COLUMN: Ed Greenwood

Like you, I make a deliberate effort on a daily basis to forget about death.

It’s a fact that we’ve learned by rote, “yes, I know I’m going to die.” It’s just a fact you learned. You don’t need to believe it, just like you don’t believe any of the statistics or quotes that you had to learn by rote only to regurgitate in an essay at A Level. You know how many participants electrocuted the actor in the original Milgram experiment, say, or you know that when the question for English Lit is about King Lear’s daughters, you put in the quote about the relative sharpness of serpents’ teeth and thankless children. But it means nothing, and you’re quite convinced that, after your exams, when you’re at university, when the hurly burly’s done, you can discreetly forget these facts you learned and then they won’t matter any longer. The fact of your death, like the insidiousness of power or the complete works of Shakespeare, can be forgotten, and become irrelevant, and maybe you’ll never die or read a poem for the rest of your life.

Yes we know we are going to die, everybody has to die. Or, well, maybe we don’t have to die, there’s no reason why we have to die, it’s just scientists not doing their job properly. It’s understood that old people die but I gather that they’re stored in boxes out of sight by then so I have no real experience of that. There’s no evidence that everyone is definitely going to die at some point. What an absurd claim. “EVERYBODY IS GOING TO DIE.” That’s not science, those are the ravings of a hysterical madman. There’s no proof to this assertion. Scientists have never done a controlled experiment to prove that people die. I want demand proof. And anyway, the results of any such experiment wouldn’t mean anything. It would just flowes-on-grave_shutterstock-e1342179410824be another fatuous statistic, like the ones you happily forgot after A level : “In a controlled experiment, 100% of participants eventually died.” There’s got to be some margin of error in there anyway, like in any experiment.

More studies would be needed to corroborate it. You’d need to do unwieldy longitudinal studies with vast samples of every possible “type” of person on earth and control the experiment for ALL UNCONTROLLED VARIABLES to prove it – get rid of anything that interferes with the experiment by killing the subjects. What an unethical study. No one would commission it. Currently, we just generalize from the few incidents of death that we actually witness. It’s very unscientific. There’s no certainty of causation, no proof that death is inevitable. Read some Hume, you morons. The “fact” of death is no more true than the “facts” you learned in GCSE History, many of which have been contested or disproved since, and now you’re at university you can think for yourself and argue against the old dogma – that globalization is inevitable, that Jane Austen was conservative, that you’re going to die. You’re a young, sexy, upwardly-motivated individual studying at a world class research-intensive university. You can make your own decisions. You can sleep with someone of the same gender of you. You can choose not to drink alcohol; equally you can choose to drink until you pass out. You can make the life choice of not dying.

But in the meantime, we go along with the accepted prejudice that we’re going to die (I’m never going to die) in order to fit in and seem more adult and like you’ve read a lot of Sartre too. Well I’ve read Le Surcis and nowhere does it say that I’m going to die. And yes there were that time when you were young when you traded one night’s sleep to work through the whole issue, logically and hopelessly, staring at the ceiling of your bedroom: you’re going to die, there is no afterlife, there is no experience of death or being dead, no, not even analogous to sleep, and all life on earth astronomically considered must end, and all human endeavour, personal or societal, is ultimately futile, so there’s nothing left to do but enjoy the strangely providential ride we have for some reason and make other people’s existence a bit less intolerable while you’re at it, and don’t dwell on death because it’s pointless and annoying. You’ve already been through grieving for your own death and now you can forget it. All the stages of grief through to acceptance have been achieved. Except maybe denial. I’m not going to die.



1 Comment

  1. 22 October 2014 - 19:14 GMT

    Not a single comment left in the last 2 weeks, nobody seems to be interested in that subject. Try another one: why ffs were we born?

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