“Life is something that should not have been.” For Schopenhauer, the world, with all the suffering it contains, should not have existed. But life is only one part of the duality. Existence is finite; it must end. For Heidegger, being is time, and time is finite. Every step we make is a step towards death. He called it “being towards death.” Now, for Heidegger, being-towards-death has four criteria: it is non-relational, certain, indefinite and not to be outstripped. Death is non-relational because your own death cannot be experienced by anyone but yourself. Secondly, each being will certainly die. (Life is uncertain, death is certain. –English Proverb) Thirdly, although we know our time is limited, the hour of death is not known. Lastly, death is also not to be outstripped; it must not be taken away from a person, for death is the standard by which each life’s worth or meaning is measured.
Death, as a plunge into nothingness (or hell or another life, whichever you prefer), can be confronted with a straight face once you abstract it away from its physical implications. That is why to philosophize is to learn how to die. To “philosophize” something is to face it serenely and rationally, without irrational anxieties. However, “philosophizing” death is not the same as rejecting its significance. It simply means that death is accepted as it really is, as a part of the reality of existence.
After drinking the hemlock and shortly before drawing his last breath, Socrates speaks his last words to Crito: “Crito, we owe a rooster to Asclepius. Please, don’t forget to pay the debt.” Now, Asclepius is the god of medicine and healing, and what Socrates meant by paying his debt to the god of healing is that death is the cure, and life is the malady. So, for Socrates, death is not something to be feared. (To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. -J.K. Rowling)
However, it does not follow that when one accepts death, one negates life. On the contrary, acceptance of death is the ultimate affirmation of life. The realization that we must one day perish should not make us fearful. It should not make us seize any offer of life after death. It should not make us commit neither physical nor philosophical suicide. No, the realization of death should make us feel how terrifyingly alive we are at the moment.
Death is the final confrontation between our desire for meaning and the indifferent “silence of the universe”, and we must wait for it in revolt… (We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.- Charles Bukowski)