Having just finished watching season three of Breaking Bad—don’t read this if you haven’t and intend to—the idea and perception, morbid as they may be, of death has struck a chord. It ends with Jessie Pinkman standing in front of Gale, a gun pointing to his head and tears welling in his eyes. A gunshot marks the end of the episode.
The situation in Breaking Bad is fictitious, obviously, but the idea of one person’s life becoming forfeit for the sake of another—or in this case, two other lives—resonated with me and could be seen as a symbol of the very real fear we have of death.
Walt and Jessie placed so much emphasis on their own lives that the life of Gale was a necessary sacrifice for their own survival. Gale hadn’t done anything wrong. It was merely an unfortunate circumstance. Wrong place, wrong time, and all that.
Finding yourself in a situation where a choice exists between your own life ending or the destruction of someone else’s, in order to save your own, is rare. I can’t imagine ever being in one. How could you ever make that decision? How could anyone have the right to?
Death is a common fear, which comes as a result of many variables: religion (a fear of the afterlife), family (the thought of leaving loved ones behind and the effect our death will have on them), and vanity (life going on without us and realising we haven’t accomplished all we intended), to name a few. The last of these, in my mind, is our greatest flaw.
We’re instilled with this idea that we can accomplish anything; our dreams can become reality and the world is our oyster. This is true to a point, but how deluded is this line of thinking? Yes, some dreams can be realised with enough hard work and some circumstantial ‘luck’. But, for the most part, we may be found wanting. If you could shake that fear of death, would the possibility of accomplishing all you desire become a serious reality? I think so.
Nothing is more certain than death. I semi-adhere to an Epicurean-esque mentality where once death arrives I can not feel or think or worry about anything, so what’s the use of holding to those same fears whilst living? Atheism enables this line of thinking to become more feasible and, in a way, comforting. The threat of an eternity in a paradise or hell is non-existent.
I’ll die when I die and that is all. If I worry about that final ending then how am I to do my own life justice whilst I walk and breathe? This vain fear of death is a constraint and a hindrance. There is no reason to fear it. Life will go on when you die and then other people will die. That’s how it’s always been and how it always will be. How many times have you heard of people having a near death experience or have actually been declared dead, only to be resuscitated? Those people gain a new lease on life, refusing to waste another day. They should have just lived that way originally.
Fearing death is a wholly unnecessary vanity. If you do have a fear of dying without having left your mark on the world, then go out and do something about it. If you fear for the people you’ll leave behind, then make the most of your time with them. You could die tomorrow, so why waste time today? Influence people, make them think about things they never have before, and most of all, make yourself happy. You’re the only person you have to live with your entire life. You’re alive right now and your life is yours. Go do something with it. Tear that veil of vanity and self-importance; it only serves to hold you back.