The Truths: people don’t actually matter that much.

The importance of a proper education:

I grew up with this burning feeling of entitlement that followed me everywhere, like a friend you don’t really want most of the time, but who is always there no matter what. It was an unhealthy relationship; Entitlement made me king, and I did whatever he asked. As a child I was constantly fishing for compliments, and was quick to anger if I wasn’t in the spotlight during every conversation. I couldn’t take critique, nor could I stand rejection. I was endlessly ignorant and hopelessly insecure. This pattern of behavior resulted in my friends and family pushing me away, and ensured that I certainly would not be the center of anyone’s attention. This realization made me feel even more angry and entitled. It was a really crummy cycle that lasted almost twenty one years.

I never worked hard at anything. I have a natural gift for music, and fell in love with the guitar at an early age. I never really practiced on my own (although I loved to tell people I practiced ‘two hours a day’), but I was naturally good enough that most people never caught on. I even managed to secure a position teaching part-time at this musical academy when I was sixteen years old. I played in a few bands and wrote half a dozen songs or so. I never played for the sake of playing. I played solely for the title and the recognition.

I often project myself onto others. As a child, I always gauged how others felt based upon how I would react in that very same situation. My family seems to have quite a knack for that – a huge part in why we all hate each other (as ironic as that is). I think at the heart of that projection is a selfish mass of cells, quickly infecting everything and everyone it meets.

I was always the ‘class clown’; a born vaudevillian. I would do anything for a laugh; anything. As a result of my efforts, I lost a lot of friends, and quickly gained a pretty shitty reputation. By high-school none of my friend’s parents wanted their kids to hang out with me. All of my teachers in high-school hated me, and I spent more time trying to convince other’s of my worth, than I did working to prove it. When someone had a bad opinion of me, I hated them for it; I knew exactly why they were wrong, and just how stupid they were for it.

I hate when people say ‘we live in a time where’… I haven’t done a meta analysis of the macro-level ebb and flow of society, so I am in no way authorized to make any such claims. All I can say is that right now I live in a time where I can interact with hundreds of people on the other side of the earth in the time it takes to pour a cup of juice. If I want, I can sit back and watch hours upon hours of video footage uploaded to an online community by members of almost every race, religion, society and country. I don’t know what anyone else is thinking, or what motivates them internally to choose the paths they chose, or what external factors have forced them down the road less traveled. I don’t even really know my own life, or who I am.

The way we feel things is not a good way to define what those things are.

I do not accept the premise that we are born with an essence, and that life is just this bland journey to figure out precisely who we are. That’s like a really bad Disney movie (probably involving a golden retriever with a predilection for playing ‘sport’). I think that I am constantly changing, and constantly refining myself. A great deal of who I am is both largely unknown to me, and lost in the memories I will never remember. If I had the answers to all those questions (like who I ‘really’ am, and ‘how I became that way’), I don’t think my life would be any easier.

There are only a few things that I know for certain are true. I know that I’m not important – at all. I know that when I die, I will most likely be forgotten. I know that I am infinitely stupid, and I know that I am constrained by my own biology just as much as I am by my culture and my society. I think there is nothing profound which separates myself from the animals, although I understand that people are ‘programmed’ to think in terms almost exclusively of themselves. I think that our need to see ourselves taken after, and wanted, and loved, comes from a place of ego and delusion. I don’t deserve love, or money, or shelter, or any of the things I get. I don’t deserve to be beaten down like an animal, either… but I do not deserve this excess that I have. Even though I have hardships in my life few will ever experience, I know how fortunate and how lucky I am.

I live next-door to a family of self-centered, ignorant character, deluded by the prospect that if their completely bull-shit, arbitrary requirements for ‘living’ were met, they’d strike gold again, and again, and again. What I’m  doing is not the sine qua non of meaning. The moment in which we shed this illusion is the precise moment that our lives actually begin.

