It’s immensely difficult to balance valuing life with a pragmatic approach to death. I suspect that most people’s perspective on this shifts dramatically throughout their lives, influenced by age, circumstance and experiences with those close to them.
Those of a religious persuasion have it easy – a ready-made philosophical base to cling to, usually promising some form of afterlife dependent on their ability to live according to the ideals of their tradition. The rest of us may ponder the writings and thoughts of others, and try to match them with our own life experience and understanding, extracting from this what seems probable and logical to us, but all the time lumbered with the cultural norms of our pre-programmed society, which can be difficult to overcome.
Life clearly needs to be valued and protected. Our own lives, and the lives of people we care about, depend on this collective understanding that has helped our current species successfully evolve. But is the general fear of death also necessary or can this be overcome? If we openly embrace the end of our lives are we rejecting the need to live, undervaluing life, and encouraging shifts in society that could lead to the exploitation of vulnerable people?
Personally, I come from a usually rather gloomy perspective on life. I’m here and I get on with it. I function normally and I’m curious enough about what each successive phase will bring to keep going. But I look forward to death in many respects – a chance for the constituent parts of my body to rest and move elsewhere. A chance for my mind to finally switch off. If I’m still here, ask me in 30 years’ time and I’m sure I’ll have a different answer.