Adam Frank at NPR’s 13.7 blog on why we shouldn’t be hung up about death, even though there’s no afterlife:
[E]ven though none of us existed 1,000 years ago, you don’t find many people worrying about their nonexistence during the Dark Ages. Our not-being in the past doesn’t worry us. So, why does our not-being in the future freak us out so much?
Oh pick me! I know!
Because we experience time linearly, in one single direction, so we’d have no reason to be concerned about not existing in the past. We’re incapable of ever having perceived that which came before us, but we are able to perceive the present as it unfolds into the future, and we are aware that at some point, for each of us, that present will stop unfolding. We don’t witness the past before our births, so we have no reason or frame of reference for concern. We do witness ourselves in the present moment and are cognizant of the fact that we will (or ought to) exist in future moments. And we are also aware that there will come a time when that existence, that awareness, will stop. For-fucking-ever.
Perhaps if we were the Wormhole Aliens of Deep Space Nine or part of the Q Continuum, and could watch time and all the other dimensions unfurl around us in dancing strings and infinite toroids, we might have a different perspective. But we are mere mortal bags of meat.
That’s why not-being in the future freaks us out. Okay?
And personally I’m god damn glad I missed the Dark Ages.
P.S. Here’s a post explaining more about my feelings about death. They are not good feelings.