Imagine a world without (for the most part) an entitled generation of lazy narcissists who think every step they take is this great terrestrial moon-landing. Imagine making a great cup of coffee only meant that you were left with a great cup of coffee to drink. Imagine a world where reporting what shop a celebrity left was considered creepy, rather than entertainment. Imagine all the shit we could get done if it didn’t take twenty years to realize how insignificant we are? Imagine a world where we have finally accepted that every feeling actually doesn’t need to be shared, and every impulse entertained. We are betrayed by our motivations and emotions all the time.

In conclusion, through much pain and suffering I have learned to question what it means to be happy and content. I have learned that the often black and white ideals I hold as standards for behavior are as much the product of understanding as the big-bang theory is  the result of comedic genius. (Which is a very pretentious way of saying ‘I haven’t got a fucking clue’.) I don’t know every answer, and I only really know a tiny fraction of the questions. But I know that I’m not all that important, and that no one will remember me for ‘who I really am’. That small fact was powerful enough to change my entire view of my life, and of life itself. If you live life with that thought constantly consuming your mind, you will treat people more nicely, have much more realistic expectations, and be much more open to change and hard work. Once you accept that no one is inherently important, you will begin to understand the true meaning of equality.

p.s.: if the world exploded tomorrow and every person was destroyed – along with all the evidence of people altogether – do you really think the people who believe they are so important and powerful will somehow emerge unscathed? As if existence alone etches their very essence into the fabric of our universe? No, the answer is no. They die and are forgotten, just like everyone else. You’re not born more important than anyone else, so grow the fuck up and do something with your life.   

My Life of Fear:

Fear is a big part of my life – more in the vein of competition rather than oppression. I have a lot of fears in my life, and a great portion of my day is spent being afraid of different things. Those moments, however few or fleeting, can be extremely useful if you have the courage to try and really roll up your sleeves and get to the root of the problem.

I have written quite a lot on the topic of fear, and while I feel comfortable with all that I have learned so far, I still yearn for more answers. I don’t think there is one absolute truth out there for anything; I  don’t believe in an absolute ‘hockey standard’, or  a ‘fashion truth’. I don’t believe in any type of ‘abstract’, objective standard of perfection. But I do think that we can find answers to many of the questions which we have. I think that each individual person is walking a completely different path from their fellow man, and as such, they will see ‘truth’ in a different context than everyone else. Our world is proof of this: there are Christians who are absolutely convinced of Christ, and atheists who deny his existence completely (as a spiritual being). I’m not saying I think everything is relative, and I don’t think supporting the idea that individuality extends well beyond our vain, egotistical values commits me to any form of post-modernism. I just sincerely believe that the amount of ‘stuff’ out there (facts, truths, things, events, future events, possible events) is infinitely larger than our minds can grasp. And I find an extreme sense of comfort in knowing that.

The particular question I have been obsessed with lately is this: how can I overcome fear. Overcoming fear doesn’t mean feeling absolutely no fear, but, for me, it means having an overarching understanding of fear, and all of the different ways of understanding fear. I think we can look for truth in many directions, and find incredibly satisfactory answers. But I don’t think those branches all converge onto one fact, or principle, or set of truths. I also think that our species is stupid and limited. We are beautiful and amazing, don’t get me wrong. But now that we don’t fear for our lives on a daily basis, we have food and shelter and disposable income, we have begun to fully grasp just how limited we are, intellectually.

It’s weird how our brains work. We see patterns and we see redundancies for patterns, and our brains work tirelessly behind the scenes interpreting and sifting through these patterns. As a result, answers often come from places we would never even think to look. This is called the Butterfly Effect.  I bring this up because this very phenomenon happened to me recently, and it dramatically changed (and improved) my understanding of fear.

I was reading the famed ‘Ender’s Game’ series (I’m currently reading ‘speaker for the dead’), and although almost everything in those books has had a tremendous impact on my perspective, there was one part in particular that really connected with me. Ender was talking to an artificial intelligence and they got on the topic of emotions. The AI said that emotions were something she did not understand, as they are a direct product of our evolution – that’s why we share these emotions with animals. She said that she had been created, and so as a result she finds it very difficult to ‘feel’ the way that humans do. And that’s what got me.

