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Socrates on Death
Death is a concept that is as terrifying as it is beautiful and inspirational. The terror of this unknown is what drives humans to avoid thinking about it; we don’t know how we will die, or when, or what happens after our lives end.
Instead of fearing death so much that we avoid thinking about it, maybe we should use it as a tool to live our lives to its fullest extent.
Socrates, an infamous philosopher, stated, “…no one knows whether death does not even happen to be the greatest of all goods…but people fear it as if they know well that is is the greatest of all evils.”
This is a reminder to not fret over things we cannot control and know nothing about. How do you know that death is to be feared, and not potentially the greatest and most freeing thing that can happen to us?
This quote also makes me think about what could be after this life, if anything. Since no one knows what happens when we die, any variety of ideas is possible. Perhaps heaven and hell are real, and all humans will reap the repercussions of the way they lived their lives in this traditional sense of the afterlife.
But, what if when we die, we are reincarnated into another body, and the energy we emitted in one life follows us into the next, thus affecting the happenings in that life? If reincarnation is real, do we ever stop, or do we just reincarnate endlessly?
What if after we die, we cross over to an alternate universe or reality? In this case, if “death” is just switching planes of existence, then what if we have already done this; does it mean we are already dead?
Or perhaps when we die, everything we are ceases to exist—our minds stop, the energy emitted from our brainwaves disperses into the surrounding environment, and our bodies decompose. So many questions, only to hopefully be answered the day we inevitably pass on.
When we think about how thin the slice of time in which we exist is compared to all the time in eternity, it really makes life feel meaningless. However, just as Socrates used the knowledge that he will die someday as motivation to spread his own knowledge and ideas, the rest of us should use the inevitability of death in the same sense.
Remembering and thinking that we will die someday reminds us to live our own lives the way we truly want to live them. Feeling that life is meaningless can either lead to depression or inspiration, depending on our mindset.
If we feel depressed about this, it’s likely we are feeling like we shouldn’t even be here in the first place. However, if we use this idea to inspire us, there are many ways in which we can lead our lives optimistically.
If life is truly meaningless, this gives us the freedom to be whoever we want, which means we can give our own meaning to our lives. This means we can live our lives by our own accords, and not by the expectations of society or of anybody else who wants us to live a certain way. If someone thinks poorly of us because of how we are choosing to live our own lives, it really doesn’t matter because they are going to die, too, just like the rest of us.
If we give one meaning to our lives and time goes by giving us more life experience, thus altering our perception of ourselves and the world around us, we can, in turn, alter our life’s meaning; true freedom is the result of doing this endlessly. People change, situations change, and the way we feel in regards to how we fit into this world changes.
When we remember that we are going to die someday, it is easier to do the things we have always wanted to do. This is because on our deathbed we may regret what we didn’t do when we could have.
Personally, I want to be able to do as many things as I possibly can before I die. When I’m taking my last breath, I want to feel like I’ve lived the life I wanted. I do not want to feel ashamed for not doing certain things because I was too afraid of what people might think. As I am thinking my last thoughts, I want to feel at peace with what I have done and how I have treated people.
I believe we should all be living our lives however we want to live them, and not worry about how society, our peers, or our colleagues will view us and our decisions.
Just as Socrates didn’t, we shouldn’t fear death. Instead, we should use it as a tool to live our lives to the fullest extent possible. A large part of doing this is dropping the fear of what other people are thinking (something I work on every day within myself).
Although no one knows for sure what happens after this life, one thing is definitely certain: death always gets us in the end.