Thursday, 18 February 2010

The fear of death, the undiscovered country, laughing at it and emotional immaturity

I noted with alacrity that another blogger took exception to my guest post - expressing, in no uncertain "holier than thou, self-righteous" terms, his immature attitude to the one irreconcilable fact of human existence.  To call my fellow author a cunt is just fine, I defend your right to self expression; of course he is also somebody's son, as the commenter is - as every man, good or bad, is - and in the case of the dead, was.  What's the alternative for your average male?

I know that son, and his sons.  That son has experienced death, in particular the loss of both of his parents in the last few years - he conducted himself with good humour and a resigned acceptance of reality.  Sour faced Mr Cunt Caller may wear big pants when commenting on a blog, but would he call him a cunt to his face?  Would he really?  When confronted by a good humoured, intelligent human being - a father and a son who has the advantage of being able to find humour in death, rather than self indulgent life limiting fear.

I wonder?

Friedrich Nietzsche famously suggested laughter to be a reaction to the sense of existential loneliness and mortality that only humans feel.  Nietzsche put together a very compelling argument that all abstract thought, and in particular laughter, exist only as a result of our mortality, sentience and our inability to accept the inevitable.

This is not a new philosophical stance; past examples include; Shakespeare's human 'being' life and death analysis, in that powerhouse soliloquy in Hamlet Act 3 scene 1 - and the ubiquitous 14th and 15th century dance of death carvings and engravings, which extend us an invitation to laugh at death as an encouragement to live in the moment.

Interestingly both were aimed at inhabitants of a time we now believe to be simple in comparison to us with our sophisticated-modern-intellects.  This was an audience who were more accustomed to witnessing death close at hand and understood its fundamental significance.  They 'simple folks' exhibited a considerably more mature attitude towards death than our contemporary self-indulgent, hotline-backed, childish rejection of the reality of existence.

The very essence of an adventurous spirit, one drawn to the Scottish mountains in winter in this case, is exploration of the unknown and the thrill and challenge of just such.  Such adventures, like life, have a simple binary outcome:

To die


To live another day, and die later

To find death, "the undiscovered country" is the very apotheosis of the adventurous spirit; walkers and climbers, like soldiers, accept that price - no qualms, no cowards.  Those around them who cannot accept their death are unable to accept the simple truth, and rather than celebrate a life worth living they give into the dark shadows of loneliness and mortality.  By illogically and immaturely giving into melancholy and refusing to accept death they negate the value of a positive life and the privilege of having lived and died - is that a suitable mark of their love?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all
Final word to Mr Richard Dawkins
"We are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place, but will in fact never see the light of day, outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA, so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds, it is you and I in our ordinariness that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred."
 Get over yourself, who are you?  The Mutaween?


  1. You're born, you die, it's what you do inbetween that counts and that includes dealing with death in good humour or not, I know which one I'd choose and I'd rather my friends raised a smile and a laugh at my funeral.

  2. "Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries."


  3. As Dawkins says, merely to be born is to win the lottery of life. I am content in the knowledge that I have lived more years than most of those who have gone before me, in a state of material comfort and intellectual stimulation greater than that of any previous generation however relativly wealthy they may have been with the added bonus of not being called upon to fight for my country and not, thus far, been victim to any major trauma.

    I count mine as the luckiest generation yet and death does not worry me, though hopefully it will be quick when it does come because I dislike pain.

  4. Polaris,

    sickly or otherwise I did reply to the tv on hearing the news "no sympathy". If his mother ignored avalanche warnings tough titty, you gamble with life and lose no comebacks.

    I've been up at 2000m and have fallen over on the ice and was skytin towards the edge and death only luck saved me. It was my own fault my responsibility.

    Yes we all belong to someone somewhere and cannot be absolved of our actions, we must take responsibility for ourselves. That includes calling someone a cunt online, quite happy to say it to jim murphys face!

    Have a good weekend,


  5. Life means to be, death means not to be, and between to be and not to be I opt for the former.
    When the death does not affect the person who is speaking or writing about, it is easy, very easy to say: why to worry about the death? It is a natural process! But when the death comes and knocks at your own door the things change. All my life I have been feared death. Nevertheless the fear of the death not always is negative. In my case it started my spiritual quest of searching for God, the immortal soul, the mind, the life after the death. Because of this quest I began to travel and in these travels I came across to many extraordinary people who helped me. These encounters were in Rome, in London, in Paravati, in New York and so on.
    I have been travelling extensively for trying to give an answer to my fundamental question: There is a life after death? I met many different people all over the world, many religions, cultures and rites.
    The book I have recently written deepens many religious issues. I want to draw it to your attention, as you may be interested in it. The title is “Travels of the Mind” and it is available at
    If you have any questions, I am most willing to offer my views on this topic.
    Ettore Grillo

  6. He who fears death cannot enjoy life.

  7. Crazy..
    I don't think it was an avalanche. According to reports he walked too close to the edge of a crevasse and fell through.


    I agree with Dawkins about how lucky we are to be born. And I'm a believer in evolution with all the evidence available. But where did all the stars and planets that make up the universe come from ? That's what I can't get my head around. Presumably they must have always been here. And must go on for infinitey. But where did it all come from ?

  8. @Stargazer
    "...must go on for infinitey. But where did it all come from ?"

    If you think about that too hard and for too long you will go mental, like the others did.

  9. banned

    Well I shut my mind to it when I was younger as I could see problems with thinking too much about it !
    But I've now got more years behind than ahead so have returned to the problem as it's of no matter if I go Lady Gaga thinking about it.
    In theory if the Universe is infinite then someone exactly like me is typing away on wholly rudes blog billions of light years away in space.