I recently read “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin.  This is not a review of the book, but rather a look at it’s main hypothesis.  I don’t consider anything I am about to write in the spoiler category, be forewarned.

The basic premise of this book revolves around knowing the exact date that you will die.  So my question is:  if you knew when you were going to die, would you live your life differently?

I have given this a lot of thought since reading the book.  How would I live my life?

I have a tremendous fear of heights, but mainly it revolves around falling.  If I am in an observatory, I am fine looking down as long as the environment is enclosed.  If it’s open, well, I’m twenty feet away from the edge.  Some of you remember my summer lighthouse adventure, when I was felled by the 15 steps I had to climb down, and I actually considered moving into the top of the lighthouse.  But really, I’m afraid of falling because I’m afraid of dying.  If I knew that I was not going to die the day of the lighthouse visit, would I descend the stairs more calmly because I knew this was not to be my day?

Then you have the other side.  One of the reasons I exercise is to keep healthy.  I think exercise is good for the heart, the muscles and the brain.  I think it helps you live longer.  But what if i found out my demise would be early?  Would I spend my time doing something I enjoy more, like laying on the couch reading?  Would I spend my time being less healthy because trying to be healthy doesn’t really matter because it’s not going to actually effect my life?

Though I usually overthink everything, including trips to the dry cleaner, I am amazed that I have never thought about this idea.  I guess the rational part of my brain knows that this kind of knowledge is not logical.  This is not something even computers can predict with any great accuracy, and I don’t believe a Buzzfeed quiz would be helpful either.  So rationally, I’m out.

But….

I like to think I am open minded.  I like to think that everything is possible until proven otherwise.  But is it possible to predict the day of demise?  And does it matter?

What do you all think?  Is it possible to know?  Do you want to know?  Would you live your life differently?

 

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73 thoughts on “Do You Want to Know?

  1. Great post!! I, along with you, wonder about life and death. Would I run marathons if I knew being fit would do nothing for me in the end? Would I choose Netflix marathons instead? Would I do daring and dangerous feats if I knew it wouldn’t kill me? I always tell myself that I will die from Alzheimer’s in very old age like my other family members. I will slowly descend into death unaware. But who knows??

    Interestingly, when my dad was in Vietnam, he foresaw his death many years into the future. That specific day came and went. He is still with us. On the flip side, I think our minds trick us when we are living through extreme fear of death that we will not die during those times to stop it from killing us emotionally.

    Very interesting thoughts early in the morning. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! This topic has been floating around my brain since I read the book a few weeks ago. How much do we do/not do out of fear of death? It’s really a wild thought! I know…los of thoughts for morning, but at least it’s not Monday morning….

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      1. I envision anarchy..not just societal, like people being more warlike and violent with no fear of death themselves, but personally..much more risk taking…(not by me of course..cause there is the whole getting injured part)

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  2. This is a heavy conversation and requires at least two high-intensity beverages! I don’t think I’d want to know because I would obsess over it. I could probably control a lot of my emotions and mindset, but when I hit the point of “we only have 1 Christmas left together” or “this is where it will happen,” I couldn’t control my actions. For those reasons, I’d not want to know. But it’s hard, as I like to know the endings of books and movies before I start them…

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    1. Yeah….the “this is the last…” mentality would probably crush me. And to pair with your original thought, I’m sure the idea for this book was originated in one of those intoxicated conversations people have at 3 in the morning….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I would travel- fly specifically. I am terrified of flying, but much like you it’s the idea of falling from the sky in a blaze of flaming metal, or plowing into a mountain and dying horribly that I think propels my fear. I am NOT afraid to die when my days are done, I just don’t want to do it in such a spectacular way.
    I feel as if I might have wanted to know my death date when I was younger, but now, as 60 and beyond approaches I’m closer to the end anyway so I’m not really sure it matters if I have the specific day.

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  4. Hard questions for sure, what would I do? I feel I’m living the life I want, yet not in a frivolous way. Maybe I would try to do more fun, not-so-necessary things. Maybe I would try harder to make things happen that I care about. I know one thing, I would not just give up and mope around. Hopefully, I would be an even better wife, mother, and friend.

