Published On: Mon, Jan 18th, 2016


Jacob Gelt DekkerPeople often ask me as a cancer patient, " Are you afraid of death?" For most of them, cancer is synonymous with a death sentence. Many people have an extreme fear of death and dying and meeting a cancer patient is much like, meeting a 'walking dead,' a glance in the mirror of what is to come.

The religiously inclined firmly hold on to the belief that they will live on as a conscious being after death. They portray their hereafter as a heavenly paradise of nicenesses, far beyond anyone’s dreams. With that belief in mind, their fear of mortality seems misplaced and puzzling. Jihadist-ISIS fighters, who tout in media publicity -videos their-love-of-death, appear more truthful to their beliefs.

For me, my demise, timely or prematurely, marks the permanent end of my life, followed by nothingness, by not-existing. Before my birth, I did not exist, and it never bothered me, therefore, not-existing after my death is the least of my concerns and worries. No, I am not afraid of death, since one cannot be afraid of nothingness.

Life of an individual after death is a fallacy, but what does continue, at infinitum, are your genes, at least if you passed them on to the next generation. Yes, your eternal life is real, but not as an individual but in the form your genes, represented in all the generations to come.

Darwin, who, more or less, coined the phrase, “ struggle for life and survival of the fittest,” was wrong. Individuals do not survive, fit or unfit, but genes do, even when they are very unfit. A gene is the molecular unit (DNA or RNA) of heredity. There are an estimated 20-25,000 human genes in our genome, thus far fewer than the 100,000 expected at first, and only 1.5 -2% are coding genes determining the individual; the rest is either messenger-RNA or inherited inactive stuff from a long time ago.

Sorry, it becomes a bit technical but in short, the genome, more or less the code book of humans, has 23 chromosomes, like 23 chapters, each chapter, 48 to 250 million protein codes/ letters, 3.2 billion in total. The genome fits into every cell nucleus, except in red blood cells. So, your genes may fit nicely into many future generation genomes.

Now that we have settled the question of life-after-death once and for all, we can be a lot more relax about death itself. The extreme fear of death many seem to possess may well be a masqueraded fear of life.

You only live once and better make the best of it.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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