A young, fit, healthy woman I know has been obsessively afraid of Covid-19. She has been doubly vaccinated, and continues to take test after test, just to make sure that she doesn’t have it. I recently asked her what she was most afraid of, and she replied “of dying”. She exercises regularly, doesn’t overeat, and is generally cautious in the way in which she conducts her life. But, from the outbreak of this virus, she found herself staring her own mortality in the face… and it’s as if it was only then that it occurred to her that she could die.
I wasn’t at all surprised by her answer and couldn’t pretend to be baffled by it. Bombarding human souls with daily reports about death, for an elongated period of time, tends to do that to them. Add horrifying images, stark, emotionally-charged warnings, and over-inflated ‘predictions’ about what is still to come… and they’re running for the hills, desperately trying to distance themselves from their ‘tainted’ fellow citizens. After all, the fear of death is the mother of all fears – for most of us, at least.
But why has this virus had such a devastating mental and emotional impact upon the world? How has it had the capacity to create such utterly unrepairable divisions within the global community? Because, I believe, of our primeval fear of death – and how powerfully and manipulatively it has been used against us. It has been colourfully painted as a silent killer that stalks us twenty four hours a day, randomly picking out victims – and that we ourselves have become poisonous to our loved ones… to such a degree that we’ve even gone along with being separated from them on their deathbed, whether the cause was the virus or something else entirely. It’s as if death never existed until covid-19 wrapped its ugly tentacles around the world. As if we were all invincible, no matter how badly we treated ourselves.
Now we know better. We can die. Of course, we knew that all along – but at least before covid-19 we didn’t have daily reminders (hourly, even, at the start of the pandemic) of our own frailty, and of the uncertainty of life. We could push it to the back of our mind and just get on with life. And we preferred it that way – for obvious reasons. But now the world has changed and everything’s different. Apart, that is, from the fact that we’re all still going to die one day… albeit, for most of us at least, not from covid-19.
We could, for example, die on the road, anywhere in the world; 1.35 billion of us do so, every year (or, to put it another way, that’s 1 of us every 24 seconds). (https://www.brake.org.uk/get-involved/take-action/mybrake/knowledge-centre/global-road-safety)
We could die from cancer; in the year 2018, alone, 9.6 million passed away as a result of the disease. (Cancer Research Uk.org)
Or, we could be one of the 4 million plus who die from obesity each year. (United Nations)
Then, there is diabetes, which is responsible for around 4.2 million deaths, globally. (International Diabetes Federation)
Or, we could die from starvation related problems: after all, 25,000 adults and children do so, every single day. Which is nine million, one hundred and twenty five thousand, per year. (United Nations)
Imagine, if the death of every human being was announced on the television news every day? And if the media constantly bombarded us with those stats, as they have done with covid-19? You’re going to die, you’re going to die, you’re going to die. Depression and mental health problems would soar through the roof and beyond… and we’d end up having to switch off in order to save our sanity… to just be able to live.
So, it appears that there are two issues here: 1) a huge loss of perspective, 2) an enforced, heightened fear of death. We are always going to fear the leaving of this world, or the loss of our loved ones; that’s natural. However, what we can do is to get things in proportion and change is our sense of perspective.
