How To Approach Mortality

by Jessie Roberts

In an interview, philosopher and Immortality author Stephen Cave discusses ways to manage a fear of death:

Thinking less about yourself, more about other people and other causes, so your own death doesn’t seem as important to you, because these other causes and people will live on. Those other things will help you come to terms with death.

Bertrand Russell wrote about this. He lived to be 97. A man who lived this incredibly rich life, incredibly engaged, a philosopher, a writer. His life clearly had a lot of meaning for him. But also writing then already as a very old man about this, he wrote, ‘fear of death is not a noble thing, and the best way to deal with it is to break down the walls of the self, to emerge your ideas into the great stream of humanity.’ Care more about other things, and less about yourself, and your own death will seem less important. There are ways to combine a meaningful life without being afraid of it ending.

Various Buddhist traditions have excellent strategies for dealing with this. The Buddhist tradition realizes that the fear is so deep within us that we have to remind ourselves every day. I once heard that Dalai Lama wakes up at 4 am and meditates for 3 hours on the fact he’s going to die. It’s part of the Buddhist tradition to contemplate one’s mortality. Doing that will help give you the right focus. Help you decide what’s important and not important, to help you live with meaning but without fear.