The only things inevitable in life are death and taxes – and they’re surprisingly similar

25 Apr 2024

Life can get quite complicated - and sometimes, you need help from the world's greatest philosophers to figure it out. In her blog, Jara Majerus looks at life through the philosophical monocle, employing the help of some of history's brightest thinkers. This week, Jara talks about the difficulties that come with talking about death – and why we still need to do it.

There are multiple things that nobody prepares you for when growing up: how to do your taxes without committing fraud (by accident), how to shut up a ringing fire alarm without breaking it, and how to say goodbye to someone who is dying. By now, I taught myself how to do my taxes, and I am just about to crack the fire alarm thing. But how to say goodbye to someone is something I still haven’t figured out.

Despite not knowing how to do it, I have had to say multiple goodbyes throughout the last few years. And whenever the moment arrived, I felt unable. Unable to find the right words and the right gestures, unable to be aware of the last moments I was about to spend with someone, unable to feel anything but tremendous sadness. To me, death has always felt like an enemy. Death has been what my loved ones tried to fight. And it’s something I did not want to think about.

‘To me, death has always felt like an enemy’

However, recently, not thinking about death has not been an option. That is because I had to face death professionally: a couple of weeks ago, I recorded a podcast episode that centred around death. My guest talked about dying, about losing loved ones, about wishing for death, and about all the taboos surrounding it.

When I invited my guest Iline Ceelen to the studio, I was afraid that the topic would be too heavy. That I would be very sad and hopeless afterward. Yet, I guess somewhere deep down I knew that death actually is an important topic and should not be ignored. So, I invited her despite my fears. And, surprisingly, none of them came true.

I did not feel uncomfortable. I didn’t feel sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed. I felt calm. During our recording, Iline said: ‘What would life be if you would live forever? Life is only valuable because it is ending.’ It’s funny, isn’t it? Sometimes, it seems that simple words can make you rethink everything you thought you knew.

But to be honest, I think it wasn’t so much the specific words but the simple fact that I sat down for an hour to think and talk about death. Instead of avoiding and ignoring it, I chose to look at it closely. Instead of pushing it away, I dealt with it. And it made me think that actually, death, taxes, and fire alarms aren’t all that different: at first, they seem absolutely frightening, but the closer you look at them, the less intimidating they become, and you can eventually learn how to deal with them.

Read Jara Majerus's blogs here

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