January 16, 2004

Death Sucks

Reader Mary (Definitely on the Outer Ring) posed the following question in a recent comment:

Why are you so scared of dying?

(She wrote some other provocative questions as well, but I want to focus on this one for now.)

From the context, I'm going to assume that what Mary is asking is a philosophical question. She doesn't want to know why I would get out of the way of a speeding truck. All mentally healthy human beings are "scared of dying" in that sense; it's something we share with virtually every living being on the planet.

What Mary wants to know is this: why am I not resigned to my own mortality? Why would I want to engage in this unseemly practice of exploring alternatives to dying?

I'll tell you why, Mare.

Death sucks.

Some say that dying is as natural as being born. I say, so what? Vomiting is as natural as eating, but I happen to like eating a lot more.

Some say that death is a part of life. I contend that, by definition, it is not.

Some say that death is the threshold to the next stage of existence. I say maybe so. But this stage seems to have a natural built-in aversion to the threshold to that stage, and I'm going to go with that.

Many believe that the fear of death is a primitive relic, a lingering superstition. Fear of death, they will tell us, is what originally led humanity to irrational thinking. We invented gods and spirits primarily to assuage this fear. Now we live in an age when rational thinking might once again hold sway, although irrationalism persists all around. To differentiate themselves from the irrational throng, rational thinkers proudly state that they are not afraid of dying.

I remember years ago, when I went to see Scorcese's Last Temptation of Christ, there were two groups of sign-carrying protestors standing out front of the theatre. One group was Christian, the other was Atheist. The box office line was rather long, and those of us standing in it were stuck between these two groups: one warning us not to go see this shocking piece of blasphemy, the other encouraging our support of free speech. Needless to say, there was a good deal of verbal sparring between the two camps. Some comments were good natured and even a little funny, but it got heated from time to time. I remember one exchange ended with these very words:

Yeah? Well, I'm not afraid of dying.

Hey, good one. Sign-carrying atheists, one; sign-carrying fundamentalists, zero.

Unfortunately, that's a load of crap. No, I don't mean that I doubt that guy's sincerity when he said that he was not afraid to die. I'm sure he meant it, and wasn't just trying to score points against those polyester-clad, big-haired fundamentalists in front of his cool sign-carrying atheist friends. But the notion that the fear of dying is uniquely linked with irrational thinking is just about as wrong as it can be.

Let's go back 50,000 years or so ago and take a look at our primitive ancestors. It's true that somewhere along the line they developed burial rituals and a belief in an afterlife. Maybe this was just an irrational response to their fear of death and the grief of losing a loved one. But it was just a small part of what they were doing. What, then, were they spending most of their time doing?

Figuring out how the world worked.

These plants will make you sick. These are good for food. Spears with sharp stone heads are better than pointed sticks at bringing down game and warding off predators. This is a good place to stay; predators don't usually come here. After the moon changes three more times, we'll start heading south. We used to wait until it got cold, but this way works better and we lose fewer members of the tribe.

Our ancestors relentlessly pursued an empirical investigation into the nature of...everything. Science didn't begin with Newton or Bacon or the ancient Greeks. It started way back when. All mathematics, physics, biology, astronomy — all rational human thought — has as its foundation the pioneering work of these our ancestors.

Now what do you suppose motivated them to do all this hard investigative work, to engage in all this rational thinking. Could it have been the fear of death?

Absolutely. They were besieged by threats on all sides. A rational, empirical approach to the world emerged as the soundest way of warding off those threats. If our fundamentalist-taunting friend could go back in time and somehow convey to a group of his ancestors his basic credo of intellectual superiority — "I'm not afraid of dying" — they'd think he was nuts. And not because they were so irrational.

But we're only halfway there.

Paradoxically, the self-satisfied volley of "I'm not afraid of dying" might just as easily have come from the religious side of the ticket line as it did from the non-believing side. Religious and spiritually oriented people are often quick to tell you that they have no fear of death. And if you really got it, — whatever that means to the particular believer — you wouldn't be afraid of death, either. If you only understood about Jesus' victory on the cross, or reincarnation, or nirvana, or even just the Natural Order of Things, you would be as resigned to your own eventual demise as the rest of us.

Yeah, well, that's a load of crap, too.

I'm going to restate that so I'm not misunderstood. Any religion that teaches that you should be okay with the fact that you're going to die is a load of crap. Christianity (to use the religion I'm most familiar with) most assuredly does not teach this. As C. S. Lewis famously put it:

But here is something quite different. Here is something telling me -- well, what? Telling me that I must never, like the Stoics, say that death does not matter. Nothing is less Christian than that. Death which made Life Himself shed tears at the grave of Lazarus, and shed tears of blood in Gethsemane. This is an appalling horror; a stinking indignity. (You remember Thomas Browne's splendid remark: "I am not so much afraid of death, as ashamed of it.)

I believe that all human beings, including people of faith, share the same natural revulsion for death. We can blot these feelings out and cover them up, but to do so is to become like those rabbits in Watership Down who sang melancholy songs while trading their lives for some lettuce and carrots.

Those who claim to have no fear of death, whether they be an Objectivist or the Dalai Lama or some Palestinian strapping dynamite to his chest, have lost touch with a primary truth of human existence: a truth which has lead us both to science and to faith. Those who seek to prolong human life — whether via antioxidants or cryonics or standard medical procedures — have tapped into that same fundamental truth:

Death sucks.

Posted by Phil at January 16, 2004 09:32 AM | TrackBack

I guess the issue could be rephrased: Death should be as voluntary as possible. If a person elects not to extend their life through artificial means, they should be allowed to. Just so long as the rest of society doesn't have to pay for their indulgences. If a person decides after a few eons, that all the books worth reading have been read, that human existance is really rather dull, they should be free to snuff it if they want to. Of course even in this future age of brain taping, biostasis and soma augmentation, death may still come involutarily. Someone may still fall into a star without any backups anywhere. But for those that want it, death can be made rare.

On the other hand, we can also admit that we die all the time, from planck interval to planck interval. As we change and gain new experiences the old us is destroyed irrevocably. Perhaps Change == Death and so we are never free of it even in the future of brain taping.

Posted by: Mr. Farlops at January 16, 2004 01:19 PM

You are probably familiar with this:


I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
-- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused -- nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear -- no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape,
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin. From the amazing Plagiarist.com website.

Posted by: scott at January 16, 2004 01:36 PM

Good post! And you are right about Christianity and death; Xty sees death as an enemy, but one that will in the eschaton be overcome.