When I stripped everything down, ultimately my fear was rooted in this feeling of mourning that things just hadn’t turned out ‘right’. I thought that there was some ultimate objective standard, and that fear itself derives objective existence from the concept of ‘well-being’. That insofar as life is better than death, death is a bad thing, and should, ought, to be feared. But why is that true? Why are the metaphorical, dark images which come to my mind when I’m afraid ‘bad’? Why is darkness ‘bad’? Why is ’empty space’, scary? The fact of the matter is, they aren’t. I find a crisp, clear summer day on a tropical island beautiful. But, perhaps to another creature, or even to another person, darkness is beautiful, and emptiness is beautiful.

Sure death sucks, and I can accept the fact that I will probably never rationally welcome death with open arms, but that fact does not commit me to the position that says fear has inherent existence and should rightly be feared.  Fear does not exist, it just exists in us. It is incredibly complex, and if I try to surmise exactly what fear is in one, succinct sentence, I will fail. But fear is not real. It is a product of our evoultionary history, consciousness, our minds. Fear is as much a part of us as our arm, or leg. Evolution created fear, not the other way around.

I was thinking about this the other day: what would really happen if I gave up fear altogether. What if I were a soldier in battle, and as the enemy charged I threw caution to the wind and met them in pace and in spirit. And do you know what my very next thought was? I shit you not, “what if I just died directly after that. What if after throwing caution to the wind and meeting my enemy in battle I am instantly killed? What if my death is that unceremonious?”. What the fuck kind of disillusioned thinking is that? I decide to give up fear, but then the very next scene, the scene enshrined by both logic and reason, is a scene born of fear. What are the chances that I would just instantly die, unceremoniously directly after I give up my fear? Is that really an even balance of all the options?

See, that’s what fear does. Fear makes you think like there’s no other way out. It makes you see one single story, and then live by that story. Maybe in our evolutionary past this was adaptive (maybe that’s not even relevant), but now it’s not. Fear goes by another name: Barabbas. Fear can go fuck itself. We don’t need to let fear control us. You will not find that control in any religion, you will only shift the control from fear to God. The whole point of this rambling essay is to communicate that you can in fact let go of fear. You have to make that decision. It’s not going to be easy. You may feel slightly informed and maybe partially inspired after reading this, but your journey is far from over.

A few parting tips:
  • Turn everything into a challenge. Life will be much less threatening if you realize you’re a competitor. 
  • Accept your inevitable death. You’ll never truly get a grip on fear if you constantly entertain the delusion that you’re immortal.
  • Shed your fucking ego: chances are, you will not be remembered long after your death. Find how empowering that is. Empowering in the sense that at the moment you realize how insignificant you truly are, you will finally see how much work you have to do to get where you thought you were going.
  • Stop being so entitled: like I said, you’re going to be forgotten when you die. That means that no one will remember except for your family. This is why Eric Harris did what he did; he wanted a shot at immortality. Don’t do that. Instead, do everything you can to be remembered once you die – for positive reasons. At the very least, after your gone people will have a whole lot of respect for you. And there are few more comforting thoughts than that.
  • Work hard: work when no ones looking. If you work for recognition only, than you really didn’t grasp the last four points at all.
  • Be nice and kind to others. Fear leads people to do horrible things, and transforms people into horrible little mirages. If your afraid, run in the opposite direction. Be as nice and kind as you can, and I guarantee you, your fear lose that intensity.

Philosophy of Virtue: prudence and fear (part 1)

The key to fear isn’t any one thing. It isn’t some misdirected sense of courage and honor, abstaining completely from any thought or any pretense of thought pertaining to fear.Luca_Giordano_014 Neither is it giving yourself completely to fear, hoping to learn some invaluable truth by totally offering yourself up to its unforgiving arms.

The key to fear is balance, it’s harmony.

For the longest time I have been vacillating between those two poles. At the one end stands this stolid creature, unwavering and immovable; ready to take on any and all fearful things. And at the other a man who for all intents and purposes appears completely absorbed by his fear, absolutely and completely entrenched.

Both of these ways of addressing fear and living with fear are imprudent and incomplete, but few of us ever understand why. Our society offers up these binary oppositions to us all the time. This time it’s what a man facing his fears should look like, and what a man facing his fears should not. It’s a lie, though; I can tell you from first hand experience that neither work – that is, they are not inherently useful.

