Fear of Death, Fear as Death

Death comes to all, whether we imagine it everywhere and spend our lives running and hiding from it, whether we seek and embrace it in an act of cowardly bravado aimed at alleviating our overactive imaginations, or whether we simply live our lives to the best of our abilities secure in the awareness that someday it will come. It is coming in any case.

A coward is, in part, a man who, when he feels threatened in any way, allows his fear to override all his learned respect for the lives of others. The child who avoids punishment by objecting, falsely, “It was Billy!” The irresponsible office worker who seeks to cover over his own neglectful error by claiming someone lower on the chain “was supposed to double-check that.” The infantile citizen who, when feeling nervous about a virus outbreak, demands that the government coercively shut down everyone else’s life and livelihood in order to keep him safe.

Everyone may have cowardly moments in life, i.e., instances of giving in to excessive or irrational fear, without actually having cowardice as an entrenched habit of his soul, which is to say a vice. A society or age, however, in which a majority of men had succumbed to the vice itself — exhibiting a consistent inability to extricate themselves from the grip of those momentary weaknesses we all experience — would be doomed, for such a society or age would be at the mercy of anyone with a mind for power-seeking psychological manipulation. It would be left with no internal resources for resistance, due to the virtue- and reason-paralyzing effects of cowardice itself.

To remain alone when everyone is joining a side can be painful. To join a side and then live forever with the awareness that one did so merely to escape the pain of being alone is deadly. To mistake being alone for being lonely is an intellectual and, in some cases, a moral error. 

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