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You Were Going to Die Anyway

2017 October 24
by Ian Welsh

… and that’s reason for cheer.

I often write about scenarios, likelihoods, that are pretty grim. Climate change, ecological collapse, war, and revolution.

Fun stuff.

Some readers find this depressing.

You were going to die anyway. So is everyone you know and love, or know and hate, or don’t know. Every country will fall, all cities will be abandoned, the Earth itself will eventually be destroyed.

It’s all here just for a time, and if one thing doesn’t end us, something else will.

This isn’t cause for depression, this is cause for freedom. It’s all lost anyway, so relax. Just figure out what you’re going to do, and run with it.

Nothing has really changed if we wind up dead due to A, B, or C. In all cases we’re dead. Same for our family and friend and enemies.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)

Figuring out what’s likely to happen, what the risks are, lets us navigate them and try to have a better life. If it’s not one thing, it’ll be another, so figuring out what the risks are matters so we can have a better life, not because doom, doom, doom.

It remains true, by the way, that the single biggest thing you can ever do to safeguard  yourself other than living a healthy life, is to have friends–real friends. The more people who think you’re just aces, the more people who will do what it takes to keep you alive, healthy and happy, because you’re the shine in their eyes, the more likely you are to survive whatever catastrophes come down the line, whether they are the big, society-shaking ones, or the small personal ones (both of which are just as good at ending your world).

Life ends. Knowing the risks lets you enjoy it more and longer is reason for happiness, not gloom.


17 Responses
  1. Herman permalink
    October 24, 2017

    I agree with you but unfortunately modern society is not very conducive to strong relationships including friendships. Take the example of lonely deaths in Japan:

    In the United States community life has pretty much collapsed along with the economic fortunes of much of the population creating an epidemic of “deaths of despair” including rising suicide rates.

    Again, I think technology deserves much of the blame here. Television likely destroyed American civic culture by encouraging more people to stay in their homes rather than socialize . It now seems that smartphones are also having a negative impact on people, particularly the young.

    I agree that real friendships (not just shallow “Facebook friends”) are an important part of staying healthy and sane but sadly our culture is making those kinds of meaningful relationships increasingly difficult to obtain and maintain. Much of the current anger in politics is likely a form of lashing out against these impersonal cultural developments. People tend to look for people to blame and ignore impersonal forces. Hence the existence of angry partisans blaming everything on either the Republicans or the Democrats or conspiracy theorists looking to scapegoat some group that they hate or find all-powerful puppet masters behind everything. These are comforting beliefs for most people because they help them feel “in the know” and give them hope of defeating some villain that they perceive to be behind their misery.

    It is much more comforting to think that the Illuminati or whoever are to blame for everything because then you and your patriot friends can spot them and defeat them and solve your problems. It is less comforting to realize that there are more impersonal forces such as technological developments that are contributing to your misery. It is much harder to deal with impersonal forces and they are less easy to fit into a “light side vs. dark side” narrative which is how most people think.

  2. someofparts permalink
    October 24, 2017

    Here’s to friends and trusted websites.

  3. October 24, 2017

    We are fleas agitating the hide of a far greater organism.

  4. Kevin Wilkinson permalink
    October 24, 2017

    Hey, I ride a motorcycle, I get it. Do I practice ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) every time I swing a leg over my wonderful bike? Absolutely.

  5. Frank Stain permalink
    October 24, 2017

    This is quite a problem for people with a serious melancholic temperament who do not make friends easily and whose introversion in any case makes conversation with people exhausting and mostly unrewarding. Are there any other options for retaining one’s sanity?

  6. Willy permalink
    October 24, 2017

    @Frank Stain
    Clubs that attract one’s own temperamental matches are best. If you want to meet a blithering bimbo go to the local bar. If you want to march lockstep with some seig heilers go to an evangelical church. A friend of mine who specializes in temperament (she’s an INFP) advised that I (INTJ, sometimes F) try the local Toastmasters, small business support groups and networking orgs. Worked for me – plenty of INxx’s there. If you belong to a local Nextdoor network, it’s easy to sort out the sane and rational from the crazed nitwits, and you get to know your better neighbors without having to build any fences.

    But everybody’s got something, once you get to know them… Be prepared to meet alcoholic PhDs or psychologists with really weird ideals who might suddenly go off over nothing. It helps to have a sense of humor and some diplomatic skill when it comes to defending ones own boundaries.

  7. Dan Lynch permalink
    October 24, 2017

    I am not afraid of death, it’s just that there’s a lot of stuff I’d like to do before I check out, and I’m concerned about what will happen to my cats after I am gone.
    There is a meme floating around, “Someday we will all die,” it says, “but on all other days, we will not die.”

  8. s-b-t permalink
    October 25, 2017

    @Frank Stain
    I second the suggestion above. I’m very fortunate that I’m not stuck working all the time to pay my bills, so I blow off steam by pursuing hobbies. I have hobbies and interests that I go out of my way to pursue with fair vigor, regardless of others’ level of interest. If there’s a group or club that allows me to collaborate or at least bounce ideas off other like-minded folks, then I’ll invest my time and energy with them. I don’t try to make friends just for the sake of socializing.

    An alternative is to care for pets, or consciously make an effort to help family or neighbours around the house or the community. Looking beyond oneself is a way to at least temporarily forget one’s current condition.

    Sure beats sitting alone and feeling like I have nothing to do. I can at least go hang out with a cat or dog.