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  5. Great post. Nope I would not live differently if I knew when I was going to die. Perhaps we can change our fates. Alternate universes? Who knows? I’m terrified of heights, bridges etc. But knowing I wasn’t going to die wouldn’t matter. The feeling when I’m up high is one of falling. Its a gravity thing. I feel pulled over the edge. That wouldn’t change. I get vertigo. That wouldn’t change even if I knew when I was going to die. I suppose if I knew at 40 it might make a difference, but not in my 60’s. I want to live another 30 years but if it happened tomorrow I’d be ok. Not happy, but ok with it. However, I still won’t drive over a bridge anymore. Which is funny because I used to drive over The Golden Gate Bridge daily in my youth. I hated doing it but I’d ride in the middle lane. I think I will believe in reincarnation so then it won’t matter knowing when I die. I want to read this book now.

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    1. The book is totally thought provoking …..but it’s a question I have no clear answer to, which is an odd place for me to be because I’m usually opinionated and make decisions easily. This one has me thinking

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  6. I don’t have any desire to live to a particular age or not, and I spent a lot of my younger life being conditioned to live in fear that people were threats and I could be dead at any moment (it was warped, but whatever). Loads of therapy later, I’ve shifted from being paranoid, terrified, afraid of that loss of control and death, to “we all die sometime, fact of life, it will happen when it happens, mean time live my life that in a way as much as possible I have the chance if I’m suddenly finding myself dying I can think “yea, I like how I spent yesterday.” I’m still a long range planner, but I’m more willing now a days to enjoy today as well. That said I know from at least situations with end of life with dogs, I don’t do well when death is a scheduled affair. I’m much better with it when we are living for today because yes death will be soon but not yet finally determined when. And then when the moment needs to happen heading off to the emergency clinic. instead of scheduling an appointment for tomorrow or 3 days from now or next week at our regular vet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My mother was not really a trusting sort, so I totally get the living in fear thing. That’s a good point when thinking about pets….I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective. That gives me a whole different viewpoint to consider.

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  7. Yes and no. The wisdom that came with my age and experience is a result of having lived exactly how I lived and I wouldnt change that; and yet, considering my physical health issues now, damn right I would do shit differently.
    It cooks my noodle when I think about it too much, so I have to roll with some of those seemingly trite quips I picked up in recovery: it takes what it takes, it is what it is, the past is gone and the future may never arrive which means there is only the present and present = gift… all that stuff.
    Now, I’m off to go try and figure out who am I and why am I here because my mind is boggled😉😚

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    1. Right now I’m a yes and no answer too. I’m just not sure how I’d actually react in the situation. When I know something I do adapt my behavior, but is this good or bad? I’m in boggled mind state as well!!

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  8. Interesting. I have always been a healthy eater and exerciser as it made me feel good. After my husband retired from the military and before he met me, he ate lots of canned foods and didn’t exercise often. He was tired of walking as in the army that meant something not enjoyable. He has cancer (3 years ago) and although the prognosis is good that with treatment, his life can be extended for the next decade and the doctors are hopeful…or longer as research develops. I am very healthy and show no signs of health problems other than my age, same as you, and feeling tired sometimes which is normal. My husband eats the dessert, enjoys the occasional tv show in the afternoon, cares less of critiquing the process and what others think. I sometimes wish I were more like that. I try to take after his style more and analyze less. Life is short, so keep it sweet is a lesson I am still learning.

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      1. Toward the end of my father’s life and while I was watching over him, he constantly and consistently wanted to ride the tallest roller coaster, eat the extra dessert, be the DJ at the party, and he learned to cook for himself!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow! That’s something to think about. I hate heights for that same reason. I’m not sure I would like to know. I believe that we are put on this earth to learn things and grow. Would knowing this hinder this because I was focused on getting my to do list done before I died? I think I’m going to stick with not knowing.

