For quite some time, I had made a truce with death. I had discovered some simple truths about my existence here on this beautiful rock and those truths comforted me. Once death no longer bothered me on a daily basis, my fears shifted to the many fates that I consider to be worse than death. But then, in the past few weeks, death has crept back into mind and it is again holding my feet to the fire.

My relapse began with an especially deadly week in my home town. There were a handful of car accidents, all of which claimed at least one life. I won’t go into the details, but one of these was especially brutal and involved an explosion. Then, right on cue, my imagination spun into action and I caught myself imagining — in great detail — the last few moments of the poor driver. My thoughts then shifted to my own vulnerability and the ridiculous naivety in which most of us live our daily lives. I noticed that every time I got into my car I was tense with fear while I wondered whether or not today would be the day.

These constant nagging thoughts about death eventually led me to some of my physical and mental symptoms, some of which had severely been acting up in the past few weeks. Then I began playing the Connect-Two Anxiety Game. Maybe you’re familiar with it. To play, all you need to do is find at least two unrelated symptoms, and then try to find a disease that perfectly explains their coexistence. Once you’ve found a good disease (it has to be utterly wretched and lead to either deformity or death), then you’ll begin to notice other symptoms that oddly concur with your self-diagnosis. From here, I often end up in a chronic state of mid-level anxiety that makes every day an intense mix of fear and depression. This eventually leads to either severe panic or total apathy, neither of which is a good experience.

Yet, when I stop and think about it, I feel so silly about the whole thing. What is it about death?

That may sound like a stupid question, but when we look at death objectively, it really offers nothing for us to be afraid of. Here are a few enlightening perspectives on death:

1) Without death, there is no life. It’s that simple. What could be more obvious?

2) Everything exists on a cycle of birth and death. We humans don’t suffer death alone. All of the other animals, insects, and planets of Earth live and die as we do; and, in fact, so does our planet itself. After spending billions of years converting hydrogen into heavier elements, many stars die in a great explosion called a supernova. These enormous explosions expel these heavy elements out into space, much of which will eventually end up in other stars or planets, like Earth. Our planet will one day die and be gobbled up by our Sun as it expands into its red giant phase. Or maybe our planet will cool and harden into a barren rock, much like Mars is today. Either way, every thing on our planet will eventually die. Everything from our tallest buildings to the smallest furry animal will eventually be gone. Our planet itself will go, as will our Sun.

3) Death is something we all must face. Like it or not, we can’t avoid this one. We may be able to avoid many things in life, but death is not one of them.

4) Many wonderful people have gone before us. Just think about all of the amazing people who have lived and died on our little planet. Whatever happens to us, we should be comforted by the knowledge that we aren’t the first to go.

5) Death is ubiquitous. Even though we like to deny it, people and animals are dying every moment, everywhere on the planet. For something so ubiquitous, why do we pretend that we — you and I — are somehow special cases? Why should my death be more terrifying than the deaths of so many others?

6) Death is occurring every moment. Your body is constantly regenerating itself, replacing old cells with new ones. Your thoughts are passing and new ones are forming. Your memories are fading just as others are created. These things happen every moment of every day and, in a way, death is always with you. Without death’s presence, you wouldn’t exist. If your cells did not die and regenerate, then your body would’ve failed long, long ago.

7) We aren’t the first to be freaked out by the whole thing. Having some anxiety about death is normal. Just take a look at the many things humans have done to help ease the worry about death and the afterlife. The pyramids at Giza are a prominent example, as is the Chinese terracotta army. If that doesn’t convince you, take a gander at religion as an institution. More often than not, religious institutions serve with the sole purpose of providing answers where none can possibly be found.

So maybe none of this helps you. Maybe it all takes a while to sink in. I’ve been brooding over these things for quite some time and I don’t yet feel at ease with my own inevitable death. I guess what it all comes down to for me is family. The most terrifying aspect of death’s shadow is the fear that I will be permanently alienated from my friends and family. This is a pain that no amount of philosophy can possibly alleviate. Yet, there is some comfort in the thought that we are all family, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. In a sense, I am a brother and son of the stars themselves, as my own body is created mostly out of elements forged in their fiery cores.

So, when I die, I will go back to the universe from whence I came. But I admit that it’s a journey I wish I didn’t have to take. More importantly, I cannot allow the fear of that journey to interrupt my daily life. After all, what’s the point in living life if I am unable to savor every moment of it?

(See also: Man’s Greatest Motivator by Jonah)

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