dealing with mortality: day 1comic

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October 2, 2011

For 24 Hour Comics Day, I decided to try doing a "graphic novel" version of The Skeptic's Guide to Morality, and will serialize it here...

Dealing With Mortality: A Skeptic's Guide

"Love makes us poets and the approach of death should make us philosophers."
--George Santayana

Coming to grips with mortality- this is the biggest personal issue that every one of us will have to deal with.

It can be especially difficult for people who don't believe that there's an afterlife waiting for them.

To contemplate the end of our selves in this world is frightening; to not convince yourself that there is life after this world requires a special kind of bravery. I'm writing this comic to try to share the thoughts that have allowed me to understand and accept the situation.

My Experience

"Kirk, it's your birthday, do not be obsessed with death [...] At least not until the project is finished."
--Rob Baum, co-worker

Every once in a while, I'll have a sleepless night, suddenly aware of how temporary I am, trying to accept the smallness of my place in this world, overwhelmed by the weirdness of being.

Other days I'll be unable to fully focus on the tasks at hand, obsessing about how everything I'm looking at is impermanent, and that my viewpoint will be extinguished someday.

Sometimes I'll start playing the numbers game: if I lived to be 80, I have just under 30,000 days, just over 4,000 weeks- and I've lived through a number of those already!

(One odd little math trick I stumbled on during one of my existential anxiety attacks- if I have the three score and ten years allocated to me by the bible, that's ten weeks for every day of a single year.)

I had a series of that kind of "attack" in the spring of the year 2000, but over the course of months, I started to feel better. I'm sure that it wasn't entirely an intellectual crisis, but one with its roots in disturbances in the neurochemcal stew of my brain.

There seems to be a definite correlation between these attacks and stress at work, for example, just like there was when I went through my Y2K anxiety phase. (What can I say? There seemed to be the potential for a lot more difficulties than emerged...)

Beyond that, I've come up with some quotes, ideas and philosophies, ways of looking at the situation-- without compromising my intellectual integrity-- that comfort me and allow me to deal with the world as it relates to me.