Transcending Death

By Luka Stojanovic

A few weeks ago, as I was browsing the web during my spare, I came across a fascinating video called “We Are the Gods Now” which is part of a series of talks given by filmmaker Jason Silva. What particularly interested me about this talk was his analysis of the question of death. The question of what happens when our physical bodies stop functioning has been contemplated by every man and woman that has ever lived. It is a question that, to many, is so debilitating that it keeps them up at night, tossing and turning in their bed. It is a scary thought for many people to realize that one day everything that they have experienced could cease to exist.

Silva’s analysis of death is based off of Ernest Becker’s 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Denial of Death. In this book, Becker argues that the human condition is uniquely characterized by our awareness of our own mortality, and that, to avoid going mad, humanity needed to find solutions to the death problem. He reasons that to transcend mortality we need to become part of something eternal; something that will never die.  He argues that throughout history, humans have created a variety of solutions to achieve this immortality. The first is the religious solution that states there is life after death. Becker believes that, as science continues to advance, this option appears to be less feasible, and therefore seeks to investigate different possibilities. He argues that the second solution is a romantic one.

Unfortunately, he believes that it too falls short because love and passion for another human being are not immortal qualities: they too will disappear when both partners die. Becker thus arrives at what he believes to be the best solution to the death problem: the creative solution. This solution involves creating something that will influence the lives of others even after one is physically gone. The reason so many teenagers, including myself, are terrified of death is because we realize that, if we were to die at this moment, we would leave the world largely unchanged. We all have the ability to change the world in a meaningful way, and, if we do so, we can transcend death even after our hearts stop beating and our bodies decay.