Currently, there are 7.8 billion of us calling planet Earth home. The latest figures (as of today, the third of October 2021), show that 4.55 million people are reported to have passed as a result of the virus, since the start of the pandemic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:COVID-19_pandemic_data). That’s a percentage of 0.3549. This is tragic – of course it is. But, given that we’ve already been living with the awareness of 4 million obesity-related deaths, year in and year out, we have to wonder why we’re so much more concerned about covid? And also, why we haven’t been haunted by the idea of diabetes, given that it’s seeing off 4.2 million of our fellow human beings annually – or of being run over by a bus, or of ending up crushed in our car under the wheels of an articulated lorry? After all, 1.35 million of us are meeting a similar fate each year. Is it because those things aren’t contagious? Or is it because we don’t believe that it will ever happen to us? Or, is it that we simply aren’t being reminded about it all, hour by hour, day by day? And that we aren’t being shown images of poor souls on their deathbeds, or in bloody, mangled states? If we don’t consistently fear and react against all of these murderous health issues (which are ongoing, long-term problems that cannot be solved with a vaccine or two) – why have we become so fixated on this? And why haven’t we wondered why we aren’t being bombarded with warnings about taking better care of our health, in order to give us a fighting chance of living longer and more healthily? Fear of death is one thing; as I said, it’s the mother of all fears and is perfectly natural. However, this fear is different – and it has been insidiously and carefully programmed into many, many of us. If the same number (well, more, actually) of people are dying from potentially avoidable conditions than are from covid-19, why aren’t our ‘parents’ (better known as the government and their advisors) not taking the same kind of steps to force us into urgent, appropriate action? Because that would violate our civil rights? Hmm, that’s something to ponder, isn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t relish dying any time soon. I don’t want to leave those who love and depend upon me in a position of having to be without me. Nevertheless, the fact is, I could die today (and I sincerely hope that that’s not a prediction!). I drive, and regularly travel far and wide with my partner on our motorbike trike. And I like to drink alcohol (in moderation, these days). Also, I’m 63, so nearer to the end than I am to the beginning. However, like everyone else, I comfort myself with the belief that this death stuff ‘will never happen to me’… because it makes life easier and much more hopeful. Still, deep down inside, I am aware of my own mortality, and have consciously made an effort to lose the weight that I had put on over a period of three years or so. And I started to commit to regular, challenging exercise (kickboxing and high intensity interval training), which I now do three to four times per week. It’s all very well living a long life, years-wise – but not so much if the quality is poor. Of course, there are no guarantees; even young and healthy people have tragically died as a result of covid-19 (though all of the statistics and forthcoming information suggest that they have, fortunately, been in the minority). I could ensure that I am as fit as a fiddle and still die of covid or cancer or as the result of an accident… or murder, even. But at least I can give myself a fighting chance – and leave the rest to fate/God/the Universe, or whatever name we choose to apply to ‘it’. Someone recently commented to me that, unless they actually kill themselves, their death is completely out of their hands – and so even covid-19 doesn’t prey on their mind. In other words, if they know that they’ve done all they can – then that’s all they can do… and the rest is out of their control. Profound, I thought.
Fear of death can never be fully conquered, but it can be eased. And something good can come out of this pandemic, if we allow it to. It could encourage millions, possibly even billions, of people to rethink their current lifestyle. We’re too keen to want to take a pill for every ill or to expect someone in authority to fix things for us (that’s what makes it easy for them to control us). We might even gain a fresh, new appreciation for the life we are living, and the life we hope to live in the future. It might cause us to reassess our spiritual beliefs, too. Because I have, over many years, developed a deep-seated belief that consciousness and awareness survive physical death, I may be less fearful of it than someone who doesn’t hold that belief. And my beliefs are not of the twee, we-all-live-happily-ever-after-floating-around-in-the-sky variety; I think that there’s a lot more to it than that and that personal growth and responsibility are probably still required. I’m not sure about those who are adamant that when you’re dead, you’re dead – end of. I don’t know whether or not they fear death – or how they respond to something like covid-19, and the way in which it has been presented and handled. It seems to me that those who want to believe or who half believe but still aren’t sure, are more likely to be fearful than those who believe wholeheartedly – or those who genuinely don’t believe at all. And I’m not talking about the many who say that they don’t believe in God, but who, when questioned, explain that they believe that ‘something exists’ – they’re just not sure what. I’m talking about committed, hard-assed atheists! So, some of us will probably ask, “if God exists, why did he allow this to happen?”, whilst a certain American politician declared the vaccines to be a gift from God, calling the people of that city her apostles. It really all comes down to our own personal version of God and where we believe that man’s responsibility begins and ends. I go to sleep most nights asking my God to explain how we humans can become so crazy – and how we can so easily be turned against each other – and why some have become so corrupt that you can smell the rottenness from deep within them. Sometimes I hear nothing back; sometimes I hear stuff I don’t like the sound of; and sometimes I fall asleep feeling a lot more at peace! If you’re interested in hearing more about my personal beliefs about continued consciousness and awareness beyond physical death, please check out my book, Our Life Beyond Death – An Incredible Journey (available globally on Amazon). You might disagree with some or all of it – or you might come away with a little bit of food for thought; either way, that’s fine! I’d just be honoured to have you as a reader.