Fear of Death

Recently in a class the topic of prisons came up and how prisons are the place that society tends to send mental health patients and anyone who doesn’t either look or act like the norms set. That prompted this little piece:

Fear of death causes the fear of having to deal with anything reminding us of life, the frailty of it and parts of it that aren’t pleasant. Only by accepting and living with death can life be appreciated, thus making prison populations smaller and weakening the prison system. Until then prisons are going to be the model of life for everyone.

Fear of death and therefore fear of life, makes society split everything up into little pieces. This fear causes everything to be compartmentalized into smaller and smaller little separate pieces for us to deal with and never actually get a look at the larger picture. We have our private/semi-private space, we have a certain time to go outside, certain times to eat, no one sees when we die, as few people as possible see us when born. We then create a section of the world that is only for “us” or whatever your group is and exclude and include others according to your whims.

Cells, time to walk around outside, times to eat, times to sleep, fences all around. Apartments, “free time,” lunch break, curfew, borders. Which one is more free? Arguably the second, I cannot fully disagree with this, but I can point out the trajectory this second lifestyle seems to be taking and it ends up quite similar to the first one, only with a bit less gray.

Everything becomes a little tiny piece of life but is never put into the full context of a life, all because of a fear of death and life. So it is easier for society to put everything that doesn’t fit with the norm into a confined area that we do not ever have to deal with: hospitals, prisons, retirement homes, schools even. If the individual doesn’t fit the norm, put them into some space to either make/train them to fit the norm or just keep them out of the way until later on. Prisons will expand unless we begin to think differently.

Types of Life

There are two types of life, the life that is able to stand at the edge of the abyss and stare into it. Deeply into it and laugh, whole heartedly laugh and love the chaos within this abyss. Then once they are worn out from laughing they have to be able to dive into this abyss and be the light within it, organize the chaos according to what they want and then leave others still at the edge of the abyss to laugh in their own way and create their own light.
Then there is the life that is afraid of the edge, afraid to look at the abyss and would rather have some sort of organization in life.

The Experience Machine

In class last week the, seemingly famous, thought experience about the “Experience Machine” was discussed.  I’m not going to go into the history of the experiment itself; you can look that up yourself.  The general idea of the machine is that there is this computer made into which you can program any and every possible human experience.  Someone can go ahead and basically pick from a menu any experience that they want to have and then “plug into” the machine and have those experiences.  This machine makes it possible to program an entire life of experiences into it and while experiencing these things one’s body is just sitting in the physical world not moving at all.  After getting this sort of machine the question is: would you plug into the machine to live your life attached to a computer?  Generally people say no, but that is not what I am interested in.

I am most interested in the “why” people generally say no to plugging into the machine.

I propose the idea that generally people say no to plugging into this machine because people want to attempt to leave something to “pass-down,” i.e. a form of immortality.  I am not saying anything that has a value of “good” or “bad” just something which will be remembered and known after one dies.   Leaving something behind after one dies is a sort of “victory” over life because a person becomes in a way immortal; which pretty much every one wishes for because no one wants to let go of life and “lose.”  A place that this is discussed more in-depth is Plato’s dialogue Phaedo, an online version found by simply searching for it on Google. (I do not have permissions so I have no direct links) The important part is when Socrates begins his speech on love, but read the entirety, it is good for you.

This want for immortality is what leads people to not wanting to plug into the experience machine even if they can program all of the pleasant experiences that they want into it.  No one can leave anything behind in that machine.  The example used in class was writing a novel.  In the machine one can experience writing a novel, but no novel is actually, physically written.  People would generally prefer to actually have the novel though instead of just experiencing it.  It lets someone have a sort of “victory” over life which is the natural want of most people, animals and plants even.