In his latest Backside column, editor-in-chief Mitchell Scott asks whether we’ve become too obsessed with staying alive. After all, if death is inevitable for all of us, why are we so scared of it?
We are at an apogee in our age-old battle against nature. While we are a part of nature, and it gives us life, we know very well it will one day take us. Yet most of us don’t accept this outcome. It’s why we’ve tried to tame nature, bend it to our will. It’s why, as modern-day humans, we are obsessed with staying alive for as long as possible. Not only do we not want to die, we don’t want anyone else to die either: our family, our friends, even our fellow citizens. We won’t even allow those who want to pass from this life the dignity of doing so on their own terms.
Because getting sick can mean we’re one step closer to our terminus, we load ourselves with antibiotics, supplements, and prescription pills. Because bad stuff exists in the ether, we chlorinate our water, sterilize our food, and stay indoors. We social distance to prevent a virus from spreading, trying to control one of an estimated 10 nonillion (10 to the 31st power) viruses on our planet. For much of modern society, our fear of dying has us fearing life. As death is the one inevitable thing in life, it is profoundly strange we can’t accept it, let alone embrace it, or even celebrate it.
Were we this way millennia ago, when we considered ourselves a part of life’s circle? Were we less crippled by our unavoidable demise? Now that we have cars that eject balloons upon impact, and drugs and surgeries and treatments that add years to our lives, are we so brazen to think we’re winning the battle against death?
The planet knows there are too many of us. In her omnipresent commitment to balance, she knows what needs to happen. What is more important? Staying alive for as long as possible, or reconnecting with nature and accepting what will be? Spend any amount of time in the mountains and you know the answer. You cannot drop in on a snow-loaded slope deep in the backcountry without facing your fears and dealing with them. No matter your preparation or experience, you have to know your expiry might be two turns away. What we seem to have forgotten through the rise of our unwavering arrogance, is that in order to truly live, we must be ready to die.