22 de outubro de 2012

Como não sentir o terror?

Gostaria de ser racional como o sujeito que escreveu isso, mas não consigo. Não faz sentido, eu sei, mas e daí?

[…] Suppose you're at a party. It's great, and you wish you could stay, but this is taking place in high school, and your mother is going to call and tell you it's time to go home. Now, there's nothing bad about being at home; it's intrinsically neutral. You just wish you could stay at the party.

Suppose you know that the call is going to come at midnight, guaranteed. Then, I think, there isn't anything to be afraid of. But if all you know is that your mother is going to call some time between 11 pm and 1 am, the conditions for appropriate fear have been met. There is something bad, there is a non-negligible chance of it happening, and yet there is also a lack of certainty that it will happen. Now some degree of fear makes sense. Perhaps we have something similar with regard to death. Perhaps it makes sense to be afraid given the unpredictability of death.

Further distinctions might be helpful. Am I afraid that I will die soon, in the sense that, given the range of years I might reasonably hope for, death may come sooner rather than later? Or am I afraid that I will die young, with death coming sooner for me than it does for others? These ways of specifying the object of my potential fear differ in important ways, including how much fear is appropriate, and when.

Take the fear of dying young. Clearly, if you have reached middle age any fear of dying young is irrational. But even among the young, the chance of this actually happening is extremely small.

As one grows older, the chance of dying within a given period increases. But even here, fear that one will die soon can easily be out of proportion. Even an 80-year-old has a more than 90 per cent chance of living at least another year.

Obviously, fear that death may come soon can make sense among the very sick or the very aged. But for the rest of us, I think, it is typically misplaced. If you are reasonably healthy and yet you say to me, "I am terrified of death", then all I can say in response is that I believe you, but terror is not appropriate. It doesn't make sense, given the facts.

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