Heroes

How you're likely using 1 of these 3 reasons to not totally freak out about dying someday

It's hard to be aware of our own mortality. I think deep down, a lot of us hope there will be a miracle and somehow we'll live forever. Maybe the solution isn't finding a cure to death but changing the way we look at it.

How you're likely using 1 of these 3 reasons to not totally freak out about dying someday

From an early age, we become acutely aware of our own mortality, knowing that everyone we know and love will one day die.

This awareness is enough to plague the average person with a lifetime of anxiety, yet most of us are able to wade through the world without becoming totally paralyzed by fear of death.

During his 2012 keynote speech at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, philosopher Jason Silva offered up a mix of harsh truth and hope to his audience.

Silva's address focused on the three "solutions" to what he dubbed "the death problem," as outlined by the late philosopher and author Ernest Becker in his 1973 book, "The Denial of Death":


  1. Religion
  2. Romance
  3. Creativity

The first solution, the religious solution, is an age-old approach to dealing with impending death. In the religious solution, one manages their mortal anxiety by believing that once their life ends on earth, they will be granted an eternal afterlife in the kingdom of God.

The second solution, the romantic solution, exists in, as Silva notes, "the lyric of every pop song." This coping mechanism exists by propping up our loved ones as their own sort of deities. That is, we ascribe to them characteristics beyond that of humans. "She's like the sun" or "she is my wind" are examples of how we accomplish this. Sadly, Silva explains, this solution tends to lose its effectiveness when we're reminded of our loved ones' own mortality.

To Silva, the creative choice is the closest option humanity has to being an infinite solution. This option takes the form of both the arts and technology. Arts allow us to "solve" the death problem — we can create works that outlive our bodies. Technology, through the constant evolution and improvement, can extend physical life, to preserve old memories, transcending space and time.

Silva closes his speech with a quote from Alan Harrington, urging his audience to keep evolving and looking to the creative solution.

Watch a short video containing excerpts from Silva's speech below:

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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