For me the big fear
of death is not the event itself, but the misery of knowing that human history will continue after me and that I will not see it. For most people this is not a problem, as most people live for the moment with no thought of the past or future, and there is no great tragedy when they die. But I am not like that; I have read history from an early age, and it is impossible to contemplate the flow of events without coming to the realisation that the flow continues independently of individuals
. I am a curious soul and I weep for never knowing all the things that will come to pass after I am gone. I can barely read science fiction
any more, for the knowledge that I will never see people walk on the surface of Mars
, certainly not in casual clothes
It has been said that mine is the last mortal generation, but I do not believe this. A cure for physical death is conceivable, but it would not solve the problem of mental decay. Any method of preserving the brain's contents would have the unfortunate effect of causing thought processes to cease, as forgetting and learning are part of what makes us people. A mind that never forgot a single thing would be driven mad by the clamour of thoughts, or would spend its time dreaming, revisiting the past with photo-perfect detail. And if everybody was immortal, the problem would remain; we would not live to see all of human history play out, because human history would never end.
Or rather, it would; when conditions in the universe make life impossible, when the stars burn out and heat death occurs, although we would be long dead before then. The conclusion I reach from this is that I would only be able to see the full scope of human history if I was the last person alive, and indeed it has always been my ambition to be the last man alive, simply so that I can die happy in the knowledge that everybody else is dead, too, and there is nothing left. I believe that record collectors have a similar philosophy - when their favourite artist dies, they are happy, because their artist's output is suddenly finite. My own death would be the final full stop at the end of the book of life, and the plants and trees would carry on with their own history, if they survived the unspecified apocalypse I crave. There will come soft rains.
But thinking further it seems that even this ambition - which is possible, perhaps, although I suspect my sole survival of a global catastrophe would be more down to good fortune than any action on my part - is to be thwarted. For it would be impossible for a single person to have a complete grasp of all human events; it takes a lifetime to understand one's own life, let alone the billions who have been and gone. History books only record a select few events of great significance, but that is not history. History is the history of people, and a world without people would not be a world. It isn't possible for a human being to have total knowledge of the events of a single day - whether the events that take place in the physical world, or the events which take place in the minds of men.
However, history does not require people to record it. It continues forever. And when heat death transpires, the last 99% of infinity will consist of a single measurement, the temperature, slowly cooling, and there will be nothing else to record, or worth recording. And thus in the end I believe that I can find a certain peace, for history, with all its complexity, will only occupy a minute fraction of a fraction of the universe, and would probably be lopped off from God's final report by a rounding error.