until only the bones remain, watch the bones turn into dust, that turns into soil, where plants start growing and so on.

    /Pontus

  18. #18

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    I have seen a lot of people die over the years, first-hand, up-close and personal, suddenly and slowly, in a lot of different ways. I of course have notions of preference and aversion, but dwelling upon them doesn't bring peace, and as I have very little say over the matter (if indeed any at all), I don't worry about it; life's too short.

    "I do not fear death, but I do fear the repurcussions for those around me."
    No one saves you. No one can and no one may; you alone must walk the path.
    So must they, and no; you can't save them, either. However, by keeping Living Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, Last Wills (including insurance policies, bank account numbers & passwords, etc.) up-to-date and readily available, you're making the path as smooth for them as possible. If you've done everything in your power to ease their pain and transition, then you can let go of that worry, too.
    Live long and prosper,
    Emmet

  19. #19
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    [youtube] [/youtube]

    _/_

  20. #20

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    I do not fear death, but I do fear the repurcussions for those around me.
    Exactly.

    A couple of years ago my partner went through cancer. When the diagnosis first came down and there was lots of uncertainty I told her "You're not allowed to die until Will (our boy) has grown up". She laughed, she got it. Death is a problem for the living. Even my doctor, who has never meditated a day in his life, shrugged when asked about his own death.. "It won't be my problem".

  21. #21
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Amelia: We have so little control.
    Yes, exactly. But to what degree of loss of control brings up a fear of death?
    At what degree of loss control do we start to fear death? or anything for that matter?
    At what point is it loss of control of life or loss of control of death?
    And isn't the whole point of control something our practice teaches us to let go of?
    YES
    Thank you for making that point to me.

  22. #22

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Quote Originally Posted by Ray
    This is something I have never felt before and the thoughts in my head at this time is that "One day I will die and will no longer exist" It was as if before I have this thought I was going around all day thinking I am somehow invincible to death.

    Will Kabat Zinn had suggested sometimes sitting and repeating the words "I will die" over and over again. Sounds like lots of fun especially before the start of the weekend. I tend to just return to the blue sky. However, I can understand the benefit in occasionally accepting that we will one day die in a way where we are fully accepting of it. I guess dying is the only certainity in this life.
    Thank you omai,

    Your explaination is deep yet very practical and beautiful all at the same time.

    Deep gassho

    Ps my hero is from sweeden- henrick larsson
    Thich Nhat Hahn suggests that meditating over dependant origination (interdependant co-arising in his case) is the key to understanding that death is only a notion, an illusion. But in my view, death is an idea that is hard coded into our brains throughout evolution, which makes it hard to get rid of completely. No fear of death was not a recipe for survival when there were sabre tooth tigres lurking behind every bush... TNH often talks about the wooden table that couldn't exist without the carpenter, the lumberjack, the trees, the sunlight, the rain, the soil and so on. They are all part of the table. The table could not exist without them. It is not a separate entity. In a way, human life is like a wave rising from the sea, asking "Who am I? What am I doing here? What will happen when I die?" before being swallowed by the sea again. When the wave returns to the sea, does it die? Cease to exist? One way of realizing dependant origination and impermanence according to TNH is meditating on the image of your dead body (if you want an even better friday night!), watching it go pale and cold, rot, get eaten by maggots, crumble and wither down until only the bones remain, watch the bones turn into dust, that turns into soil, where plants start growing and so on.

    /Pontus

  23. #23

    Fear of (method of) death

    Thanks, although half of that was only parroting Thich Nhat Hahn's words! I'm glad it resonated with you as it did with me. I'm a very practical person myself!
    And yes, I'm from the same area in Sweden that Henrik is from, so I like him too! I take it you're a Celtics fan?

    /Pontus

  24. #24

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Hi,

    I am reminded of a quote from Master Huang Po (still alive and kicking when he said it many centuries back) ...

    "If an ordinary man, when he is about to die, could only see the five elements of consciousness as void; the four physical elements as not constituting an 'I'; the real Mind as formless and neither coming nor going; his nature as something neither commencing at his birth nor perishing at his death, but as whole and motionless in its very depths; his Mind and environmental objects as one - if he could really accomplish this, he would receive Enlightenment in a flash. He would no longer be entangled by the Triple World; he would be a World-Transcendor.

    The "in a nutshell" version may be this:

    See all aspects of "self/body/mind/world" as "empty", drop all thoughts of "self" "other" "this" "that" "life" "death" ..... and thus find "Being beyond Being-Non Being/True Self/Mind" by dropping all thought of "being/small self/ mind" into the dance and flow of emptiness ..... then this "death" thing turns out to be no big deal. Granted, Master Huang Po says it in a a rather more florid and powerful way (especially in that lovely translation by Blofeld), but the point he was making is clear.

