How do you perceive death? Is it the end, the beginning, the middle? A relief, a threat – or nothing at all?
Is it the fear of death that creates the will to survive? And if so, why are we so scared of it?
Dying is inevitable. We’ll all die someday, and we’ll all lose someone we care about some day. So why is it so hard for us to accept it? Well, we are here, on earth, to live. And if we lived as if we didn’t care if we died, our lives would feel pretty pointless. Did you know it’s the fear of death that leads us to have sex (the will to “leave something behind”)? It leads us to seek out security, safety and stability in life and therefore to provide, to work, to create. It leads us to buy life insurance. And it leads us to look for joy and satisfaction – a reason for living. When someone threatens to take your life, it’s unlikely you will be ok with that.
But here’s an interesting fact: although the majority of people are afraid of dying, only a small percentage actually realize the necessity of taking precautions to stay safe (like learning self-defense). The rest live their lives in denial. “It won’t happen to me”, “This town is safe”, “Que sera, sera” and of course “Carpe diem” are some of the common phrases I hear when I ask about the measures people take to live a safer, better and even longer life.
I’m not saying you should think negatively and imagine worst-case scenarios 24/7. On the contrary, I believe that positivity and good vibes can stop bad things from happening. But there is a difference between hoping for the best and living in fantasyland.
Some people find this way of thinking hard to accept. Do you know how many times I’ve received hate letters from people telling me I’m creating fear and negativity by teaching self-defense? Too many to count. I’ve been blamed, shamed, even kicked out of places! I don’t take it personally. It takes a certain amount of intelligence to understand that “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (“If you want peace, prepare for war”).
Nobody likes to think about the worst-case scenario, about Doomsday, about death. But – and here’s the newsflash – preparing for it might just stop its untimely appearance! Being careful doesn’t mean we have to live in constant paranoia or fear. It means we understand there are dangers out there and we try to avoid them: driving safely, taking care of our bodies, avoiding certain situations and people, making smart choices about the place we decide to live in, and equipping ourselves with relevant knowledge and skills.
I will give a radical recent example: the shooting in the US. In events like these, if proper preparation (training and simulating situations with students, training teachers, placing proper security systems in schools and so on) is put in place, death and injury can be avoided – or at least limited.
This is my message for you today: life is precious and relatively short. Take good care of it, of yourself, of your body, mind and soul. Take good care of the people you love, invest in your relationships, and secure your homes, cars and workplaces. Train to protect yourself and your family. Train your children how to behave in certain situations. And, alongside all of this, find a way to live with joy, in the present. Carpe diem.