MEANING OF LIFE and FEAR OF DEATH
We can play with death and say that it is to «stop sinning suddenly», or that «the fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there's no risk of accident for someone who's dead», as Albert Einstein said.
We can proclaim to ourselves, as Epicurus did, that we shouldn’t worry about death because «when we are, death is absent, and, when death is present, we are not any more». Or agree with Socrates, when he argues that «if death doesn’t involve sensations, then it is as a dream and as a marvellous present».
But, against all the logical arguments we may produce, we can’t help but fear it. We can’t truly ignore that «hidden tiger, ambushed and ready to kill the unwary». We fear death, even if the reasons aren’t exactly the «dread of something after death» in «the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns» as enunciated by Shakespeare's Hamlet.
We can handle death as an accident, «revealing our deep desire to deprive from death all its necessary element, thus making it just an accidental event», as said by Sigmund Freud . We can look for aid in religion and in God: «He who believes in God doesn’t die» (St. John). But, even then, we can’t truly ignore and fear it.
Death is part of our conscience. In a sense, it’s a «cause of madness», as said in the Bible, in Ecclesiastes: «This is the major evil in all that is done under the sun: that there is a same destiny to all. That’s why the heart of the sons of men is full of evil. And madness is in their heart while they live: that they all go to the dead». Or, as Morin said: Death represents the destruction of «our unique and precious treasure: our I».
We may argue, as Saint Augustine did, that death is a passport to a better life, near God, and that we shouldn’t cry. Maybe Saint Augustine didn’t cry at his mother and son’s death (as he said he did in his Confessions), but he couldn’t help avoiding the pain and interior tears, or avoid feeling the anguish despite his faith and his creed. We can’t «forget death».
Death is, in fact, a crucial existential question. Death is at the heart of many of our meditations about the meaning of life. It’s part of our conscience, and a direct emanation of our intelligence. «In endowing us with memory, nature has revealed to us a truth utterly unimaginable to the unreflective creation» (George Santayana).
Most animal species simply ignore death. Their memory, intelligence and degree of consciousness do not allow them the insight of death. Only we have a total knowledge of it, with the correlative degree of hopelessness, pain and fear.
Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion
Quotations on Death and Meaning of life