Knowing we will die, how do we ignore death? To be precise, how do most humans wake up in the morning and get out of bed knowing they will die at some point? How do most children after learning about death grow into relatively sane adults? How do Earthlings ignore the possibility of an extinction level event?
Humans are an interesting animal in that they know they will die and simply try to ignore it. Humans are sentient meaning they understand the concept of ‘me’ and the concept that ‘me’ will die. Think back to when you first realized you would one day die. The realization was probably a bit terrifying but also confusing. An explanation was certainly required to understand that everyone dies including loved ones. It also brought other questions like where the hamster ‘farm’ really is located.
Naturally, a discussion is important about what happens after we die. This is where beatific and horrific views of afterlife expound. If you are good, you go to some form of heaven. If naughty, you may go to a bad place like hell. Alas, I am christian, so please feel free to provide your own personal favorite heaven and/or hell. There is also limbo concepts where it is not heaven nor hell. Limbo always seemed like an upgraded hell to me. Afterlife also helps the children understand where the hamster ‘farm’ could be and just how much fun Lucky is having in hamster heaven.
Now I may have some bad news for Lucky and her possible lack of a soul. To get to afterlife requires a soul or a spirit that is able to move on. Some afterlife rule making groups do not believe animals have a soul. As such, animals cannot go to their respective animal heavens. This concerns me as the sentient animals, the humans, have excluded some really magnificent animals from heaven. For example, all those images with light streaming from heaven past the white doves now seems so unfair. Hey look doves it is heaven! Oh wait, you are not allowed. I prefer to believe that life is interconnected so that heaven is inclusive rather than exclusive.
Which brings me to my actual point, we can ignore death because we have rationalized around it. All the above hamster drivel was to illustrate how adept we are at creating an afterlife that helps keep us functioning in life. It is a natural outcome of sentient questions like “Who am I?”, “Where do I come from?”, and “Where will I go?” Yet, hamsters do not ask these questions but are highly motivated to not die. They are also pretty keen on running on a wheel for hours. Perhaps we have a basic will to survive and not give up on life. The will to survive seems to be something we share with even the smallest forms of life.
Birthdays are a great example of rationalizing death. Each year you have a birthday and celebrate the day you were born. However, that is not what is actually happening to you. Your birthday is a celebration of how long you have lived and been part of your birthday celebration. Some folks will get upset at the thought of celebrating a birthday. Others, embarrassed at their age. The truth is you have survived to your birthday anniversary. This is an especially powerful thought when you realize you could die at any time. Life is fragile and from the moment you are born you could die. Fairly simple. Therefore, look forward to your birthday and confidently give your age. You survived and you deserve some recognition.
How are humans able to ignore an impending apocalypse? Let us first look at the smorgasbord of events that can kill us humans. A super virus pandemic. Rapid climate change affecting food growth, water, and spurred by over population. A good old fashioned hide-under-your-desk nuclear holocaust. A super volcano eruption like the one under Yellowstone. Let us all hope Old Faithful stays faithful. A giant natural gas release from the sea floor. The magnetic poles shifting where north becomes south and vice versa without the involvement of east and west. Huge asteroids smashing into Earth like the one that killed the dinosaurs. A giant solar flare frying away our atmosphere. A zombie hamster attack. Agreed, the last event about the hamsters is highly unlikely unless they involve the super virus. At any rate, we know we will die and worse we know that humanity could become extinct.
Each of the apocalyptic events above do have some meager attention. There are scientists working on how to circumvent extinction level events. However, all except the nuclear holocaust are underfunded and understaffed. It is probably better to describe the efforts as proofs of concepts. To me, this is what exemplifies ignoring a problem.
Humans have never been so close to doing something about preserving the species. The advancement of technology is more rapid than ever. However, we may need key advancements sooner in response to a future solution. In other words, if we don’t plan and fund our survival now then we may not have the solution when we need it. I personally do not want to disappoint our future.
The old saying, “Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.”, holds true for humanity’s survival. As it is important to protect the Earth, so too is it important to not have all the humans in one location. For humans to avoid extinction we must spread out into space. We cannot depend on a good defense alone.
Unfortunately, we humans can rationalize ourselves into believing we are safe. After all, we have this great notion of heaven waiting for us. We can ignore the possibility that generations or mere years from now we may face an extinction level event. Perhaps it is best not to think about death. It just makes us all feel strange and uncomfortable. Then again, we should feel worse for not allowing a future generation to live.