So lets take a brief moment to look at our options (options as dictated by society and the media):

  • Option A, distance yourself from feeling fear.
    • entails reckless abandon (only not the romantic type).
    • It involves abandoning your feelings and never thinking about the harsh realities of life
    • It is by definition passive, non-action. It does not entail an active attempt to control fear. 
  • Option B, give in to fear
    • entails, for the most part, a pathological need, an insatiable desire, to obsess and ruminate over all the negative possibilities.
    • It is defined by catastrophising

Society favors option a. It’s clean, it’s easy to mimic,  and it inspires a generic sense of hope. The only problem is, it’s nearly impossible to meet the standards required for execution; or at the very least, it is entirely draining, leaving little room to ride on horseback across the desert shooting Indians or lead the vanguard on Stalingrad.  Some can play this game, but they have won a certain type of genetic lottery. The point is, it talks of reachable conditions nearly impossible to replicate in the average joe’s life.

In response to the impossible nature of option A, most people romanticize their own journey with fear (which usually parallels option b). They talk about addressing your own fears and emotions and sharing those fears and emotions. They say this is ‘healthy’ and ‘it’s what real men, with real  courage do’ (I realize the irony in using the masculine form… but I can only include so many layers of analogy). They talk about their struggles with obsessing and catastorphizing as if they were desirable. They are playing the same game they lost at; pretending they’re something they’re not because facing that fact is too hard.

The real key to fear isn’t option a or option b, nor is it c, d, e, or f. The key to fear is just a balance. It requires wisdom and knowledge to keep yourself afloat.

For the longest time I have been trying to find a way to rid myself of fear altogether. I have been trying to find some nice clean-cut category to fit everything into. I wanted to say ‘fear is totally bad, and we are all better off without it, completely’, or I wanted to say ‘fear is totally good, it was the driving force behind evolution’. But it’s a balance. It’s more nuanced and subtle than any one cliché allows.

In order to get the upper hand on fear, we have to be constantly on guard and diligent with what goes on in our lives. We have to know when to let go, and when to hang on.

There is no such thing as good stress, or good fear. Eustress is a lie, and fear and stress are always bad. So long as we live in this ‘broken’ (I use that word very lightly, and so not in the same way a Christian would) world, we will always have to deal with that fact. One day I hope that we live in a world where no one has to suffer or fear. But until that day comes, all we can do is distance ourselves from fear when appropriate, and try to control ourselves when we need to face it.

I know how obvious this sounds, but look inward into your own life. How many of you are able to successively balance fear? Or have even recognized addressing fear as a scale rather than a categorical imperative? It’s easy to read through this and go ‘oh yeah, that’s just obvious’. Many of the structures in our lives are characterized by an equilibrium, not these black and white categories (shades of grey).

Most of us think in black and white terms, but be diligent for fear is a mix of good and bad. We cannot rid our lives of fear totally, but sometimes fear can save our lives (when we find Allegory of Prudenceourselves in an area plagued by some viral disease, fear makes us diligent and helps us avoid situations which might land us in our death-bed). I’m sure most of us have encountered this evolutionary argument for fear, and anyone who has graduated high-school has learned about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, of fight-or-flight. Fear in non-conscious beings is a great blessing; it turns on when there is a threat, informing the animal of immanent danger. In a way, fear bridged the gap between non-consciousness and consciousness; its the first form of artificial intelligence. But it’s not such a great thing in us conscious beings. We can think and that has proven oftentimes much more vice than virtue.

We cannot evaluate every aspect of every situation, and so fear kicks in and instinctively promotes an adequate response. The problem, is that for the most part people don’t live in conditions requiring around the clock diligence anymore, and so fear has mixed with consciousness, forming this ionic bond – weighted heavily in favor of conscious fear. Our conscious thoughts create this dense mine-field around the central kernel, the real threat. We spend most of our time navigating that minefield trying to reach that kernel, and identify that real threat. The problem is, we rarely get there, but we’re almost always stuck somewhere outside the gates.