It must be noted that Jesus in the garden before his arrest was so fearful of the ordeal to come, including death, he bled through his skin. (It is a documented but rare medical condition.)

However, I should note that one's philosophy about death seems to change as one ages. Older people tend to be much more accepting of the concept of their own demise than middle aged or young adults.

In ministering to old folks suffering from the cornucopia of age-related diseases and dysfunctions, I have discovered that an awful lot of them are more than ready to die. My own grandmother told me she was waiting to die at age 90; the burden of daily - indeed, hourly - life had become to great to bear.

What they fear more than death is losing control of their bodies and minds. Also, it was not death per se they fear, but the long, laborious and painful process of dying.

Last year I attended the funeral of an 84-year-old man who was killed in a car accident. He was sound of mind and body at the time. A handful of his peers told me that the man had gone out the best way and they really wished they might die like that, too.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at January 16, 2004 01:40 PM

Not dying is infinitely more frightening than dying, Phil. To have a body that can no longer naturally support life lingering is not all that appealing.

Each cell in our body, and in every living thing, has a limited lifespan. Why? Because the parts that perform all the activities to keep that cell going can only last so long - they can only perform functions for a finite time.

I've seen men and women try to defy aging with plastic surgery, human growth hormone injections, special diets, and adhering to a narrow regime of activities - all in an effort to live longer. But what of the quality of their lives? Following all those rules and having those surgeries, taking those injections....is that truly living?

The key to life is to live it fully and experience the joy, wonder, sorrow, and all the other moments as they happen.

In the end, it won't matter if you remembered your 5 or 9 or 27 vegetables a day. What matters is that you have lived and loved and FELT to the full extent of your being.

Dying is a part of living. Outliving one's usefulness and joy isn't what I'd call life.

Posted by: Da Goddess at January 16, 2004 01:45 PM

What a great post! Whether from a Christian perspective or otherwise, death is always an outrage.

When asked how he would prefer to die, my father (now 81) always says, "shot by a jealous husband."

Posted by: Christopher Jones at January 16, 2004 01:51 PM

Sure, death sucks.

But for every human being in the history of mankind thus far (with a few possible exceptions, depending on your religion, etc), death has been absolutely, undeniably inevitable, and it is likely to be so for at least some time yet (a few decades at least, even for the ultra-wealthy).

Acceptance of one's own eventual demise is good for one's sanity. Being AMBIVALENT towards death at any time is insane. Being willing to die for some causes in the mean time is normal, and I think it is healthy. It is better to risk death or even go to certain death than to be unwilling to die for anything.

Posted by: Deoxy at January 16, 2004 01:52 PM

I'm reminded of that old, and slightly sick, joke that goes:

I want to die quietly, in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.


Posted by: Ed Becerra at January 16, 2004 01:55 PM

I'm not afraid of death, exactly. The idea of not existing anymore, that is. I'm concerned about the manner of my death, the mechanism of it. I'd much rather die in bed in my sleep than in a fire, or for example, as so many did on 9/11 - jumping from a tall building because the alternative was worse.

But at the moment of my death, if I'm conscious, I'm certain I'll have at least a bit of fear. After all, I won't know what's coming, if anything, will I? Not being a believer in any faith, I'm hopeful that death isn't just "the end" but doubtful that "the other side" resembles anything like heaven or hell.

I guess to be specific, I'm not afraid of death, but dying concerns me.

Posted by: Kevin Baker at January 16, 2004 02:01 PM

I think the point is rather like the 'Bushido' code. It's not that death is not to be feared. Death is inevitable. We make the inevitable, death, more palatable by edifice we have created with our existence.

To breath one's last breath with the awesome revelation that one's life did not even deserve one's own respect would be more devastating than to die with the belief that one had lived in such a manner as to feel a personal pride.

Anyway, that's how I'm approaching the matter.

Posted by: T. Hazlewood at January 16, 2004 02:03 PM

D'OH! Should have read Rev. Sensing's comment first.

Posted by: Kevin Baker at January 16, 2004 02:03 PM

What a great blog. Death is a certainty but not well-defined. As a knowledge-based individual with some experience in association with the dying, the act of dying is to be feared. However, the comfort of the possiblity of reward after physical death is real. Most people need to be reassured and I think that speaks to our evolution as a species;our "need to know "to plan to move ahead. Humans are forward looking as a species; religion plays into this and I think in a postive way.

Posted by: lulubillman at January 16, 2004 02:42 PM

Reminds me of that Woody Allen quote,

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be around when it happens."

Personally, I'm not afraid of dying, it's the pain that precedes it that scares the crap out of me.

Posted by: Moxie at January 16, 2004 02:44 PM

From a religious point of view, I believe immortality is born in the heart of man. Death is a curse. But natural death is not so much an event, as a process. Slowly, we lose the ability to do what we once found easy. At some point, it becomes possible to embrace death, because on some level, we are more dead than alive.

But death is still a curse. I hate it. I hate the thought of it.

Posted by: Scott Harris at January 16, 2004 02:46 PM

What a great blog. Death is a certainty but not well-defined. As a knowledge-based individual with some experience in association with the dying, the act of dying is to be feared. However, the comfort of the possiblity of reward after physical death is real. Most people need to be reassured and I think that speaks to our evolution as a species;our "need to know "to plan to move ahead. Humans are forward looking as a species; religion plays into this and I think in a postive way.

Posted by: lulubillman at January 16, 2004 02:48 PM

OK - If you're tired of taking death lying down, make a donation to the Methuselah Foundation (www.methuselahmouse.org) already! It's funding a prize to bribe scientists for the reversal of human aging (set up like the X Prize).

Yes this is a shameless appeal. Sheesh...

Posted by: Dave Gobel at January 16, 2004 02:48 PM

Geez! You posters need to wake up and smell the future! Death is headed for the scrap heap with the advent of nanotechnology. I for one plan to live forever in a healthy and young posthuman body. To make absolutely sure of that, I'm signed up for cryonic suspension with BOTH U.S. cryonics providers (1 is backup in case anything happens to the first one). Take all this "death is natural" stuff and shove it where there's no direct dialing - what crap. Anyone who REALLY advocates "getting back to nature" should be living in cave, sleeping on a pile of sticks, and doing without clothing and fire, NOT posting on the internet! Technology helps us CONQUER "nature" - so just get over it.

Posted by: Janessa Ravenwood at January 16, 2004 02:59 PM

This song by Carolyn Arends always comforts me when I think about death... The Song is called, We've Been Waiting for You, and it is about the birth of a child.


