Ch1 L39: Beliefs – part XIII (Facing the truth)

  1. Right now, we’re in the mind of a primitive man (I’d like to call him Icarus [1]) who’s grieving for a deceased friend. Icarus is aware of dying. He’s seen how people died and their body decayed. Death is irreversible.
  2. Icarus remembers all the corpses he saw and all the people who’d died before and he heard about them. Suddenly he intuitively [2] discovers through generalization [3] that “everyone eventually dies”.
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  4. Then Icarus looks at the people around. They’re being busy with something. Kids are chasing each other. “Sooner or later they’ll all die” predicted Icarus.
  5. He feels a sharp pain in his chest. Fear goes off [4] and the flow of energy we called anger [5] circulates through his body. He’s expected to fight Death. But how can he do it? If the statement is true and he has to surrender one day, why would he even bother himself to live? What’s the meaning of life and why did he come to this world, knowing the fact that every day he has to suffer to survive but he finally dies? [6]
  1. The diagram above demonstrates how our brain functions under stress. Based on our confidence level, we fight some problems and flee from the others. We also discussed in the 3rd post that confidence is an imaginary estimation of our power or skills which depends on many factors. [7]
  2. The diagram below shows that if stress exceeds the optimal point where the confidence level stands, our performance plummets (either we make many mistakes or we stop doing things which is the freeze reaction) and we simply panic. [8]
Link
  1. So, Icarus’ confidence melts when he faces the truth. His logical and biological response would be panic attacks; followed by depression [9] which occurs when we realize that our expectations and reality will never meet. It can also create self-hatred because you find yourself weak and pitiable next to Death. So, you’d hate yourself.
  2. To Icarus life has lost its meaning. He’s stopped working which is a sign of danger to his tribemates. So, they inquire about how he is doing. Icarus shares his finding with them and the world collapses for the rest of them.
  3. When I was thinking about this post, I had this question in mind whether animals are aware of their own mortality. So I did some research and came across an astounding experiment. A group of scientists taught Quigley the gorilla that one day he would die. I strongly recommend you to watch the video that I put its link in the footnotes. [10]
  4. After the revelation, he showed the same reactions as Icarus. Furthermore, the most astonishing part was he started to paint and judging from the colors and everything they were about Death and I could say immortality. This experiment might give us a clue about one of the reasons that humankind started to paint: to leave marks on the planet, to say that we lived here, to become immortal.
  1. The painting above is Quigley’s artwork which can remind you of the hand paintings of Cueva de las Manos [11]. To me, the mesmerising part is the colors. Obviously, the hand must be black, but why is the background blue? Was he thinking of the sky?
  1. To become aware of our immortality, in my opinion, has been the most important and influential discovery of all time which has shaped our civilization. The flow of extra energy, compared to the other species, due to the inevitable danger has made us work harder to fight back Death and we’ve succeeded so far. But how did it happen? In the next post, we’ll continue the discussion and see how our ancestors reacted to Death.

Footnotes:

[1] Link to the Wiki page about Icarus.

[2] In the 21st post, we discussed intuition which extrapolated the beginning and end of a thing. In other words, intuition enables us to predict. Link

[3] Link to the post about generalization.

[4] We discussed fear as the sentinel of the body in many posts because it dominantly affects all our decisions directly or inversely (going for pleasure or success is a way to turn of the alarm). Here’s the link to the first post about fear.

[5] Link to the post about anger

[6] The starting point of our journey was fighting Death [Link] and I said in the second post [Link] that we might not think that we’re fighting Death at any moment because most of it has been genetically done for us. Breathing, heartbeats, or many other internal functions take place involuntarily and we don’t see eating, drinking or what we do daily as examples of fighting Death. Besides, since we’ve almost defeated Death at the biological level that the odds of dying is very low until you’re old, we don’t think about it. Lastly, we defined games as actions which indirectly help us survive, developing skills and so on [Link]. So, we can say that all our daily interactions are either games or mixed with games/rituals.

[7] Again link to the 3rd post.

[8] Link to the 17th post, where we studied the effect of stress on performance.

[9] Link to the 10th post where we analyzed depression.

[10] Link to the news about teaching Quigley the concept of Death.

[11] Link to the Wiki page about Cueva de las Manos.

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