We can talk about two different formats of fear: unconscious fear and conscious fear. Unconscious fear  is the form of fear produced by natural selection in order to keep us alive; it is reflexive and instinctive, rarely consciously initiated. Then we have conscious fear; cognitively based, produced by thoughts we create (often takes the form of obsessive rumination and catastrophising) carrying varying degrees of epistemic value. If you’re anything like me, you find yourself afraid of the most trivial things; losing a pen or paper, wasting time, spilling a drink. We understand the function of fear (to keep us alive), but our biology wreaks havoc on the rest of our lives. The ratio of unconscious to conscious fear is sharply titled in bias towards cognition. The problem isn’t any one format, the problems arise when both are at play.

For the time being, all we can do is control our conscious fear. We cannot control our unconscious fear, and nor should we. There aren’t many problems associated with unconscious fear. The problems, again, arise when we start thinking of all the negative possibilities. We have to learn to respond to unconscious fear with instinct and intuition, not with conscious fear, worrying and obsessing. We can learn to allocate a certain degree of distress depending on how threatening a particular situation is.

Exercise prudence:

  • compare the risks of failure 
  • the rewards of success
  • the odds of success.

In respect to fear, the risk of failure could mean death, humiliation, losing social status or financial wealth. The rewards are various and generally universal. This all hinges on the odds of success. That might seem odd, talking about fear, but if we take a different perspective it makes more sense.

The odds of success can mean one thing or another, depending on the perspective you take. You could look at it in respect to the odds the outcome you picture through fear will come to fruition. Or the odds you will be able to control fear.

Allocating attention to distressing emotions depends on these three key things, but most importantly, the odds of success. Ask yourself “what are the odds this fear will be successful” . If you’re afraid of public speaking, and more specifically afraid that you will mess up and lose respect of your friends and colleagues, calculate how likely this is to happen. You can quickly form and test beliefs for each specific situation (fear of speaking generally, or of losing respect to friends or the public more specifically). With more general, conscious fears, the outcome need not be known (there is more epistemic wiggle room). But when it comes to something as precious as your life, you should take a little extra time with your addition and subtraction. A good rule of thumb is not to use belief as a truth-bearer.

When it comes to fear, generally ‘mums the word’. However, upon closer inspection, we find the walls of these traditional archetypes quickly fall away, revealing a vast array of different approaches to fear, and different definitions of what fear is. Some look at fear as a process or a unique entity. I take a secular humanist approach to my analytics, so I opt for the definition which says fear are, not is – that is, that fears exist, and that fear is just the collective abstraction, not a distinct entity. The key here is nuance and prudence. Nuance in understanding ourselves, and prudence in how we respond. Fear is not an entity, but a product of our biology, and the thoughts we create. Fear seems very real and is often very crippling, but it is not fear that brings us down, it is our fears… and we can control those.

There is hope, both that one day we will live in a world without fear, and that we have the tools at hand to respond with control and resolution to fear.

The old man smiled. ‘I shall not die of a cold, my son.  I shall die of having lived.” 

-Willa Cather, Death Comes For The Archbishop.

Fight or Flight

It seems to me that we suffer under the illusion that panic and anxiety enhance our problem solving in times of crisis and duress. Like that gripping, tight feeling of panic when your confronted by a potvaliant bare-knuckle brawler you accidentally eyed at the bar, who now wants to knock the living shit out of you, or when you’ve fallen ill. Or the moment you realize accidentally did send that text to that person you didn’t want to send that text to. We are deluded in believing that giving in to that feeling of fear helps us; but it’s easy. And fuck me if in that moment our bodies sure don’t make a good case for it. But it’s not.

Lets take a pragmatic approach: fear is important. Fight or flight is important. Not giving in to the psychological manifestations of panic, the prolonged shadow of fear, is something everyone has to learn how to do; that is, everyone who wants a happy life. If you die tomorrow, and you spent the last year worried straight, especially when you didn’t have cause to always worry, you’ll feel like you never had the chance to live. Listen to fear. Flee when necessary and fight when possible. But never give in to panic. Don’t spend all of your days worrying and afraid. listen to what your body is telling you, respond, but don’t for a second believe that your body knows exactly what its doing. Life is nothing if not imperfect.