Let me hold you close, I know you're frightened
Go ahead and cry, I understand
You were safe and you were warm
And then suddenly without a warning
Things began to change
It must have seemed so strange

To all at once be traveling a journey
All the way to this delivery room
But baby you are not alone
Your room is ready, let's go home
You're gonna like it here
Let me make it clear that

We've been waiting for you
We're so glad you came
We've been looking forward
To showing you the place
There's so much in store and
We've been waiting for you

I know it can take some getting used to
But this old world is where you're meant to be
Life is something not to miss
The taste of ice cream, your first kiss
And when love takes your hand
You will understand why

We've been waiting for you
We're so glad you came
We've been looking forward
To showing you the place
There's so much in store and
We've been waiting for you

And watching you come into this world
Baby, you've made me believe
Another journey awaits us
So when I have to leave

I am pretty sure that I'll be frightened
But even if I cry, please understand
I will know I'm not alone
When my room is ready I'll go home
And when I reach the gate
I'm going to hear them saying

We've been waiting for you
We're so glad you came
We've been looking forward
To showing you the place
There's so much in store and
We've been waiting for you

Posted by: Katherine Prouty at January 16, 2004 03:02 PM

If the core of the prevailing ethos was aversion to things that "suck," nobody would ever take out the garbage.

Grown-ups have to do things that suck, and to experience things that suck. It's a hallmark of being an adult.

An American soldier in Iraq told a reporter, "Yeah, it sucks, but sometimes you have to embrace the suck."

That's an attitude that contributes to survival and happiness.

Posted by: Scott at January 16, 2004 03:17 PM


If being immortal means suffering through eternity with someone as shrill as yourself, I'll gladly takes Death's boney hand in mine and follow him wherever he may lead. Sheesh.

Posted by: sligobob at January 16, 2004 03:18 PM

I'd rather be dead than a metallica fan

Posted by: heeby jaco at January 16, 2004 03:19 PM

The Speculist. Hmmm. Are you handy with specula?

(That sounds like a Korean car... "Hey baby, I'll pick you up in my new Hyundai Specula.")

Posted by: Scott at January 16, 2004 03:21 PM

I've come to the conclusion over the years that the horror of death is not that you cease to exist -- it's that the world continues to exist without you.

Thinking about it in depth leads me to a gnawing depression, that there will always be new things to love in the world, new experiences to cherish, but most of those are out of reach in a future without me.

Selfish, but then ... life is selfish.

Posted by: truesper at January 16, 2004 03:38 PM

Sure, death sucks. So what.

Posted by: Jerry at January 16, 2004 03:41 PM

How do you know death sucks?

Are you dead?

Posted by: MD at January 16, 2004 03:43 PM

Not sure I liked that last comment about Objectivists. I agree with most of what Ayn Rand said, and I find it incontestable that death sucks ass.

Posted by: Brian at January 16, 2004 03:52 PM

I'll agree with the Phil on this one. I'm an evangelical Christian - with an aversion to death. To me, to focus on death can stop you from living and I'm not buying a statement saying I'm not afraid to die...

Jesus himself said, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." Obviously, God gave us an aversion to death.

But, I do have a problem with folks who claim no God. Their problem is they start with an immediate bias against the supernatural (forgetting the creation of the universe for a minute) not realizing they walk in it every day. This universe is so infinitely complex it's mind numbing.

Good comment Phil overall. Though, the "Last Tempation of Christ" was in my opinion, heresy for any Bible believing Christian. If Christ was no more than that, then all is lost...doubt God was tempted to beget God, if you catch my drift.

Posted by: OK Rocks... at January 16, 2004 03:53 PM

Donald Sensing wrote:

"...Jesus in the garden before his arrest was so fearful of the ordeal to come, including death, he bled through his skin. "

It wasn't just death that He was fearful of, it was the ordeal leading up to it. (That passage could be troubling to some Christians who believe in the divinity of Christ.)

"What they fear more than death is losing control of their bodies and minds. Also, it was not death per se they fear, but the long, laborious and painful process of dying. "

That's it exactly. Indeed, death sucks, especially when it's caused by a drunken idiot running a red light and plowing into the side of your Geo Metro.

On the other hand, sometimes life sucks, too.

There's a difference between being afraid of death, and realizing that it's utterly, implacably, inevitable. We just try to put it off as long as possible.

The hard thing about death is that it happens first to those around us.

Hazlewood makes a very good point. It's not so much whether you die, or even how, but rather how you lived.

For Janessa: Go for it!

But that leads to a diffrent thread: What would you do if you were immortal (or even guaranteed a life-span of 1000 years). Make any reasonable assumptions (i.e. physical condition, state of mind, &c). Consider also the possibility that everyone has the same immortality.

Then there's the realization that death will make you leave a lot of things undone, unfinished. I would hate to have to miss "Star Wars XXII". I will hate not being able to see colonies on Mars, exploration beyond our solar system, and a VCR that programs itself.

Posted by: Mike at January 16, 2004 03:59 PM

Death is a disease like any other. There's nothing inevitable or unavoidable about it. Research into the genetic reasons for aging will undoubtedly lead to solutions for the problems of aging and natural death. I expect these solutions to become widely available shortly after I drop dead.

Posted by: Milo Minderbinder at January 16, 2004 04:04 PM

"Our ancestors relentlessly pursued an empirical investigation into the nature of...everything."

True. And believe it or not, you can actually learn to travel outside your body and know firsthand that you are not your body, and that when your body dies, you do not cease to exist. It's actually true -- if you want to learn more, I'd suggest checking on The Monroe Institute (http://www.monroeinstitute.org), which was founded by a very sober businessman who began spontaneously having OOBE's (out of body experiences) in the late 1950s and over the next several decades learned to control and trigger the experience at will. He also pioneered sound technologies that can be used to trigger the experience; you can learn about opportunities for workshops at the Institute where you too can learn to go OOBE. I'm not kidding.

I know this sounds like crackpot stuff, but as a very logical computer software engineer (and former atheist) who has personally experienced this, take it from me that it's worth at least investigating. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the "death expert", came upon this technology very late in her career as well and found it profoundly life-altering.

It hasn't eliminated my fear of a painful death, and it hasn't eliminated the deep-seated fear-of-dying reflex that I believe we're all born with, but it has immeasurably soothed the worries I used to have about the meaning of life and my survival of it.

I don't believe that we'll ever find technologies that will keep our physical bodies from dying, but I do believe that in the next millenium we will make OOBE-travel a common, everyday experience. (Actually it already is, because we all do it every night during deep sleep.)

