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.

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: