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June 18, 2011 / theslowblitz

How I would like to die

If I could choose how I would prefer to die, I would say that I prefer assassination. I know if asked, many people would prefer to die a quiet death in their sleep, but I wonder, is that truly their desire, or a wish to part without pain? I do not think this is a very meaningful question, since few of us have ever approached dying.

We can only approximate its impact by the death of our close relatives, and by the deaths of overly dramatized fiction. If we were to imagine the deaths of our close relatives, we would almost certainly want them to be without pain – that is empathy. But do we truly want the same fate for ourselves? To be set adrift from our mortal chains without having the chance to say goodbye to all our friends, our family, our acquaintances?

I would like to be awake as I die. To pass through this momentous event asleep seems like cheating, and would almost certainly be boring. I know I seem pompous in this regard; to complain of boredom cannot be perceived as anything but childish. It would seem that I do not understand the agonizing pain of death. I do not.

But to die without my knowing would deprive me of an opportunity to think through my life, to think of all that I wish to do, and all that I have done. It is not the same imagining what I would think out of whimsy – the fear, the dread, the pride, the satisfaction – all of these cannot be felt by the mere thinking of it. To feel this surge of emotions, to feel the rawness of life at the verge of death would be beautifully ironic.

If I were to die by assassination, I would almost certainly feel pride. It would mean I have done something worth being killed for. It could be good or bad, it doesn’t matter. It means that I have pushed against fate sufficiently so, accumulating all of the rewards of pushing against this tide, that the ultimate cost is my life. I remember here the quote of a certain tyrant:

If someone conquers an empire and rules it with an iron fist for thirty years, and then some(one) breaks into his throne room and kills him, what do you think he is going to remember as he lay dying? (That good triumphed over evil?) No, that he got to live like a god for three decades! Sure, the last ten minutes sucked, but you can’t have everything.

I would hope that I die at the peak of my life. It probably seems like a strange suggestion to most people. It only makes sense to seek the most out of your life. But dying at the very peak has a romantic flair: there is so much more that you can achieve if only you lived. There are almost infinite possibilities left, and you die before you can realize your true limits. There is only so much you can do after all. Even if you have capabilities, time is the ultimate limiter.

I suppose this in a sense is cowardice, to escape from all you can do simply because you are afraid of what you cannot do. But dying as you have done almost all that you can do, when you are long past your peak seems very cheap. It would mean that there is no difference between being alive and being dead. In that case, you would lose nothing by dying.Not to mention, you would be left with only regrets at this point, having reached your limitations.

This is all a long way off for me, but I cannot help but think. I am enamoured with the fiction of death and all the emotions it arouses. It is inexplicable to me, a mystery which provokes much curiousity. I suppose then that I must wait. Not that I mind much, with all the things I still want to do. A sense of death… just gives it all some context.

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