Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Fear of not dying

Apeirophobia: The Fear of Eternity - The Atlantic

What a great article here, about people who get all anxious and sweaty at the idea of living forever in heaven.

Just goes to show, there's no pleasing everyone.

The article does go on to explain, however, that it is related to the fear of infinity, or at least vastness, as explained in this paragraph:
There shouldn’t be too many atheists who fear of eternity, since they
reject the idea of an afterlife, Wiener says. But that doesn’t mean
that those who aren’t religious are immune to existential anxiety.
Infinity, after all, doesn’t pertain only to time; it can also apply to
space. “I feel that we are all insignificant compared to the universe,”
wrote Jamie Adkins, a nurse and longtime friend of mine, in response to
my Facebook post. “When I start to think beyond our solar system, it is
as if my thoughts automatically stop to protect myself from having some
form of a panic attack. The knowledge of black holes will give me
nightmares for days. The thought of the distance between galaxies is

She likened the experience to Horton Hears a Who. “We are on this tiny flower and can be blown away any second.”
Yeah, I did have a brush with that, once, when I was around 7 or 8.  As I recall, a brother who had gone to the Council library when I couldn't borrowed a book for me, and it was one about space or astronomy, but was primarily about galaxies and the vastness of the universe.  There were lots of pictures of galaxies.   It actually upset me, because it conjured an image of such cold, lifeless, vastness in my mind.  My brother was puzzled, saying he thought I liked books about space (and I did - this was the era of Apollo and I followed it very closely in the papers and on the news.  I also read kid's science fiction, of which there was a lot - all of it optimistic - in that decade.)  But what I liked was the idea of life in the universe, making it home.  And I still do.

But as for heaven:  well, I think right from early childhood I've accepted the view that it's a basically unknowable thing: to be experiencing something like life but without the cycles, limitations and uncertainties with which we know it on Earth.  Reunion with loved ones (at least initially) has become a widely accepted part of the commonly believed experience of it, and who (or at least, the majority of people who have loving relationships during their life) can object to that idea?   As for what goes on for the rest of eternity:  who knows;  does  the ego continue indefinitely, rather than being subsumed into a greater thing sooner or later (or even temporarily.)   I don't mind the idea that you can spend a hell of a lot of time observing (or influencing) life on Earth, or in other parts of the Universe. It can all be fun to imagine, but it's unknowable. 

As I said recently, this is a positive feature of Christianity, not a bug.  Keeping it vague and unclear is actually a good thing, if you don't want people doing all sorts of evil things on Earth with the justification that it'll all be sorted out in the afterlife.  

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