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This year some 57 million people are expected to cease existence and revert back to their
natural state of nonexistence.
Commonly defined as death.
Roughly two thirds will die of a mysterious and, as of yet, incurable disease known as aging.
Well, technically and medically speaking, old age is not in and of itself lethal but
it nonetheless weakens your body so as to make you less capable of combating that which is.
Nevertheless, death as a result of age related conditions is clouded in mystery as we have
yet to discern precisely why we age.
Current understanding implies no singular element commands the aging process but rather
a combination of multiple interconnected factors.
For example, the limits imposed by telomeres on cell division implies obsolescence may
be programmed into our DNA.
Manipulation of specific genes in other animals and organisms can have drastic effects on
the aging process.
Furthermore, numerous studies has evinced that calories accelerates aging and thus less
food could potentially extend longevity.
So stop eating and you'll live forever.
Who eats a burger that way?
On the opposite side of the spectrum, aging may simply be a result of accumulative damage and waste.
While the human body is capable of maintaining and repairing itself, the processes responsible
are not infallible.
Over time an accumulation of separately insignificant failures may collectively become significant
so as to sporadically degrade various bodily functions.
If gerontologists do manage to isolate the precise nature of aging we may one day be
able to decelerate, prevent, or even reverse the process.
Hanging has been a common method of both suicide and homicide ever since the invention of
rope and human necks.
Today, hanging is primarily associated with hanging from a noose but the word may also
describe crucifixion, impalement, or just a general state of suspension upon death.
At some point, or more likely over an extended period of time, coroners and others remarked
that male hanging victims often died with priapism.
Which is a medical way of saying, they frequently died with an erection.
In fact, it is the belief of some historians that not one but two poles were erected upon
the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and that some artistic renditions of his divine likeness
was more accurately hung than others.
Though thy holy loins was frequently covered with drapes, like the Renaissance version
of pixelization, so the state of his majesty can merely be inferred.
In any case, this discovery gradually evolved into a treatment for erectile dysfunction
as non-lethal strangulation produces the same effect.
Which in turn evolved into erotic asphyxiation.
The exact physiological cause is not entirely clear but a general inhibition of normal brain
activity due to pressure or injury to the brain or spinal cord appears to be responsible.
The fear of death is known as thanatophobia and fearing the end of our existence can be
so overwhelming that many seek any explanation that promises continuation in place of termination.
In other words, an afterlife.
As far as science is concerned death is the cessation of brain activity followed by natural
decomposition of the body.
One could argue that death is merely the absence of life much like a shadow is the absence of light.
But who is this science to tell us what to believe when we could simply ask those brought
back to life after death.
Between 10-20% of cardiac arrest survivors recall near death experiences.
Memories from when they where clinically dead and thus unconscious.
Revived persons often report similar experiences such as a strong sense of peace, love, and happiness.
The perception of ones dead body from an outside perspective.
A review of ones life experiences.
Interactions with deceased loved ones or supernatural entities.
And a light at the end of a dark tunnel.
Studies have found that these experiences are largely culture dependent.
For example, Christians are more likely to perceive angles while Hindus are more likely
to perceive gods of the underworld.
Entities who escort the deceased towards an afterlife are known as psychopomps.
But you are neither more nor less likely to have a near death experience just because
you are religious as NDEs by atheists and others are just as common.
Many find comfort in these reports as they may serve as affirmation of a life beyond
but it's worth pointing out that clinical death is not the same as what most of us perceive as death.
The reason you can be revived when clinically dead is that, while your heart and breathing
may have ceased, your brain is still active.
It is only once your brain activity stops that you are legally dead and no one has ever
returned from this stage of complete cessation.
While humans may be stuck with pathetic mortal bodies some animals have transcended this
futile existence and exhibit biological immortality.
One such creature is the immortal hydra.
Hydras are tiny freshwater animals that look like miniature octopuses.
While humans and our sad excuse of a body grows weaker with age the hydra is just as
strong playing bingo as when it graduated high school.
In other words, they show no signs of aging nor the adverse effects commonly associated with it.
While its regenerative properties are poorly understood the hope is for an improved understanding
to aid in our quest for human immortality.
Other creatures exhibiting some form of biological immortality
include various species of jellyfish, lobsters, and flatworms.
There's a unit of measurement known as a micromort (µmt).
The name is a portmanteau of the words micro and mortality and measures the probability
of sudden death in any given context.
1 µmt means the probability of death is 1 in 1,000,000.
For example, approximately 1 out of every 150,000 skydiving attempts in the US result
in death which means that skydiving is rated at roughly 7 µmt per jump.
In order to be exposed to 1 µmt of risk you would have to ride a bike for 10 km,
drive a car for 400 km, or fly with commercial airlines for 10,000 km.
Doing something as simple as getting out of bed at 90 years of age will expose you to
a daily dose of over 300 µmt.
The deadliest job in America is said to be the presidency, which clocks in at a staggering
186,000 µmt.
Which is why I decided to make videos on the internet instead.
In most cultures death is associated with a specific personification and commonly takes
the shape of the Grim Reaper.
A skeleton cloaked in a dark robe carrying a scythe, used to reap the souls of the dead.
But some ancient cultures personified death in much less menacing fashion.
For example, the ancient Greeks worshiped a god of death known as Thanatos.