Posted by: MarkJ at January 16, 2004 04:10 PM

Been there. Done that. Dying, that is. Heh heh heh.

Some say that once people reach 50 they're pretty much ready to accept death (the concept) and dying (the act).

I had a heart attack and faced immediate death. I didn't mind the death part at all. I minded the pain of the dying part. I had absolutely no fear of death as The Big Sleep, a la Nothingness.

In fact, I knew it wasn't a problem. I had complete trust in my survival as a coherent being. Why? Well, when you've actually met your Creator face to face, person to person, you eventually get to the truth about things; and it breeds confidence.

Animals have a way of submitting to death when it can no longer be escaped. That applies to humans as well. The drowning man succumbs, the wounded soldier sighs.

The faithful man with some real insight into Spirit has no fear of death.

Posted by: mark butterworth at January 16, 2004 04:52 PM

Very thoughtful post.

Death sucks, but sometimes, so does the fear of death.

And sometimes, so does life!

Fear of death may be a healthy motivator, but it can go too far. To live each day as if it were your last -- yet at the same time not live in fear of death -- that strikes me as an ideal. Healthy fear is good (I am not recommending suicidal lifestyles) but wasting too much time fearing the inevitable can prevent the enjoyment of life, thus calling into question the value of fearing its loss!

What I cannot stand is to have self-appointed "leaders" like Leon Kass lecture me or anyone else on the need for a "natural" lifespan, how the "dignity" of life is to be defined, or the immorality of extending it any way I might want.

If it isn't my life, then it isn't my death. No one really ought to assign values (or fears) to either -- other than the person living or dying.

Don't mean to sound too morbid, but I lost twenty friends to AIDS and this stuff was much "in my face" for years. This forced me to develop tougher-than-normal death calluses -- and a sort of gallows humor.

At times, I have found it most beneficial to turn off the natural fear of death. Far from missing out on anything, I honestly feel that I gleaned new insights -- and (quite paradoxically) saved my life, which I now value more than I did before the experience.

With all respect to the wisdom of this excellent post, I do not agree that negating the fear of death causes one to "lose touch with a primary truth of human existence." It brought me closer!

(On the other hand, those who claim falsely to have no fear of death only confirm the truth of your assertions, for obvious reasons. Their fear is infinitely greater than those who admit the fear honestly.)

A very minor point: vomiting was once combined with eating, and considered quite pleasurable!

Posted by: Eric Scheie at January 16, 2004 05:00 PM

Great post, and I can't believe I have found someone else who has used those fat and self delusional rabbits in Watership down as an analogy! Fabulous!

That whole passage has struck me something deep within my core since I read it as a kid 10 years ago. It probably means similar things to other people who are drawn to knowledge even if it hurts them.

Posted by: taspundit at January 16, 2004 05:07 PM

sligobob: No big loss, you won't be missed.

Mark J: Oh please, spare us the mysticism and do yourself a favor by trading it in for some hard science instead. Regarding the NDE nonsense, see http://www.csicop.org/ for some good mysticism debunking. And your statement about not finding the technology to live forever is laughable. Nanotechnology will give us that almost certainly in less than a century, possibly within a few decades. Start dealing with the concept of global immortality - it's coming whether you want it to or not.

Posted by: Janessa Ravenwood at January 16, 2004 05:10 PM

I think it would have been interesting to be able to interview Lazarus. Then again, maybe not.

As far as nanotechnology and all of that goes, you'll still die eventually. Pretending that it isn't going to happen isn't a wise approach, either.

Posted by: Stephen B at January 16, 2004 05:24 PM

I concur absolutely with the posters who say they abhor the dying process. Especially, if it can't be with dignity. For someone to die after losing control of their bodily functions, possibly wracked with pain, and who has no family left to comfort them, death can be an unqualified blessing.

I DO NOT fear death, but I fear dying alone and not being sentient. Let me make my transition in peace and free of pain.

My mother lived until she was 90 years old. She played golf three times a week until she broke her hip at age 88. She lived a full life, being a teacher, mother of four, grandmother of many and wife of 56 years.

We discussed dying and our feelings. She wanted only to die at home; her living will specified that no extraordinay measures be employed to revive her; she arranged and prepaid for her funeral. The family honored all of her requests.

She looked forward to reuniting with her friends and loved ones on the other side, particularly my father. She was cheerful but anxious to get on with it, as she was confined to a wheelchair and unable to look after herself. If you had offered her a magic pill to extend her life she would have laughed and said "You take your pills and shove 'em", I'm leaving". And she did.

Did she get to the reunion? I don't know, but even if there is no life after life, I look forward to finding out. I hope that euthanasia is an option by the time I'm ready to go.

Posted by: Ed P. at January 16, 2004 05:36 PM

You need to read some Lucretius my man...he will show you how irrational the fear of death really is. Just imagine that time reversed itself and you lived your life backwards, but your mind operated normally. Would you be afraid as you were sucked back into your mothers womb, reduced to a collection of cells and then torn apart into two seperate pieces and into oblivion? No. Why? Because we've all already been there. Death is only scary if it represents the unknown...but we all know the state of death all to well.
Everyone remembers what it was like before they were born.

Posted by: Jason at January 16, 2004 05:39 PM

Stephen B: WHY will I still die eventually? Just because you say so? I swear, virtually none of the Pro-Deathists and/or Luddites have viable arguments...

Posted by: Janessa Ravenwood at January 16, 2004 05:44 PM

Deoxy: I agree with you that functional immortality is "decades away, at least". But, see, I'm in my early thirties. I expect to live another sixty years at least. If it happens in "decades", I expect to be there for it. In any case, it seems entirely possible that the generation being born now might never have to deal with age-related illnesses and death.

Janessa: yes, out-of-body experiences and near-death experiences are bunk, but you could be a lot nicer about it. Especially since your "nanotech" rant is itself based in science fiction and wishful thinking, not in science itself.

Posted by: Dan at January 16, 2004 05:54 PM

I don't think, therefore I am not.

Posted by: Buster at January 16, 2004 05:56 PM

StephenB writes: "As far as nanotechnology and all of that goes, you'll still die eventually."

How about if we make archival backup copies of ourselves? Clone new body; restore from save file. Obviously still very much in the realm of fiction, but there's no known reason it's not doable. Sure, eventually we'll have to deal with the heat death of the entire universe, but who knows... maybe it's preventable somehow. :)

Jason writes: "Would you be afraid as you were sucked back into your mothers womb, reduced to a collection of cells and then torn apart into two seperate pieces and into oblivion?"

