dealing with mortality: day 2comic

October 3, 2011

The Mission of this Site

"We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is."
--Dr. Mark Vonnegut, M.D.

I'm hoping that by making an online comic with these thoughts, I might help a few people who might be having the same anxieties. (I've read essays about the personal sharing that can occur on the web as the key to the next step in our cultural evolution; I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it is the most accessible universally-available publishing medium ever.)

I'm also creating this as a resource for my future self, a place to come back to when I again feel my anxieties rise. (If I started to think in these anxious terms when I was 25, what's going to be like when I'm in my 40s? My 70s?)

I've targeted this page at skeptics for a reason. If you have faith, real faith, in a solid Abrahamic religious doctrine, you should be able to find your solace in your conception of the afterlife.

I don't mean to dismiss this as an easy task: our animal nature leaves us with instinctive fear that even the most spiritually trusting may find difficult to overcome. (One thing I find sad is that I'm afraid to bring up my fears of death with some of the people I love the most, because I don't accept their answer of trusting in God.)

Also, for the believer, having a comforting philosophy might be a reverse form of Pascal's Wager, a comfort in times of doubt.

Lifespan And Our Perception of Time

"I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different."
--Kurt Vonnegut

Life can seem all too short.

Compared to the length of the universe, it's an eyeblink.

But compared to some other things we consider really long lasting: republics and empires, many buildings-- most of us don't do so bad.

My grandmother, who died at the age of 82 in 2001, witnessed over a third of the history of the United States...

sure that's just a fraction, and yes the USA is a young country, but consider all the change that she has seen: it is a huge expanse of time.

Time is largely subjective. I have a reasonable shot at living longer than my grandmother, and experiencing even more change in the world.

In the book "Faster", Gleick mentions how our perception of time is really a measure of rate of change, driven by the length of time between 'interesting' events.

This can lead to some unfortunate results: since, in general, every decade of our life has much less change (in the form of development and maturation) than the one before,

by some estimates the second half of our life might seem to go by twice as the first, with the second quarter going twice as fast as the first quarter, etc.

This might be so. I haven't lived long enough to refute it.

But I think that if I manage to fill my life with changes: learning, reading, thinking- and keeping track of those changes, I might help to modify my perception.

I think I'm helped by my journal (an ongoing collection of quotes and bon mots, and then a private "dear diary" journal I keep on my website) as well as my poor memory.

My inability to clearly recall things from as short as a week ago- but being reminded by them by the entries in my journal- helps me realize how full of life those ten thousand minutes were, and how full the next ten thousand will be.

So much can happen in a minute, if only we stay alert to the wonder around us!

How Money Got Weird. Sometimes I think the commies were right. Or at least... that there's good capitalism that is a fantastic engine for getting stuff done, and bad capitalism that's nothing but fancy pants ways of shuffling money around...