All worldviews agree: fear is a manifestation of weakness and a vestige of our past. I’m not religious. I believe in the order of science; I believe in cartesian doubt. I believe in classical theory and romantic theory. I believe what I think is believable.

Evolution paints a grim picture of existence, depending how you look on it; in this instance, it sheds light exactly where we can’t see.

We also live under the delusion that right now, this point of history, is super important. I’d wager everyone ever believed the exact same thing. Conscious beings place themselves, their time, at the center of the universe. Why? Because we are the center of our universe. Sure we can consider a priori knowledge, but its a posteriori that has the greatest influence over how we act an behave, what we choose to believe, and what we choose not to.

We think that we are the culmination of billions of years of natural selection and evolution. And in a way we are. But fuck me if it ends here. Were just one small dot on a giant non-linear graph. We will evolve further. Millions of years from now, who knows what we’ll be. Or even if we will be.

You may be wondering how that at all helps us with fear; I just told you that your not that important, and that most of what you believe is horse-shit – encouraging stuff… really. This information carries with it the weight of a promise. A promise that so long as things do stay alive, they will tend towards positive progression; they will get better.

Our response to fear is a conditioned response and a programmed response. We have been given the gift of consciousness. That’s the meaning of life, the beauty of it all. That’s why we think that our lives, right now, as your reading this, are of some grand plot – things are going to end with me…. We an change our lot in life. We can be the force of natural selection. Sure there are limitations to what we can do, but so long as we are conscious and capable of rational inquiry, we can surely change our selves – who we are.

the only thing lately that imbues me with a deep sense of confidence is this very fact: that our ‘calling’ is to self-evolve. To take humanity from the weak fucking subordinate position it currently resides in, and elevate that to the tip of the fucking world. That’s what Nietzsche was all about too. Everyone thought he was a weak crazy man, and Christian crackpots love saying he was a deluded schizoid, but he knew exactly who he was, and what he had to do.

Our natural response to fear is to panic. To curl up. Why? Because we associate whatever is causing the fear with its potential negative consequence; the harm it will cause us. Fear is like a phone call or a fax; fear is only a mediator. It is not real. Fear tells us that harm is coming. It’s aversive because it must warn us not to engage. Panic is the opposite; it is non-engagement. So when we panic, we think that we have separated ourselves from the conflict. Panic is also just a mediator. It’s also potent because it has to get our attention. Fight or flight. And this is the psychology of it; the romantic interpretation. Lets look at the classical interpretation.

Take a grazing zebra, for example. Say the Zebra catches a stalking predator in its periphery; the stress response is activated. In order to escape from the predator, the zebras body has to expend intense muscular effort and energy. The sympathetic nervous system activates to provide for these needs (panic). In response to a novel stimuli perceived to be dangerous, the locus coeruleus releases  catocholamine hormones (epinephrine norepinephrine) to fuel the immediate physical reactions, the often violent muscular action.

Fear is complicated and dense; our understanding of all its underpinnings and extensions and interactions will come only with time. In the meantime we have to deal with the problem at hand. If we want to have an enjoyable life, we have to be courageous. It will be hard, and it will take extreme effort; it will be the very hardest thing you ever have to do. But with a little wisdom, a little time and a lot of balls, we can look death in the face and say fuck you; we can turn stress, into eustress. And take any negative situation and turn it into a challenge.

It’s trite and slightly banal, but why wouldn’t you want to try? Why would anyone want to live their lives curled up in a ball, fearful of whatever comes their way? No one does. They just think there’s no way out; their lot is cast and that’s it – there’s nothing left to do. Wrong, as long as you’re still conscious, you can still fight. And I’d rather die fighting to live, than die in a confused panicky stupor… which is where we are all headed if we don’t man-up. This is the key. Listen to the panic; let it say its peace, and tell you what’s the matter, but don’t let it set up camp. Kick it out. Take all that stress and transform it into eustress. Your body is still telling you something is wrong, you’re not going around delusionally believing everythings perfectly fine and kicking all bad thoughts out, you’re just subtracting panic; you’re taking away the aversive feelings. Those are great for the savannah – but were not living on the savannah. Lets replace panic and the subjective feeling we call ‘fear’ with eustress. Lets face fear and stress with a smile and a shit-ton of determination. Everyone is going to die. Lets do it fucking epically!

