Why must we die?
What exactly is dying? What happens when we die? What comes next? Is there anything left of us in the world? Since the beginning of human civilization, questions about death have been one of the most disturbing and difficult to answer.
Religions, philosophies, sciences and even politics have tried to come up with an answer that gives us comfort in the face of the inevitable and allows us to live with less anguish, dealing in a more positive way with the emptiness that comes from knowing that one day, inevitably, we will die.
We have known for a long time that all living beings, without exception, must at some point return to nature the matter of which our bodies are made and the energy with which we keep them going. We have seen it happen in the animal world, where some eat others to be able to extend their own existence, and at the same time the most powerful predator ends up getting sick and serving as food to much smaller and insignificant beings.
This may seem cruel to us, but it is important that it happens. The resources that life requires are finite, and therefore must circulate between some beings and others. But this lesson is more difficult to understand when it comes to the death of human beings. Perhaps because we are the only species aware of its own destiny, that is, the only animals in the world that understand, throughout their lives, that death will one day come.
What is death?
Death, thus, is something difficult to understand and even more difficult to communicate. Those who have known her personally cannot tell us again what happens, and those of us who are still alive can only witness the death of others. So over time we have constructed our own responses.
For most religions, for example, death is nothing more than a transit, a change of plane of existence that allows us to leave the known world and move towards one “beyond”. This realm of the dead has received many names in different cultures: paradise, valhalla, hades, etc., and it has often been thought of as a place where a certain superior sense of justice is produced. Thus, in the afterlife the righteous are rewarded and the wicked punished, which restores to the world a certain balance or equilibrium that it often lacks.
There are also mystical traditions that understand death as a return to the origin. We all come from somewhere and must eventually go back, which often means starting over an eternal cycle of existence and nonexistence. The ancient Hindus understood it as an eternally turning wheel, in which the soul reincarnated, that is, it returned to having a different body, losing all its memories along the way.
Science, on the other hand, offers us less comfort. In his view, death is nothing more than the end of existence: the moment when our bodies lose their inner balance and stop working.
We can explain how and why it is produced, studying each individual case, and we even know what happens to our bodies once we have stopped inhabiting them: our own enzymes and bacteria are responsible for breaking them down, eventually reducing them to nothing. But we have not been able to scientifically prove that there is an afterlife, or that we have an immortal soul that undertakes the journey to a distant world.
Can we escape death?
Death seems to be inevitable and in many cases it can even become desirable, when life becomes an unbearable torment. Even so, the human species has always dreamed of escaping death, whether through elixirs and spells, or miraculous technologies.
It is true that thanks to medicine we have learned healthier life models and we have fought disease with drugs, which has extended our life expectancy to almost 100 years. It is not a small thing if it is compared with the 30 to 50 that we lived in ancient times. But we can do nothing against the natural deterioration of the body, which is reducing the effectiveness of our internal processes and ends up making us fragile and slow creatures.
Life, however, has its own way of dealing with death: reproduction. Having offspring, perpetuating genes, and extending the species is the mandate we share with animals. Thus, individuals die, but the collective endures, and with the latter also culture, history, the collective memory of our species. That seems to be the only way to escape death, at least for a couple of generations.
- “Death” in Wikipedia.
- “The perspective of death according to different cultures of the world” in La Razón (Spain).
- “The Definition of Death” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- “Death” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.
What is a reflection?
A reflection or dissertation is a text in which the author thinks freely about a topic. That is, in this type of text the author shares his thoughts with the reader, inviting him to assume a point of view or evaluate different arguments, without necessarily having a role for reflection, but the mere pleasure of thinking about the subject. The reflections can deal with any topic and be more or less formal, and can be part of speeches, books, etc.