Hell yes! For starters, I'd be terrified of who it was, exactly, who had the power to do that to me -- and what it had planned for me next.

Posted by: Dan at January 16, 2004 06:04 PM

My law practice is primarily estate planning and most of my clients are 65+ and quite a few 80+... Every once in awhile, someone will say they're ready to go, but it is very rare... even those who are sick and suffering aren't (usually) looking to go soft into that good night.
And by the way, you shouldn't believe them when they say they don't want life support... for the vast majority, as long as they're able to make their own decisions, they decide for life... not absolutely all, but almost... The only difference between older and younger people is that the older ones are slowing down and they can hear the Reaper's footsteps, so they're more willing to talk about it...
Death really does suck.

Posted by: jagcap at January 16, 2004 06:18 PM

>>>>>"...Jesus in the garden before his arrest was so fearful of the ordeal to come, including death, he bled through his skin. "

It wasn't just death that He was fearful of, it was the ordeal leading up to it. (That passage could be troubling to some Christians who believe in the divinity of Christ.)

Jesus had to experience the full wrath of God, and the separation from God, to make the price He was paying real. Though in the mystery of the Godhead Jesus is God, in the work and payment on the cross He was fully human. There's also a question of Jesus suffering in hell (not necessarily actual fire, but extreme or total separation from God) as well as part of the payment. Yet He was ultimately triumphant in defeating death, and is our Forerunner if we have faith... Jesus Christ is actually more heroic and suffered even more on the behalf of His followers than is generally known even by believing Christians...

Posted by: ct at January 16, 2004 06:18 PM

Dan: I don't see any reason to tread lightly around baseless mysticism and hallucinations. And "science fiction?" I see you haven't been keeping up on current events. I USED to think a mature nanotechnology might not arrive until around 2050+. Right now 2020 is starting to actually look realistic. I can't believe what we've accomplished in 2003 alone. Start doing some more research if you think nanotechnology is science fiction.

Posted by: Janessa Ravenwood at January 16, 2004 06:20 PM

Well, at my age I doubt that nanotechnology or anything else will progress fast enough to allow me to live forever. I'd like to avoid dying until I've taught my grandchildren how to saddle a horse and track a deer. I hope my health allows me to teach the boys how to low crawl within range of an antelope and it would be nice to show them how to field dress and quarter an elk and get the carcass and trophy back to the truck.
When my grandaughters are proud and strong and are going through their lives secure that they'll never be someone's sex toy or punching bag, then I shall have finished my job in this life.
If something comes up before then it won't be fear but rage. I've work to do.

Posted by: Peter at January 16, 2004 06:23 PM

Well, I've been dead for twenty years, and I really must agree with Phil.

Posted by: Ian Wood at January 16, 2004 06:48 PM

Peter: that's why you sign up for cryonics. I hope you live to see all of that, and more!

Posted by: Janessa Ravenwood at January 16, 2004 06:57 PM

This was a post that makes the blogworld worth the trouble.


Posted by: Matt at January 16, 2004 06:58 PM

I'm pretty young, and the thing I fear most about dying is inflicting grief on people who love and need me. I'd hate to be hit by a car and be lying there, dying, and thinking about how horrible things were going to be for my family (and my dog).

If I live to 90 and don't have anyone who really needs me anymore, it won't be so bad.

Posted by: Sarah e.g. at January 16, 2004 07:41 PM

I am attracted to math. I enjoy solving differential equations more than anything. Sad perhaps, but true. So, if I was free of death, then I could spend all my waking hours solving differential equations. Perhaps I could do that for 10,000 years before I finally had solved them all. Of course I would remember each one, because forgetting is also a kind of death.

After that, I would have to go on to my second favorite thing, which is Integration. I really enjoy integration, and like it almost as much as solving differential equations. Alas, after another 10,000 years, I would have completed integrating all the integrals, and would have to go on to my third favorite thing.

With eternal life, I would progress further and further down the list of things that I like, to things that I like less and less. Eventually I would be forced, just to find some novelty, to begin to do things that I don't really like, but at least don't dislike as much as some other alternatives. Still, I would eventually complete them, and would have to either repeat myself endlessly, or would have to progress further down the list. Eventually I would plumb the bottom of my finite or infinite list, and spend 10,000 years doing that which I hate above all things-arguing philosophy

Doubtless a a deathless species would fill its literature with longing for death, and escape from immortality. In the end, the G-ds themselves would envy brief, transient, and insubstantial humanity.

To die is to be free of all problems. Death is a solution, particularly for those who die. It is the living who must face all problems, who are faced with the need to find their daily bread, and find reason for enduring their continued toil and suffering.

Posted by: Don at January 16, 2004 07:53 PM

I'm 57, the men die around this age from heart attacks, in my family. Until a few years ago, I used to make it a point to eat, sleep and exercise right, and tho I've been an inveterate smoker since teenhood, I did control it, until lately, when I've gone to smoking as much as possible, all day and all night long. About two years ago, mom had the worst stroke possible, left her alive in name only. I tended her for 15 months, until she died a few months ago. Since she had the stroke, I haven't exercised a bit, have gotten to where for the last few months i sleep only three or four nights a week, only for two or three hours. I sold my business, and just read, smoke, and drink gallons of coffee, loaded with sugar, and eat maybe a sandwich all day long long. I don't answer the phone, nor open my mail, nor go anywhere non-emergency. I think being that close to mom that long in that condition shook me so bad I want to just get it the hell over with. Only problem is the kids and a brother and sister and a few others I haven't yet been able to chase off, they'll miss me. So I'm making sure they get used to me being nothing much to miss. The timing is perfect. What a mess, huh? But, is it? I'm all done here, did my life's work, and am too vain to chase youth like the heroically pathetic oldsters we all act like we so admire for the tenacity with which they hang onto life. I always wonder, do they ever feel like they ought to get out of the way and preserve some capital for the kids? A couple has a different dynamic, but what if there's only an ex? My ex-wife is not a factor in my or the kids' lives, having moved to Arizona years ago to worship the sun or something. I can't care about life, because it is almost over, and caring will just make me apprehensive and miserable. As is, I'm in control, and although I know I sound classically depressed, I feel fine; actually sort of enjoying myself. When I finally get the news, (provided I don't just blink out suddenly) of the Big Illness, I'll just leave a note explaining to everyone that I have terminal whatever, and have made the rational decision, and, whatever put the pistol to the temple. I guess I must be crazy, huh?