Overcoming Fear: breakthrough.

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on can...

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on canvas, 73×92 cm, 28¾×36¼ in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For most of my life I have suffered from crippling fear; fear of death, fear of illness (hypochondriasis), panic attacks, Generalized Anxiety Disorder etc… I have always had an active anxiety level to say the least. My only saving grace  was that for the most part these fears were totally biased and irrational.  In short, I had nothing to fear; I was healthy, in no immediate danger etc… However, that being said, like any human eventually the reality of death set in.

I became really sick about a year ago. After searching for years for a diagnosis, I was eventually told I had  a rare genetic disease called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. (I have talked about this before, so I won’t go into great detail now.) Due to increasing chronic pain I take a few narcotic pain-killers; medicines which help a tremendous deal, and which I wouldn’t stop for anything – not even threat of death. I take these medicines as prescribed (actually far less than what I am prescribed), and have never abused them. This summer, though, I developed Central Sleep Apnea. During the first half an hour-hour of sleep I would constantly wake gasping for breath. And when I awoke in the morning I never felt rested, or as though I got too little sleep – a remedy for chronic pain in and of itself.

My first intuition was that this new symptom was sleep apnea, so I asked my doctor to refer me for an over-night sleep study. In the morning, after my study, the technician said ‘you stop breathing’ – so my fears were real. For the next month until I saw the sleep specialist to go-over my results I held firmly to the belief that my apnea’s were few-and-far-between; that I had a very mild case. After a while I even started to believe that I didn’t have sleep apnea at all, hoping that the tech’s were wrong.

The day was finally here; I was to finally, once and for all, find out what was really going on. After a spirometry, the tech quicly reviewed the lab. She told me that I stop breathing; that I have central sleep apnea. My heart fell to the pit of my stomach; I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me. It was hands-down one of the worst moments of my life. I was in a stupor after that; nodding and just walking where I was told to walk. The last doctor I saw was very kind and thoughtful; I think he could tell I wasn’t handling the news well. He reassured me that I have nothing to worry about, and that it’s very common for long-term opiod users to develop Central sleep apnea; he told me my oxygen saturation never drops below 92% and basically that other than my subjective symptoms, there’s nothing to worry about – that this is the usual course this type of Sleep Apnea takes.

As we were about to leave and he was going to write me a prescription for a CPAP study, I asked him if I could ask a ‘stupid question’. In keeping with his collected personality, he said ‘there’s no such thing as a stupid question’. I asked him if I was going to die in my sleep. Silence. He told me ‘of course not. You are not going to die in your sleep’. I actually started tearing up. It took everything in me to restrain the water works and keep my composure.

Even though both of my doctors reassured me that I wasn’t going to die, and that my life-expectancy was normal, I couldn’t shake the fear. I just knew, deep inside me, that I was going to die. That once my head hit that pillow, I was a goner.

This has been the last four months; crippling fear. All day, every day. I have thought about death in every single capacity, and analyzed it in every single imaginable way. I tried to reconcile my religious convictions; I tried to think of a way to save money for mind-uploading and maybe cryogenic freezing. I tried everything, basically.

Eventually though, the fear subsided. I have effectively ‘shed’ that anxious skin. I no longer fear things with such an intensity; it’s as though my whole software system for dealing with fear-causing-stimuli has been replaced with a tougher, more bad-ass program.

I don’t fear death; I don’t even really think about it. When a new symptom crops up, I’m more angry at it than anything; more frustrated at the inconvenience. I have this new strength and confidence about me; like I can overcome anything.

So, ‘how does one over-come death’. Well, you know the saying ‘stare death in the face’. I don’t necessarily recommend doing that… I say live with death; make death your roommate. When you’re doing the dishes, death should be there drying them off. When you’re eating, Death should annoyingly nag in your ear.

Me and death signed a forty year mortgage. I’m sure as hell he’ll pay up. And I’m oddly okay with that.