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If I recall back to when people or animals in my life have died, I feel this odd sense of hurt, and even more strongly, a sense of fear, that I have to accept the reality that I will never be able to see them again. If I express this feeling to others, they tell me, “That’s life, accept it,” and in those moments I realize how difficult it is for our culture to truly understand and accept death.

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My fear of death began years ago, when I began to worry about having to live an unfulfilling life, only to die at the end. This was likely due to the fact that I was doing something I didn’t enjoy and saw so many around me doing the same. I just thought, “Well I guess this is life.” Luckily I found out that wasn’t the case, and that we could choose to step off the beaten path and do things we love.

But even to this day, despite having had many spiritual experiences, having heard hundreds of stories about near-death experiences, and having recalled what I believe to be past lives — even after enjoying many discussions about the afterlife and things people have seen — I still battle with a fear of death. It’s so contrary to everything I believe and everything I know to be true, yet the ounce of possibility that we all just slip into “nothingness” forever scares me.

Nonetheless, watching the way our society responds to and deals with (or rather, fails to deal with) death has always suggested to me an opportunity for advancement. I think we could really grow mentally and spiritually if we addressed our avoidance of anything to do with death. Even our funeral rituals seem odd to me — we go stand around a lifeless body, supposedly to celebrate one’s life, and instead lament their passing and the effect that will have on our own lives. Rarely do we truly celebrate a life well lived.

If we knew what happened after death would our view on death change? Are we innately meant to suffer when someone dies? Is it possible for humans to feel sadness at someone’s death yet still be happy and accept what took place? In essence, can our view of death change? I believe it can.

Allan Watts on Death

Probably one of the most powerful thoughts Watts drops in this video is this: ”We live in a culture where it has been rubbed into us in every conceivable way that to die is a terrible thing. And that is a tremendous disease from which our culture in particular suffers.”

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