Posted by: Buddy at January 16, 2004 08:17 PM

Don: just because you believe yourself inadequate to survive an immortal existence, it doesn't follow that you should project that onto everyone else. In other words, speak for yourself!

Posted by: Janessa Ravenwood at January 16, 2004 08:43 PM

"I don't want to gain immortality through my work. I want to gain immortality by not dying."

Woody Allen

Posted by: Doug at January 16, 2004 08:51 PM

One important thing is that we can actually work on the concept of death, as demonstrated by these perspicacious posts, that is, how we look at it, which then modifies what death is -- or at least we can hope to do so.

Death is our non-being, which was in fact the situation for an infinity of time prior to our life. Or was it? We do have this awareness now, which creates the possibility that we have had it before, although we assume this must not have been really us. But we do not know.

We have an infinity of time to re-exist, although we again assume that our awareness will not re-exist as we currently experience it. Maybe this is not true. We do have this awareness now. Who knows?

Then we realize that my awareness of self is the same as yours, at least as to our awareness of existence. So perhaps if anyone exists, our exact awareness of existence and maybe self also exists, even if it is not exactly us who is being aware. Is this any consolation? I don't know but am attracted to thinking about it.

We can also argue, that since the Universe is infinite, there is an infinite chance that an infinity of exact replicas of us exist now with our exact same awareness. Say hello to yourselves.

There is thus an infinite chance that exact replicas of each of us at all ages exist, have existed, and will exist. Thus we can be tempted to conclude that we always exist, though in separate places. Again, is this any consolation? I don't know.

Looking at life as dualistically separate from death is not quite definitive. These life-death/non-life manifestations of the Universe are in fact quite connected, though the connection is mysterious.

It is interesting at least that we have been created by the Universe, as a formation of its forces, with a thought capacity which wants to understand the forces of its own creation. The Universe cannot understand itself but through us, as a part of itself. Therefore, in a way we are the Universe, and we can know this. [Though I don't think the Universe cares if it knows itself, as it is otherwise not alive.]

Understanding seeks to contact the forces which created it, even immediately. This involves some kind of meld, possibly.

I am afraid of death. But then if I look at the fear, it is possible to see it as irrelevant, that is, as an impediment to life, which can produce a life worse than death, maybe.

Or at least we can get into the fear to perhaps break it down into other facets. Having had several near death experiences, I have noted that when confronted with these situations immediately, I have never been afraid. Others I have observed in acute situations which might lead to their deaths [acute diseases which threaten life immediately] have never manifested fear. This helps me.

When confronted with my possible death in the certain near future, as in the face of a disease, I have been initially sickly afraid, then evolving into a peaceful yet powerful acceptance, as has been documented in many other cases. Luckily in my case the disease was cured. The process was instructive, in the sense that maybe next time I can skip right to the phase of acceptance. It is a real state.

It is the nonspecific consideration of my ultimate death as a general fact of life which seems most fear-producing. Functionally, then, I have concluded that this kind of consideration of death should be avoided unless it is carried out further everytime it comes up. If this is temporarilly unsuccessful or a background fear remains, the only thing to do is to bring it up front again to see what it is. J. Krishnamurti is a wonderful source to read regarding facing such fears, which tends to resolve them by the full focus of awareness upon them, which is the same as being alive in the sense of using thought as an activity constituting what we are to see what we are, at the time that we are. That is, now. [See, for example, "Total Freedom", J.Krishnamurti]

Using our thought capability to be aware is, strangely, the same activity we do as forces of the Universe trying to understand the Universe, that is, ourselves.

Krishnamurti also believed that thought was a factor of extreme divisiveness if the thoughts themselves were taken as solid structures which then limited thought, or acted as ultimate truths. These do not exist. Nor should we want them to, because then we would be done wondering. The concept of death, then, should be dealt with similarily -- as not a solid structure but a source of wonder. Some American Indians saw it this way.

Thus there is probably no answer to death except living in as an aware way as possible so that we are always "confronted with the Great Mystery". [Luther Standing Bear] Good luck to us all.

Posted by: Joe Peden at January 16, 2004 09:30 PM

The mystics are just coming out of the woodwork here to ramble on and on about nonsense. Someone call Penn & Teller...

Posted by: Janessa Ravenwood at January 16, 2004 10:33 PM

Don, I'd like to think that with an eternity of time on our hands and a whole universe ahead we'd come up with new things to be interested in. My list of favorite things gets longer every day.

And I do believe in an afterlife, but I don't think God wants us to hurry up and die any faster to get there. He's in no rush.

Posted by: Bryan C at January 16, 2004 11:29 PM

I'm a firm beliver in the saying, "It's not the years in your life, but the life in your years." I work at a hospital. Evey day I see the folks that are in their 80s or 90s, hooked up to a bank of equipment to keep them hanging on that much longer. No. Frickin. Way. If nano-tech makes it so that I can live forever with a good quality of life, great. In the meantime, I'm going to eat what I want, consume moderate amounts of alchohol, and enjoy the occasional cigar. Unless the exotropians' hopes pan out (or if the Hindus are right about re-incarnation), we only get one shot at this & I mean to enjoy my time here.

Posted by: Cybrludite at January 16, 2004 11:56 PM

Within this night
We see a spark,
Beyond the edge
That cuts the flesh
Of we who reach
Into the dark.

With lessons taught,
And less ones learnt,
With held and brought,
On crosses burnt,
Hang those who sought,
And those who weren’t.
And... bit by bit,
And... piece by piece,
And... cut by cut,
We lose ourselves
To life’s decay,
Too soon to pray
For our release.

Within this light,
We see the dark,
Beyond the edge
That cuts the flesh
Of we who reach
Towards the spark.

Death sucks.. but dying sucks worse.

Luckily we've 'naturally' evolved an intelligence level which allows us to regard the pursuit of knowledge and its propagation for the betterment of ourselves and others as being beneficial to our continued existence.

Luckily, our 'naturally' evolved intelligence is finally delivering the goods and we have arrived at a time when we will be able to disconnect ourselves from the biological imperative of aging and death.

Our body is a machine, incredibly complicated to be sure, but not so much so that it will prevent us from repairing it like we would an old car that needs a few new parts to stay on the road.. indefinitely.

That people are willing to accept the creeping and sometimes sudden debilitation that comes with age is only a testament to the level of hopelessness that anything can be done about it. After all, so many have died before, how can we possibly escape?

Well... let me see.. What is so different that one might hope we could escape death by aging..