He was often depicted as a bearded man or a child with wings that merely guided the
human soul into the afterlife.
In other words, a psychopomp.
The Egyptian god Osiris was depicted as a man with green skin and was more often revered than feared.
This modern depiction of a menacing skeleton or demon, can largely be attributed to the
most devastating pandemic humanity has ever faced, the black death.
This horrifying medieval plague may have reduced the European population by as much as 60%
and consequently gave rise to a more dismal depiction of the Grim Reaper as to more accurately
reflect the hopelessness and dismality of this plague.
Well, most depictions at least.
Sometimes Death is just ecstatic to play some mortal board games.
Just look at that face. That is the face of a skeleton ready to play some chess.
Who are you?
I am Death!
There's a rare mental disorder known as Cotard Syndrome and persons afflicted often deny
the existence of one or multiple body parts but in some extreme cases patients deny that
they themselves exist and paradoxically come to believe that they are dead.
Named after French neurologist Jules Cotard, in 1880 he described a middle-aged woman who
believed her body was completely hollow with the exception of her skin and bones.
As such she insisted she didn't need to eat and eventually died of starvation.
Strangely enough, victims of this disorder often believe themselves to be immortal as
from their delusional perspective you can't die if you're already dead.
Can't really argue with that logic.
A more recent case from 2012 describes a man who, after suffering a stroke, grew convinced he was dead.
He told his doctor:
"I guess I'm dead."
"I'd like to ask for your opinion."
But when asked if he believed it possible for a dead man to speak he recognized the
contradiction yet paradoxically maintained his belief of nonexistence.
He further elaborated:
"I feel I am dead [but] I'm talking with you in this world."
"I do not know whether I am alive or not."
"I am unable to realize that I'm alive."
A few months later his condition fortunately improved and he no longer believed himself
to be dead yet he maintained that he once had been.
Oh, and he also believed Kim Jong-il was a patient of the same hospital.
Naturally.
In 2007, a middle aged man in Bosnia decided to fake his own death in an effort to uncover
how many friends and family members would attend his funeral.
Unfortunately for him, only one person attended his fake service and that person was his mother.
The thing is, this is a quite common fear because no one wants to die alone and if no
one attends your funeral than that's likely to have been the case.
Actually I'm surprised there isn't a specific phobia for dying alone so let's create one.
Okay, thanatophobia is the fear of dying and monophobia is the fear of being alone so naturally
monatophobia is the fear of dying alone.
Anyway, the fear of a lack of funeral attendees is so common that in the UK you can preemptively
pay a company, known as Rent A Mourner, to have random persons attend your funeral and
act as if they mourn your passing.
In early 1921, an American named Thomas Bradford decided he was going to
prove the existence of an afterlife.
In order to realize such an impossible task, Bradford reasoned the most logical course
of action would be for him to commit suicide and then communicate the existence of an afterlife
from beyond the grave.
He began by publishing a newspaper advert in search for a spiritualistic accomplice
that would remain alive and wait for the spirit of Bradford to return from the dead.
Thus undeniably ascertaining a different plane of existence.
A foolproof plan or at least a woman named Ruth Doran thought so as she quickly responded
to Bradford's advert.
After a few meetings of what I can only imagine must've consisted of intense scrutinization
of this ingenious plan, Bradford took his own life on the 5th of February, 1921, with
the full intention of returning to this plane of existence and relay any juicy details about
the world beyond to his lively accomplice.
A week later, Doran claimed she had actually been in contact with the ghost of Bradford
and this is some of what he had to say:
"I am the professor who speaks to you from the Beyond."
"I have broken through the veil."
"I woke up and at first did not realize that I had passed on."
"I find no great change apparent."
"I expected things to be much different."
"They are not."
"Human forms are retained in outline but not the physical."
"I have not traveled far. I am still much in the darkness."
"I see many persons."
"They appear natural."
"There is a lightness of responsibility here unlike in life."
"One feels full of rapture and happiness."
Make of that what you will.
As previously mentioned a complete lack of brain activity is, according to modern medical science,
the point of no return.
Once your brain dies, there is no chance of revival.
But some disagrees with this view of death and argues that as long as the brain is left
intact it should be possible to restore brain activity at a later date.
At least theoretically.
While no one has ever returned from complete brain cessation it is plausible that future
medical advances could allow for that to happen.
And this mere plausibility is enough for some individuals to literally put their body on
ice in the hopes that in the future they can be unfrozen and resurrected.
A practice known as cryonics.
The first person to be cryopreserved was an American by the name of James Bedford who
in 1967 died of cancer and was subsequently frozen.
Over 250 individuals has since undergone this expensive procedure and thousands more plan
on joining them.
The question is, is this a form of suspended animation or a freezer for corpses?
In 2016 scientists successfully restored a frozen rabbit brain to near-perfect condition
demonstrating that subzero preservation is feasible.
But the next issue is revival.
While some microscopic animals have successfully been frozen, unfrozen, and revived larger
mammals, like ourselves, are significantly more complex.
In any case, cryonics is currently one of the most plausible methods of escaping death.
So while there is some tangible hope for the future to save us from the cruelty of nonexistence,
the present will for the time being remain a dystopian netherworld
filled with pain, suffering, Denmark, death, and despair.