“He who fears death either fears the loss of sensation or a different kind of sensation. But if you shall have no sensation, neither will you feel any harm; and if you shall acquire another kind of sensation, you will be a different kind of living being and you will not cease to live.”
Indeed, death, in its most raw form, is something that mystifies, yet terrifies, all who should bother to think of it. To be mystified, that is an admirable quality, for Descartes has said “I think, so I exist”, so evidently illustrating that the ability to think, to imagine, to question why things were the way they were, is the supreme mark of a living and sentient being. The two words, though seemingly related, and in truth very synonymous, are yet very distinct in each other. We all live, we live amongst the billions of insects, animals, birds, fishes, etc., and yet what is it that distinguishes us from them? To those who would retort a brain that can think and distinguish between right and wrong, I would gainsay, for even these beings possess this ability, and often they are seen to use it better than what most humans can be credited with. I feel, and this remains my own opinion, that the real strength that humanity possesses within it that makes it so different from the rest is its ability to think and ponder over why the pattern of life is just so.
Descartes says that if you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. If you do not care to query, then God denies you the right to call yourself a sentient being, although you are alive. A few may demur, that after all to live is to sense, and if I am to be deemed alive, it is but obvious that I am sentient. It isn’t so. Just to breathe isn’t the same as to celebrate the wonder that is the human respiratory system, to feel the sense of touch isn’t the same as to stand in awe at the miracle that is the nervous structure, to see isn’t the same as to bow down before the great marvel that transforms mere sight to the grandeur that is vision. Most of us take our lives so much for granted, that we simply forget to honour the spectacles that we see everyday. Only when a marvel is blemished by doubt, and I use the word here very specifically, does its wondrous nature become even more evident.
I started out with Marcus Aurelius and his thoughts on death, and have throughout the last few paragraphs, stated why being sentient is more important than just being alive. And yet, Marcus Aurelius was dismissive of death being viewed as a possible conqueror of the senses or the giver of new sensations. For, in Marcus’s words, if death is to take away your senses, then what is pain to you? Whence your senses desert you in life, whilst you still breathe, if you feel no compassion, no fear, no emotion, then why the morbid fear of death, which grants you the same “feeling”?