We all know our time here is limited. But we don’t know by how much.
Are we better off not knowing when we’ll die? Or would a countdown help us all to lead happier and more fulfilling lives?
If you knew exactly when you were going to die, what would you change about the way you live?
It’s not a cheery subject. Not too many people like to talk about it. Not too many people like to think about it. Some people joke about it, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
It’s scary, but it also rouses our curiosity. We all know we’re gonna go, but we don’t know where we’re going, and we don’t know when!
These unknowns are the source of a lot of anxiety. But should they be? What if knowing the future date and time of our deaths actually helped us… how should I say this… rest in peace?
Despite the fact that a lot of people around the world suffer from thanatophobia, a technical term for the fear of dying, there are several compelling reasons why knowing when you’re going to die is better than not knowing. In a series of research studies, psychologists asked people with terminal illnesses, and inmates on death row, to reflect on life, knowing that theirs would soon be over.
They then asked a separate group of people to imagine what it would be like if they knew they were going to die.
In every study, those who knew they were about to die spoke more positively about life and death compared to those who presumably had a lot longer to live.
The people who didn’t know when they were going to die found it harder not to think about the negatives: feelings of loss, meaninglessness, and missing out on all the things they didn’t get to see or do. But the group who knew exactly how much time they had left found peace in reflecting on their life’s experiences and accomplishments.
They appreciated their family and close friends, and the happy memories they’d accumulated over their lifetime. But imminent death isn’t just a time to reflect. For many people, it confirms that we should all live life to the fullest!
Once we know just how little time we actually have left, truisms like, “you only live once,” wouldn’t sound like clichés. You’d want to use your time effectively, doing the things that mattered most to you. And depending on your bucket list, the sky is the limit!
Would you leap from the edge of space? Or plunge to the deepest parts of the ocean?
Would you endeavor to see as much of the world as possible? Would you seek out new flavors, or intense thrills to truly remind you of what it means to be alive? Or is life simpler than that?
Maybe you’d choose to spend more time with family and close friends. Maybe you’d tell someone special how they really make you feel.
The possibilities and combinations are endless, and almost unique to every person on this planet. But you know that some people would still strive to live beyond their time.
It’s estimated that roughly 1,000 young women move to Hollywood every month to try their luck at becoming a star. To a lot of people, this might sound like an act of pure naiveté, or glaring vanity.
But research suggests that the drive for fame is a little deeper than that. For those who have a hard time coping with their mortality, becoming famous or having a legacy is comforting, knowing that their name and reputation will live on in the world, even after they’re gone.
Of course, there are also plenty of examples of people who, facing imminent death, have used their remaining time to champion important issues and inspire positive change. But whether you think you’d choose to become an activist, a star, a daredevil, or at one with nature, the important takeaway is: start living!
You don’t need to know how much time is left to start thinking about what it is you want to do, and to go out there and do it! But if you think knowing would help, scientists have had some success predicting the probability of your death by looking at various markers in your blood. AI is also getting good at determining the length of your lifespan.
The idea that we all die someday is undoubtedly scary, but, as Edward Abbey once wrote, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. One who lives life fully is prepared to die at any time.”
So start ticking off the items on your bucket list, remember that love and kindness go a long way, think of ways you can make the world a better place and take on the challenge! Make the most of your time because, life is short.
And unpleasant as that may seem, isn’t it for the best? Could you imagine what the world would be like if nobody died?
- “What is thanatophobia?”. 2019. Medical News Today. Accessed December 30 2019.
- “Toward Understanding the Fame Game: The Effect of Mortality Salience on the Appeal of Fame” 2019. people.ku.edu. Accessed December 30 2019.
- “Dying Is Unexpectedly Positive” Amelia Goranson, Ryan S. Ritter, Adam Waytz, Michael I. Norton, Kurt Gray, 2017. 2019. Psychological Science.
- “Scary Death Predictions by Psychics”. 2019. Learn Religions. Accessed December 30 2019.
- “Mortality Salience, Martyrdom, and Military Might: The Great Satan Versus the Axis of Evil”. 2019. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin.
- “Enjoying life in the face of death: East–West differences in responses to mortality salience.”. 2019. psycnet.apa.org. Accessed December 30 2019.
- “Anne Frank’S Words Still Resonate Today”. Hoffstein, Lisa. 2018. Teen Vogue. Accessed December 30 2019.
- “Gord Downie “. 2019. sna.etapestry.com. Accessed December 30 2019.