Everything is different... and its going to get more different rapidly. From the Human Genome to the high speed internet connected supercomputers, there is very little in this world that is the same than in the time which spawned an attitude of the acceptance of death.

Possibly not in mine, but certainly in the lifetime of the next generation, death will come to be seen as even more of a tragedy than it is today as virtually everyone will be able to escape their biologically imposed expiration date.

I hope I'm here to see what the world becomes when the wisdom of the healthy aged is applied to the problems associated with short term perspectives.

Death sucks... dying is worse.. and that is why I have to put in a shameless plug for the Methuselah Mouse Prize..

The Methuselah Mouse Prize

Posted by: Kevin Perrott at January 17, 2004 12:16 AM

Men say my years are few, but I am old,
And worn, with scars from endless wars,
And long to rest on some brown and windswept wold,
Unknown of men, beneath the quiet stars.

The greybeards prattle, while I hold my tongue,
And flaunt their callow wisdom drearily;
White headed babes, to me, who they brand "young",
With knowledge gained through ages wearily.

Shape upon shape returning, land on land,
Loosed by the ripping axe, the arrow's tooth,
Through endless incarnations, till I stand,
A tired, old man, wrapped in the guise of youth.

(Robert E. Howard)

Posted by: Don at January 17, 2004 01:26 AM

As other posters have pointed out, what some of us mean when we say, "I'm not afraid of dying" is not, "I'm not afraid of those last few moments of life, within which I might suffer immeasurably, or be 'taken' instantly," or whatever. We’re not saying we’d shrug off a slow and painful death.

We're also not saying that we *want* to die, that we want our lives to be cut short, that we want to live anything less than our three score and ten—plus a few more years than that in this age, I should hope!

No, what we're really saying is "Don't try to spook me. I'm not afraid of what comes *after* death. I'm not going to be scared 'straight' with some fiery vision of eternal hell, where “the worm dieth not.” In fact, we’re saying that once death comes, we may just surrender to it, hopefully having lived a full life and having earned the right to rest eternally.

And by “rest” I mean sleep the sleep from which you never awake, neither in this world, nor in any other.

Ironically, yes, many religious folks should be able to say the same, since they're promised an eternity in heaven. Unfortunately, their own doubts and the guilt trip they're sometimes expected to endure often has them fearing they may wake in hell, despite any commitments they've made to Christ or any other consolations of eternal bliss they've been offered.

I speak from experience. It was nice to cast of those fears, and I miss neither the threat of hell nor the promise of heaven.

So, I agree with Kevin Baker (above) who says, “I'm not afraid of death, but dying concerns me.”

Posted by: Robert Stribley at January 17, 2004 05:48 AM

No discussion of death would be complete without reference to Kierkegaard's little essay, A Bit of Spice.


[Oh, the Governance of the world is an immense housekeeping and a grandiose painting. Yet He, the Master, God in heaven, behaves like the cook and the artist. He says: "Now there must be introduced a little pinch of spice, a little touch of red." We do not comprehend why, we are hardly aware of it, since that little bit is so thoroughly absorbed into the whole. But God knows why.]

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Posted by: John Ballard at January 17, 2004 06:20 AM

Ms. Ravenswood:

Sooner or later, the universe will catch up with you. Abolish disease and decrepitude, and death will still find you. It may come in the form of a nut with a gun, or an exploding gas tank, a car wreck, or an icicle falling from a skyscraper; or, if you live long enough, a falling meteor, the sun going nova, or the heat death (or collapse) of the universe. You can run, but you can't hide.

Still, do run as hard as you are able. Use your technology. Drink life as long and as deeply as you possibly can. Of the many people I've known in my life (I'm 51), I cannot think of any who died sated with life. Most were dragged into the grave kicking and screaming; the others surrendered, worn out by pain and decrepitude; but none went willingly, saying "I've had enough, thank you." No, they all echo that line from "Blade Runner": "I want more life, fucker!" So, use your nanotechnology: sate yourself with life.

Great blog, by the way. Many thanks. The Larkin made my day.

Posted by: Brown Line at January 17, 2004 06:50 AM

Interesting how the folks who say the body is nothing but a machine, decry others own personal experiences as "mysticism", delude themselves that their bodies are going to live forever through cryonics and then nanotechnology (a field the majority of which is science fiction dreams).

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at January 17, 2004 07:21 AM

My grandfather was 98 when he died. The last year or so of his life he was in a nursing home, though his mind was pretty much as sharp as it had ever been. He got pneumonia, and the night he died, my mother said he took off the oxygen mask and said "That's enough. No more." He could have been cured of the pneumonia, but didn't consider his life worth living at that point. So Mom sat there with him while he died.

Apparently, there does come a point when you welcome death. I'm not there yet. Not for a long time, thank you. If I've got Zayda's genes, I haven't even hit the halfway point yet.

So yeah, right now, I think death sucks.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at January 17, 2004 09:11 AM

Winston Churchill said death was God's greatest gift.

Posted by: Jerry at January 17, 2004 02:45 PM

Hey, Phil, death sucks. On December 23, 1991, Scott Woeste and I had a stillorn baby and that was the beginning of Scott's delcine. He was never the same. I've never understood why such a brilliant, passionate, absolutely unique person had his life cut so short.

I've been trying to make it up to him ever since.

You know I'm a person of faith. But I'm too damn stubborn and inqusistive to swallow at face value all of the pretty metaphors we've been taught about eternal life and all that. I believe that the truth is far more wonderrful than we can imagine.

I find myself trying to decode things like "giving God glory" and being clothed in an eternal body. I don't want to reduce these sacred things to a technofantasy, but I want to stretch beyond the tired cliches to something more powerful than the trite religious mumbo-jumbo.

Life as we know it is exquisite. I wring as much from every day as I can. Just as there were eons of time before my consciencenous arose, I'm sure there will be eons more after it returns to its Source. Will it remain discreet and unique to me? I don't know. But I do know that, no matter how you write the metaphor, this life is our only chance to be God's hands and feet and voice in the world.

Posted by: Kathy Hanson at January 17, 2004 07:41 PM

"From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving,
Whatever gods there be.
That no man lives forever,
That dead men rise up never,
That even the weariest river,
Winds somewhere safe to sea."

Death sucks? I wouldn't know, I haven't been allowed to be dead long enough to tell. Seriously. Every time I've died its been back to mortality and another swing through. So when you do die thank God when He doesn't send you back for another take.

As a wise old bird once said (Ludwig von Wolfgang Vulture), "A thousand deaths is not cowardice, it is merely repetition."

