I’ve been thinking about ideas and their genesis lately. Evidence shows that people have to be primed to believe in an idea. I am not sure that priming happens due to early events in their life, genetics, or can always be changed later.
If ideas are immutable, people’s reactions to death of loved ones become very interesting. If ideas can be changed, death is still an interesting area. Does someone dying change someone’s view on the world? Does that change of view change their ideas?
Death and Meaning
Personally, I can remember 6 people who have died and had meaning to me. That’s also the entirety of the list of people I’ve had any kind of investment in who have died. Obviously, that is 100% of the people who’ve died that I knew on a personal level having an impact on me.
I feel like death causes people to change the usually indescribable underpinnings of who they are. This is below ideas, reason, and most conscious. It is the primitive. The primitive comes before you have your emotions. Emotions come before ideas and reason, for most people. The primitive is a basic thing that we can’t reason with. The primitive is hormones and chemicals that we struggle to control the release of.
It takes a lot to change someone’s primitive understanding of the world. Death of loved ones, extreme violence, and witnessing “miracles” or other unexplainable things seem to cause changes in people’s primitive understanding of the world. There are definitely other things, like evil, that can change someone’s worldview. For me, death has done the most damage to the self I had built up.
The reason people generally attribute to death being upsetting is that we are faced with our own mortality. I am not sure that is exactly true, at least for me. The death of someone, for me, means the end of a line of actions that perpetuate themselves. I have no control over those actions.
When my grandfather died recently, it was the end of a view on the world that I could never have. He was my link to it. It makes you feel badly that I didn’t do more to extract that view of the world from him. I’ll never know what it is like to have lived through what he did. How living how he did resulted in his work ethic and kind view of everyone in the world.
The person who died and took the largest part of me with them was my high school and college girlfriend. It is irrational, but it killed the idea at the base of my world view that I could be the protector. The things that we need protection from in life are real. You just can’t avoid them. They are cars, cancer, and our health.
When my grandpa died, it made me want to work harder. That was a primitive that already existed within me. The ideas were already there. I just accessed them. I am not an entirely different person because of it, but I try to find out how I can enjoy work. My grandpa was a happy person who worked so hard. I see many examples of that. I strive to be it. It is hard, since I naturally want to do easier things. I don’t think that easier things are the path to long term happiness.
My girlfriend dying at first made me so angry at everyone and everything. It took me a long time to learn the lessons from her death. I wasted my time in bad relationships that I knew were bad. It is easier to lose someone that you can reject completely than someone you see as a form of the highest good.
I try to Learn
I’ve accepted that I can’t protect anyone directly. I have a daughter. I cannot protect her. The only thing I can do is show her how to protect herself. Any protection I provide is actually harmful.
I feel like my current worldview has its start in that event. I see people trying to protect people that aren’t asking for it, and it infuriates me. The ideas the protectors espouse will change no one’s mind. Their best outcome is they don’t hurt those they are trying to protect.
You are an individual. Your ideas are your own. The people who share your life are the same. Some people may be your ideal. Others may be your antithesis or just entirely wrong in your eyes. The best thing you can do is add value to their lives and enjoy who they are. You can’t change them. You can’t protect them.
Death is upsetting. Exploring how someone’s death changes you is the positive that comes from it. Has that person changed you? Has their death changed you? What about them was special? Can you carry on that legacy?