  9. ttu permalink
    October 25, 2017

    @ Willy
    excellent comment, especially
    It helps to have a sense of humor and some diplomatic skill when it comes to defending ones own boundaries.
    i’d just add that it’s also necessary to know yourself at least a bit when boundary drawing. i know it sounds somewhat silly or obvious, but i’m an INT[ ] type and it’s taken me some time to know myself at all.

    i have a question which may seem idiotic, and if it is i apologize. here it is: i agree that there is in a sense freedom in understanding there is always an end. my question is, in light of that, what is an ethical/moral (or other, i’m not fussy) guide/rationale/justification (other than variations on the golden rule) for NOT being a rabid consumer of planetary resources?

    i don’t ask as a troll (i’ve pretty much resigned myself to avoid, for example, air travel) but as a response to the “we can’t halt our destruction, so i might as well use everything up before everyone else does” proposition from others.

  10. Willy permalink
    October 25, 2017

    in light of that, what is an ethical/moral (or other, i’m not fussy) guide/rationale/justification (other than variations on the golden rule) for NOT being a rabid consumer of planetary resources?

    I’d say practicality. My appliances are all simple old school, built in a time when things were made to last and be easy to repair. Samsung front load washer may come in a rainbow of colors and even talk to you, but replacing the front seal boot (which commonly fails) is a bitch. Meanwhile, my 30 YO plain white Kenmore top loader keeps on keepin on. I usually ride everything until it I can’t fix it anymore. OTOH, if somebody doesn’t know me and I drive up in my ’94 Corolla they may not have first impression I want them to have. So there’s that.

  11. October 25, 2017

    I agree. Being able to rationalise is the key to stress-free happiness. Get things into perspective; what used to called a sense of humour.

    As Frank points out a lot of people never get the hang of loving relationships. I think the problem is they never learn how to talk. And by talking I mean building a trusting relationship where you can both open up and be brutally honest and direct about yourselves, warts and all, and thereby discover that you can be loved just as you are.

    So many people are so afraid of hostile reactions that they never open up or stand up for themselves. For them talking involves putting on some impressive facade or performance which is essentially deceitful. It is both exhausting and pointless. Eventually they give up and stick to plants, animals or God. Although none of these are maintenance free – animals require feeding, plants require pruning, and God requires worshiping – at least they don’t answer back, which means that most social dropouts can just about manage them.

    The art of the game is to cope with hostile reactions by answering back – not confrontationally or aggressively but by being open-minded and curious. A question is often the best method, but talking complete rubbish can also work! The other guy thinks he is missing something and being stupid, and that is usually enough to stop him in his tracks. But the main thing is to realise that aggression is always and only a sign of insecurity. It is not a sign of strength, so don’t take it personally; its his problem not yours. This attitude unfreezes your mind and can make you sharp enough to return fire. Once you can do this relationships can become genuine, relaxing and fun. We all need reassurance and support, so concentrate on providing it for your partner and they will do likewise for you. Plenty of sex as well, of course! Casual, extra-marital, adulterous – I don’t have a problem with any of them provided everyone involved is open and agreed about it. It is deceit and desertion which are the sins, not adultery. If your partner has lost interest go out and get another one. Or if they have committed adultery rejoice and do so yourself! Just don’t break up your marriage unless you really are a mismatch. Sanctimonious wives are usually the main culprits of this.

    Even so there will still be some who just can’t make it and will never be happy. So why can’t they just commit suicide and have done with it? Its time we learned to respect their wishes and provide assisted suicide. Anything less is patronising. Surely this is preferable for everyone instead of letting just them continue as mere consumers, gnawing away like termites at the last wooden post in the desert as the earth progressively runs out of natural resources? They will be doing their bit in the fight against the human infestation of our planet.

  12. October 25, 2017

    You know, Ian, sometimes you really piss me off. Friends? Homeless people have so many. So do the seriously mentally ill, the dying, the poor.

    Laugh, I say, while Rome is burning. The absurd humor in tragedy often makes me giggle while I am weeping. If you can laugh with others around you, so much the better, but others often make the tragedy in life, not the joy.

    Life is not a toy. Neither is life a game. It is an epic struggle for beauty until we inevitably die.

    When I die, & I will, I will know I came, I saw, & I conquered my life. Whatever friend(s) I might have at my side when that happens, I know that one word will escape my dying tongue & it will be the last prayer I will ever make.

    Do as thy love shall be the whole of the law, Ian. Love is the law, love under will. Til death.

  13. realitychecker permalink
    October 25, 2017

    It’s helpful to remember that no single one of us has any real significance as far as the Universe is concerned.

    Here for an eyeblink, gone and forgotten for eternity.

    All of us.

    The ride is the gift.

  14. Willy permalink
    October 26, 2017

    But the main thing is to realise that aggression is always and only a sign of insecurity.

    I guess I did leave out one important real life factor, not wanting to break the mood. Sociopaths (such as Genghis Khan very likely was) don’t seem very insecure to me.

  15. October 26, 2017

    There’s certainly nothing wrong with being candid and stark about obvious realities.
    I, myself, get tired of people chiding me for bringing up or mentioning “inappropriate subjects”, often when there’s nothing actually immoral about whatever it is I’m saying.

  16. Senator-Elect permalink
    October 29, 2017

    Quote from the last page of Polanyi’s Great Transformation:

    “Resignation was ever the fount of man’s strength and new hope. Man accepted the reality of death and built the meaning of his bodily life upon it. He resigned himself to the truth that he had a soul to lose and that there was worse than death, and founded his freedom upon it. He resigns himself, in our time, to the reality of society which means the end of that freedom. But, again, life springs from ultimate resignation.”

  17. realitychecker permalink
    October 30, 2017

    We are all going to die anyway, but we don’t have to die as dupes.

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