    And, please, notice the resonance to our "Shikantaza" Zazen Practice in which we "just sit", dropping all thought of "self" "other" "this" "that" "life" "death" etc. etc. My first teacher, Azuma Ikuo of Sojiji, once said that sitting Zazen is rehearsal for a graceful death ... and also practice for living a graceful life in the meantime.

    I also have another Story about Azuma Roshi ...

    I remember how shocked I was when I saw Azuma Roshi, my first "real Japanese Zen Master", crying one day soon after his wife died. I had just come to Japan, and thought Zen teachers were supposed to be above all that. I said to him directly (and a bit coldly) "I thought 'life and death' are but a dream, so why are you crying?" He responded, "Life and death are but a dream. I am crying because beloved wife died." :cry:

    I wrote this on fear of death once ...

    I fear death. "Fear of death" is programmed into the most primitive lizard parts of the brain. I doubt that there has ever been a living creature with a medulla oblongata and other parts of our early brain who does not sometimes fear death at a very primal level. Death is scary! Ask a gazelle being chased by a tiger.

    One thing, though, that can be attained from all this Zen Practice ... tasting to the marrow all the Truth(s) offered ... is something that I might term "fear without fear" ....

    ... which is kind of life feeling "fear" and "no fear/fearlessness" all at once ... and is sometimes also experiencing "no fear" whatsoever when other people might be experiencing "fear" ... and is also sometimes "not fearing that sometimes we fear", because it is the natural human condition.

    I believe that it is the above tastes which are the unique fruits of Buddhist practice.

    There are parts of us (beyond "us") that can pierce "no life/no death" ... there are other parts of the us that get very scared, whimper like a baby in the face of a hungry tiger. All can happen, and be part of our humanity, at once. Even though I no longer "fear death" in some ways ... my knees will shake at appropriate times too. I don't like doctors offices, airplanes (even though I have crossed the Pacific maybe 75 times), driving too fast on the highway, or even elevators (I was caught in an elevator in the great New York blackout of 1963 as a small child, still sometimes don't like the things).

    And that's okay ... cause ...

    ... sometimes we human beings (until we are 'Perfect Fearless Golden Buddhas' like in the idealized story books where all the humanity has been scrubbed out) feel fear in life ... sometimes we feel fear and no fear at once ... sometimes we feel fearlessness when other folks might really be afraid about a situation ... and sometimes we feel no fear about the fact that sometimes we might feel afraid, because such is the human condition to be worked up and tangled up sometimes ...

    And knowing fearlessness about all that, even no fear about sometimes being a little afraid, is ...

    True Fearlessness!

    Perfect Fearless Golden Buddha in the Flesh!


    Gassho, J

  25. #25

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Thanks, Jundo. Also brings to mind the story of Dogen crying over the dead infant. Some things are just sad and painful, but to be sad and pained in the moment, and not be overwhelmed by the accompanying anxiety or downward spiral that so often causes much suffering, that is the trick.

    _/_

  26. #26

    Fear of (method of) death

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    I fear how when I imagine worst case scenarios. Afraid of long slow death like my moms cancer. Want to go quick like my sister who took a bullet in the head (not self inflicted).
    Thing I've feared for years is being paralyzed. Worse case is quadriplegia --- I rather die slow cancer death than long life so critically disabled.
    Might could muddle through as a paraplegic. Of course this is all fearful imagination, I might just do fine in any case. I never thought I'd be living on chemo for months on end either and once I got used to it, not so bad.
    I know that you know what you are talking about regarding this matter, so thank you for sharing.
    Being physically disabled is not my greatest fear personally. This body is my temple and I try to take care if it, but it's not holy, it's just a body, just a temple, just a manifestation. If Stephen Hawkins can manage I can too, and I was born in a country where there is all kinds of help to get. Not being able to be in nature I would miss. Not being able to go out and meet people I would miss too. But I believe I could manage. Losing my mind would be harder to cope with, at least in the beginning, sinking deeper and deeper into confusion, delusion. Losing affinity with who I truly am. But that is not now and I can't do much about the future, so I try to leave it be.

