Death. When we hear about it, usually on the news in the form of murders and wars, it is presented as shocking and rare events. The rest of the time, we take cues from our youth-centric culture to live in a cocoon of apparent immortality. Yet, we all know we will die. It is as inevitable as paying taxes. And it much more common than we think.
Guess how many people died in the United States last year? 5,000, 100,000, more? Well, the answer is 2,700,000. I was even surprised when I dug out the answer. It’s much bigger than I thought, which goes to show how our culture and our mind hide death so well.
Before you start thinking that the news isn’t reporting millions of car accidents or murders, three-quarters of these death are due to old age (remember we are not immortal). As for the remaining 720,000 deaths a year (the under-65s), 80% are caused by some kind of physical ailment. The most common being cancer and heart disease, which account for half of deaths.
Even when we ignore the millions that die from old age or diseases, we tend to obsess about murder. Admittedly the US has an unusually high homicide rate for a rich country. But with 18,000 murders a year (2% of deaths of under-65s), more die from vehicle accidents (33,000) and yet more die from suicide (44,000).
So while politicians and corporations use fear to prod us into making decisions that support their goals, we have to remember that our ultimate fear of death will most likely be realised organically (old age) or through contracting a disease. And if someone is to be the instigator of our death, it is most likely to be ourselves (suicide). A sobering thought and a reminder that our minds are our most powerful organ. So take care of it, and live a happier life.