This is more a personal entry than a political one, but the concept of death has suddenly bothered me without reason. Logically, I understand that death is a part of life, and yet I cannot seem to become comfortable with it. As someone who does not believe in a heaven or life after death, I became bothered by my own logic.
I never believed in fate or destiny; nor have I ever believed that there is some master plan that the cosmic universe has for us. I believe in coincidences, chances and taking action. Do I believed that staying behind now in my 5th year of college was the universe’s way of introducing me to my boyfriend who is the first person I ever fell in love with? No, it was just coincidence that we ended up in the same college my 5th year of school.
He and I were talking about this idea of “fate.” He asked me if I believed in fate or the idea of soulmates. I told him that I did not. He looked at me and agreed; he was pleased to know that we shared the same logical idea that we met by chance. This situation reminds me of a song called “Science & Faith” by the Script. The song is about two lovers; one, who is the rationalist, believes that love is nothing more than the chance of meeting and a chemical reaction in the brain. The other, however, is the spiritualist who believed that the two were destined to be together. In the song, the spiritualist tries to explain to the rationalist that you can try to “break everything down to chemicals, but you cannot explain a love like ours.” To the spiritualist, love is something more than some chemical reaction in the brain, it has a deeper meaning.
Humans in general try to develop deeper and spiritual meaning to things in hope to value them. But does rationalizing love make it any less meaningful? I don’t think so. I love my boyfriend, and I know he loves me whether or not we believe that we were soulmates meant to find each other.
For the longest time, I felt the same way about life. People asked me how I could live without believing that there is a god or heaven. I responded with the same exact answer as I do with love. Does rationalizing death make life any less meaningful? I don’t think so.
I think in general, trying to understand how the universe works logically is an amazing experience and gives it more meaning rather than less. Learning how the universe works was the reason why I chose to study physics and math in college; I wanted to know the answer to why and how things worked. Yet, there is another side to studying science; you have to be willing to accept that there are questions that we have yet to answer or some that we may never answer. For many people, not knowing bothers them and they fill that void with religion or some other form of spirituality, but in science, we are excited to explore these questions in hopes to find an answer.
I brought up of my sudden discomfort with the concept of death with my boyfriend the other night while we were eating dinner. I told him that it bothers me that I am not going to be here one day.
He went on to explain to me that the only people who are going to be affected when I die are the ones who are living because they are the only ones to know.
“Yeah, it’s just hard to accept the fact that one day I’m here and then one day I’m suddenly not.” I responded.
“Why? It’s not like you’re going to know when you die.” He responded.
“And you find comfort in that?” I asked.
“Of course. It’s like before you were born, you had no idea that you weren’t alive, and you don’t miss it. It’s the same when you die. You don’t miss it because you don’t know.” He answered.
“I guess you’re right. I mean, there is going to be a night where I’m going to go to sleep and not wake up.” I responded.
“Exactly, the last thing you’ll remember is a dream.” He reassured me.
I laughed and said “Actually, I won’t recall a dream because there will be no brain activity nor would I recall anything.”
“Exactly, you won’t even recall that you were alive, so you have nothing to worry about.” He reassured me.
I tried to relate it to passing out. I once passed out when I donated blood. Even though, I have donated blood plenty of times before, this time, the sudden change in blood pressure caused me to passed out. The only reason why I knew I passed out was because I woke up; if I never woke up, I would have never known I was ever alive. As I was passed out, I didn’t know I was passed out, I didn’t know that I even existed, and the only ones who knew were the ones that were conscious.
We discussed a little more and came to the same conclusion that just because we rationalize life and accept the fact that death is the end all and be all, it does not make life any less meaningful; if anything, it adds value to life knowing that we only have a limited time to do what we want to do before we die.
Do I accept this rationalization? Absolutely. Am I 100% comfortable with it? Not quite. But you don’t have to be comfortable with something you accept as true. In life, there is always going to be lingering questions and enduring doubts. Uncertainty is a part of life. I try to rationalize this by relating this to quantum mechanics. Schrodinger’s equation allows us to predict the probability of an electron being at a certain position, but will never guarantee that it will be there.
And I think we have to live our lives with the acceptance of uncertainty. We should rationalize what we can, but we have to realize that probability is a part of life. Just like how the probability function of an electron being in space adds up to be 1 meaning that the electron is guaranteed to be somewhere in space, we have to accept that death is also guaranteed.
The uncertainty is not knowing when one is going to die. But, I come to realize that if I live my life worrying about death, I’ll never truly enjoy life. So, to my discomfort, I am going to rationalize that death is inevitable and one day I will not exist. But, as my boyfriend said, why should I worry about death when I know that I won’t know that I’m dead?