    /Pontus

  27. #27
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    It's interesting what people cling to, what people choose to attach to at the exclusion of something else, thus creating truly delusional false dualities. For example, choosing to cling to an ability (i.e., walking or seeing or thinking, etc.) over life itself. "I'd rather be dead than [insert disability here]" is a common view that many have. But Really? Where did such an idea, or similar ideas, come from? Search your mind for the source of that delusion, or all delusions, and I think you will find conditioning. Life is such a precious gift. Would you really give it up so easily. Many say such a thing, but most people change their mind when the natural changes of life take their abilities away. Not everyone, sadly, because some people really do choose to die from that delusion, but most get a bit enlightened by the experience of loss.

    The thread was about fear of method of death, but sometimes we are really more afraid of our method of life. It's interesting how we can so easily confuse the two.

  28. #28

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    I also have a non-death phobia. I am afraid of heights... upto 50 ft or so. I am terrified to climb a ladder, but airplanes are no issue. I'm not afraid of death, I'm afraid of being debilitatingly injured. The idea of breaking bones or being paralyzed.

    So yeah, not that odd... or we are both odd

  29. #29
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    It's interesting what people cling to, what people choose to attach to at the exclusion of something else, thus creating truly delusional false dualities. For example, choosing to cling to an ability (i.e., walking or seeing or thinking, etc.) over life itself. "I'd rather be dead than [insert disability here]" is a common view that many have. But Really? Where did such an idea, or similar ideas, come from? Search your mind for the source of that delusion, or all delusions, and I think you will find conditioning. Life is such a precious gift. Would you really give it up so easily. Many say such a thing, but most people change their mind when the natural changes of life take their abilities away. Not everyone, sadly, because some people really do choose to die from that delusion, but most get a bit enlightened by the experience of loss.

    The thread was about fear of method of death, but sometimes we are really more afraid of our method of life. It's interesting how we can so easily confuse the two.
    _/_ _/_ _/_

  30. #30

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    I kind of stewed over this thread thinking are we talking about event of death or what might lead to that event. Like Kyrillos I had what might be called a threshold experience last winter. I was flown by helicopter to the major medical center with a very advanced case of pneumonia. My lungs had filled with fluid and I was not expected to live. By the time they got me in the ICU, the pain, congestion and breathing crisis was gone, I felt myself drifting off like an ebb tide, a little less wave, clatter of shells, and shifting of sand with each moment. Then a very sharp pain as they inserted the chest tube and another as they established a central venous line. No more ebb tide, back with the pain, congestion and breathing difficulty.

    So my observation is that we come into this world and the light switch is turned on, no memory of what preceded that first breath and cry. We go through life and then the switch goes off. Between those events we simply live. We donít die from pneumonia, from cancer, from trauma,. We live with it and most times recover but sometimes that suffering ends with the switch going off. Nothing to be afraid of any more than enduring the ups and downs of life.

    After that experience and recalling other close calls in my life, I am glad that I was fortunate to experience that near end event. Like Kyrillos, I no longer fear the end of this life. Our practice helps us deal with the ups and downs of our lives to the moment the switch is thrown.

    So donít fear the inevitable, as Jundo would say, ďjust sitĒ.

    Jim

  31. #31

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Hellos to Alan, and all others posting here!

    Way back when, people would tell me I needed, Needed, NEEDED a cell phone. I would say, Why? They would say--well, what if your car broke down? And I would say 'then I would pull over by the side of the road.' And they would say--well how would you get help? And I would say 'I would just have to wait until someone stopped and called for help from their cell phone.' And they would say something like---well what if it was an ax murderer who stopped 'to help' you? And I would say 'well then that answers that question.' And they would say 'what question?' And I would say 'the answer to the question--how does this life end for me?'--it's going to be today, ax murderer by the side of the road!'

    'How would having a cell phone help me in that situation?' I would ask--'All I'm going to have time to tell someone one the other end is 'Oh, look, a man has stopped, he is getting out of his car and he has an ax!'

    These little somewhat odd conversations regarding how important a cell phone would be for my safety actually ended up helping me a lot with this subject of death.
    One of these days there will be the answer to that question: how does this life end for me?
    By this life of course I am referring to the collection of biological material assigned a certain name, address, social security number and all that jazz. By ending I mean no more breathing, no one to drag this skin bag of bones around anymore.

    Life however....
    and there is no getting out of it: I mean, Where do 'I' go? Nowhere. Fast (or slowly as the case might be).

    I am curious now, thanks to cell phone enthusiasts as to what the answer to that question will be. I hope I am around to find out!

    ps (years later, I do have a cell phone which I find to be indispensable! Haven't had any 'emergency' use for it yet, but I'll keep you posted!)

  32. #32

    Re: Fear of (method of) death

    Speaking of technology, this of course veers into questions of The Singularity and transferrable consciousness... who knows what these may bring.

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