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at January 18, 2004 03:30 AM

"The mystics are just coming out of the woodwork here to ramble on and on about nonsense. Someone call Penn & Teller..."

Posted by Janessa Ravenwood at January 16, 2004 10:33 PM

I am coming out of the woodwork, you are made of wood. Someone call Penn and Teller. Naa Na Na Na Naa.

Posted by: Joe Peden at January 18, 2004 07:33 AM

Thanks for the response to this question. While I don’t think of death in terms of being resigned to one’s own mortality as you termed it, I am at a place where I don’t feel that gripping fear of death and damnation that ruled much of my youth. Somewhere, over the past few years, I have lost that fear and replaced it with a safer feeling that whatever follows life, I’m not afraid of it anymore. I am not seeking it. I’m not looking forward to it. But it doesn’t scare the hell out of me anymore. I think I let go of a big piece of the unique geographically based fundamentalist religious exposure of my youth.

As several others have said here, I am definitely wary of the process leading up to death and I avoid pain and suffering.

However, your question about why you would “want to engage in this unseemly practice of exploring alternatives to dying” is hitting it pretty close to the reason for my question. I honestly don’t have a good grasp on the technologies that are discussed here, but for those hoping to live long lives with the same body, I would strongly encourage anyone working on this technology to program the AI to love caring and feeding cranky, cantankerous, incontinent old people. It would be like dealing with vast numbers of preschoolers, prior to potty training, but they would lack the cuteness and appeal of the children. Since I don’t know all the alternatives, it could be that one option is to download your brain – that would be much neater and would not require as much custodial care as the whole-body option.

And I really have to wonder if you had Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Socrates over for a roundtable and you did your 7 question thing and started off by saying, “Say, guys, we were just having this friendly little debate on the Internet, something you really can’t comprehend, and I’m thinking that we can pretty much sum up your work by saying it is based on your overall fear of death. True or false?” …Well, I don’t think that would go over too well with them.

This is what I believe: We should live the best lives we can, do the best job we can, be as good to our families and friends as we can be, live as graciously as we can. When the time comes for us to leave, we should try to die as graciously as we can. Unfortunately, in too many cases, based on my experience, it is hard to go out with grace and dignity.

Posted by: Mary (Definitely on the Outer Ring) at January 18, 2004 10:00 AM

Interesting subject. Well-written blog and responses, but Buddy's response is the one I enjoyed reading the most. Hang in there Buddy. Try and stop smoking gradually and take long walks. I think you'll feel better. You've got a long life ahead of you yet.

And, let's face it, there would be no life without death. No matter what Janessa believes, human beings won't live forever - nature won't allow it.

Posted by: Joe at January 18, 2004 11:35 PM

Brown Lite: A) Nut with gun – body armor, diamonyde skeleton. B) Exploding gas tank – electric cars. C) Car wreck – diamonyde car frame, air bags, etc. D)Icicle falling from skyscraper – avoid downtown. Any more? I could do this all day. And the heat death of the universe is only one theory among many right now. And of course, we might find the technology to fix that. Get back to me in a few million years, we’ll have made some progress in that direction.

Matthew Cromer: Do you have any empirical evidence that the body is more than a machine? I’m sure we’d all love to examine it. And like I told another poster, if you think nanotechnology is science fiction, you’re only parading your technical ignorance and lack of knowledge of current events.

Joe Peden: Seeing as your post makes no sense whatsoever, I think you’re making my case for me.

Joe: “Nature” is an abstract concept – it’s not in the position to allow or deny anything.

Posted by: Janessa Ravenwood at January 19, 2004 12:06 PM

"Joe Peden: Seeing as your post makes no sense whatsoever, I think you’re making my case for me."
-- Janessa Ravenwood

Not realizing your last name involves "wood", which you also said I was "coming out of", it is not surprising that you also do not realize you have no case, at least regarding whatever you were trying to say concerning my first post, which amounted to some kind of name calling, and so made no sense. Thus the only case you have is against yourself, as far as I can tell -- for making no sense. But, really, you must please supply some info on nanotechnology, which I am ignorant of. Please link, or whatever you want to do. Thanks.

[Maybe, "I am the worm and you are the wood"? Nano nano nano nano.]

Posted by: Joe Peden at January 19, 2004 03:41 PM

Joe wrote: "And, let's face it, there would be no life without death."

Joe, please explain.

Posted by: Zarathustra2101 at January 20, 2004 10:55 AM

Joe Peden: Weird, obscure references, whatever. As to the state of current nanotechnology, that's a LOT to talk about, but these should start you off on some research, if you're actually serious about doing any:


Posted by: Janessa Ravenwood at January 20, 2004 10:56 AM

Janessa, you were the one who responded to me somewhat deprecatingly, when I was not talking to you, in particular, when I first posted, though I did read your posts. Then you say, "if you're actually serious about doing any" [research]. WTF are you talking about? Ask yourself. I am not condemning you. Nor do I mind if you attempt to insult me. I will look at your links. Thanks, really.

Posted by: Joe Peden at January 20, 2004 08:06 PM

Janessa, your first link: All I can decipher from this link is that nanotechnology involves "small tech". And that the site here is trying to sell some stock.

Posted by: Joe Peden at January 20, 2004 08:44 PM

Janessa, your second link: has nothing to do with suggesting that death will soon be overcome. Nanotechnology, again, has only to do with smaller resolutions of techniques. You should, however, read Crichton's critique of consensus science, which is linked there. I'm not going to look at the rest of your links. You have not shown good faith.

Posted by: Joe Peden at January 20, 2004 08:53 PM

Joe Peden,

Try reading this:

Engines of Creation

. . . especially chapters 7, 8 and 9.

Also, I'm of the general opinion that one should be extra suspicious reading anything by Crichton, but I'd be willing to give it a shot. Where's the link?

Posted by: Zarathustra2101 at January 21, 2004 11:23 AM

Over here it says, "Being Dead Sucks".


So Phil and me agree.

Posted by: Mike Treder at January 22, 2004 06:01 PM

Joe Peden: This is what I meant when I said if you were SERIOUS about doing some research. Quite obviously, you are not. It will take more than 5 minutes on your part. Small Times is THE premier nanotech magazine - they DO have a few ads there, live with it. If you want to jump straight to transhumanism, see Better Humans. And try to spend more than 30 seconds looking at the site.

Posted by: Janessa Ravenwood at January 23, 2004 04:27 PM

3211 Get your online poker fix at http://www.onlinepoker-dot.com

Posted by: poker at August 15, 2004 09:59 PM
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