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  10. I think knowing the day would make everything I do now have a sense of urgency to it. I think I’d be rushing through life to get as many things accomplished or experienced as I could and not really take the time to savor and enjoy anything. I believe that we are here for a purpose and we’ll stay here until we have done what we were supposed to do. So far, I have no clue what my particular purpose is so I’ll keep trying different things 🙂 It is an interesting concept though.

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  11. A second thought… I know the day cannot be predicted with any type of accuracy, but I think we sort of live our lives as if we do know. We have some idea as to average life expectancy so we kind of gamble on those numbers. We have a family, a career, then retire, all with the average life expectancy number in mind. Just a thought.

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  12. Well, I don’t know if this falls in the realm of the answer, but I’ve already decided that I’m gonna check out around 80. I’ve interacted with enough 100-year-olds and such to have made this firm conclusion. 80 is good enough. I’m not sure I’d live differently though, if I knew 80 was the real date. I already kind of do what I want because I know that tomorrow could be the date.

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  13. I don’t need to know when I will die, maybe because I have been in the somewhat unusual position of having died a couple-few times already in this life, so to me it just sort of keeps going even when it’s the whole white light thing or being up on the ceiling looking down at your dead body or whatever. If it were going to be some terrible event as death, then that would probably blight my whole existence, if I felt terror of some badbad way to go and felt there was no way to avoid it. I already know that sometimes things can happen, emotional and physical, that can be unspeakably bad and yet NOT be death, so the comments above about knowing one might not die from climbing or racecars or whatever would not console me. Why risk something that might put you in a bodycast or whatever, and yet not dead, if you don’t genuinely want to do that activity and if your nervses are advising against it? I’m more on the yuck-avoidant end of the spectrum lately. Interesting question–

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  14. Actuaries are paid a LOT of money to figure out how long people live, given the various variables in play. Any system with more than a couple of variables is by nature chaotic, so no – you can’t predict it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. you should go to the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras and climb up the 225 or so steps to the top and stand out on the landing. it’s a spectacular view. oh yeh. you can see thru the landing.he landing. it’s soooooo cool!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. yeh, seriously. the walkway outside the top of the lighthouse is open grate and you look down and go “Whoa! I’m so high!” And then you look out and go “Whoa! what a view!” it’s awesome. you should do it and then treat yourself to some seafood afterwards.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. That sounds like an interesting book… I’m going to see if my library has it. I would ONLY want to know if I was going to live to a very ripe old age. I can’t imagine the pain one would feel to get a very short “expiration date.” And, no matter what date you had, that last full day would be excruciating. I wonder what would happen if you had, say June 10, 2018, so on June 9, 2018, you jumped out of a plane without a parachute?

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    1. The book came out last month. I thought it was an intriguing premise which is why I read it. It’s an interesting thought…what do you do….how do you handle your life…..

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    1. After writing today, I saw the same two personality types that people are normally grouped into. I think people would end up following their personality. I’m probably going to do a follow up in a few weeks

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  17. No I would not want to know. I’m sure I would live my life differently depending on if it would happen sooner rather than later. I know me and if I knew the date of my death I’d be more terrified as I got closer to it, not accept it. And I am with you on the height thing – open high spaces scare me, enclosed ones I am much better.

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  18. No way do I want to know the day of my demise. I’m stressed enough with all the things that I want to do now, but add a definite due date and I’d be a sourpuss grumbling my way to the end. Let my death be a surprise to everyone, myself included. And in the meantime, I’ll be cheerfully unaware.

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  19. I think rather than live more fully it would scare the hell out of me, so no, I wouldn’t want to know. I enjoy the fact that it’s not something most of us can control. That removes a lot of pressure and focus from the whole situation.

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  20. Knowing my obsessive nature, I think I’d rather not know. If I had a terminal illness, I’d want to know approximately how much time I had left in order to get my affairs in order (and maybe check a couple of things off the bucket list I don’t even have), but otherwise, no. I’d rather not know.

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  21. I wouldn’t want to know. I’d be too stressed and would prematurely coff it from heart failure. I do, however, sometimes tell myself to act as if this was my last day on earth and it helps me to live in the moment and appreciate the little things that mean so much, like my son’s laugh or the birds singing or the stars.

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