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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 04 2015

Our Primal Fear of Dying

By Mark Sisson
212 Comments

What can our Primal fear of death teach us? | Mark's Daily AppleMany, if not most of us, have experienced at least one moment when we truly thought we were going to die. Maybe it was a plane ride from hell. Or a seemingly final diagnosis. A grim combat situation – or many.? A frightening near miss on the highway. A serious assault. Even a childbirth gone suddenly and inexplicably awry. Whatever the event, the experience can set off everything from tearful surrender to abject terror. It begs the question: is there anything quite so Primal as the fear of death?

I occasionally get mail about the fear of death. I believe we all think about it – probably much more than we let on, and it doesn?t surprise me at all when people write about it. When you open the door to discussion of innate instinct, I think it?s a logical thought that comes up.

From an evolutionary perspective, of course, we?re wired for survival. It?s the name of the evolutionary game itself – surviving and making sure our kin do as well in order to procreate and protect the genetic line. We?re built to fear death because how else were we to live? We fear ostracization because in primordial times, we weren?t likely to survive on our own. We fear conflict because in some deep, primeval chamber we associate it with death or disorder that can put the entire group at risk. Our ancestral memory can likewise flinch at the suggestion of want, neglect, or even change. Tens of thousands of years ago there wasn?t much room for error.

Likewise, the visibility of death was much greater in the primeval world. Risk was rampant, and Grok in all likelihood saw many of his clan succumb to everything from animal attacks to accidental injury to childbirth to interclan skirmishes. Animals died around them every day – the work of other animals, the ravages of age and starvation, and the intent of human hunting. The nature of primal existence didn?t leave much to the imagination.

To our Primal ancestors? perception, the barrier between life and death was much thinner than it is to us – at least those of us in the safer, more subdued communities of the so-called ?first world.? We can go through much of life untouched by death, apprehending it as an abstract as much as inevitable concept for decades until those we love the most leave us or circumstances force us to face our own mortality. The lack of exposure to death can oddly make us fear it all the more, I think.

Yet, the fear is more than reaction of momentary animal instinct or the effect of modern cultural distortion. We walk this world as intellectual beings able and even drawn to ruminate on the nature of our own existence – and the end of that existence.

Together with a sensitively tuned emotional spectrum, these aptitudes define both the gift and the burden of consciousness. We have the capacity to grieve and to anticipate grief – the ability to fear and to anticipate fear. In that anticipation we can imagine – and dread – the prospect of our ability to participate in life being fully cut off, our consciousness itself being entirely erased in this world. All we are is suddenly gone in an instant. While intellectually we know we?re transient figures on the planet, our minds can?t quite move entirely beyond the solipsistic concept that the world exists in relation to us. Like a child who is baffled hearing about a past that existed before her birth, we struggle to apprehend a future that will extend beyond our own. It can be a fearful experience to try and reconcile the intellectual anticipation of death with the emotionality of our individual point of reference.

Tied to that individual frame of reference, we may wonder how others in our lives will ever get on without us. Given that we view the world in relation to ourselves, we naturally see ourselves as indispensable to the life and lives around us, and our personal attitudes can exacerbate this perception of dependence/interdependence. As genuine as primary, loving attachments are and as wrenching as grief can be, perhaps it?s also too painful to imagine the adaptability of others to a life without us. Their lives won?t be the same certainly, but they will still take place and create new grooves of relationship and experience. Ultimately, we can be integral, but we are not essential to other people, let alone the planet.

What else feeds our fear of death, I believe, is a life not fully lived. In our modern sequential rationality, we can diminish the thinking of the traditional peoples who believed in the coexistence of past-present-future. We can belittle the street corner slogans of ?the end is near,? but I think we live a pretty grand mistake to live a life of always planning (and pining) for the future – delaying for coming years, getting through today in hopes of more freedom, more time, more fulfillment tomorrow. In living this way, modern messages tell us we?re being sensible. Natural law tells us we?re naive.

We never know, in all honesty, when the bell will toll for any one of us. We can fear that, or we can use it to put life in proper proportion – and to put ourselves wholly in the present, which is all we have. Sure the Buddhists say it, but traditional people practiced it long before they did.

From a Primal perspective, I think much of our fear ironically comes from not accepting the inherent insecurity of our existence. Society tells us the lie that we can create security, that it should in fact be our life?s work.

We buy into this mindset but secretly try to also comprehend that ?one day? when all will be taken away from us – even our very consciousness itself. Something in the limited human mind might think we can hide from it, outsmart it, out-save it, out-eat or out-exercise it. I see how our health efforts as well as other “sensible” choices can obscure a desperate denial of mortality. We think if we just do certain things we?ll be kept safe for a little while longer. We?ll stave off the inevitable if we just do everything ?right? to keep ourselves perfectly well and secure.

Yet, I don?t choose to live the way I do in order to be perfect or safe. I occasionally make compromises for things I really want to eat. I do ?unsafe? (not the same as foolhardy) things all the time. Exiting a helicopter to snowboard a more amazing mountain, I?ll acknowledge, isn?t playing it safe. While I trust my own skill and limits, I also know that to a certain extent I?m taking my life in my hands when I do that. Yet, I have always been drawn to risk. It?s in my fiber. I think it?s part of all of us and what has moved humanity forward in its evolution. (I recognize at the same time that other people?s version of desirable, satisfying risk looks much different than mine.)

A full life is one in which I feel I?m living from my whole human and individual nature. That includes risk of many kinds. And I desire to live (my version of) a full life more than I desire to be completely safe. Security isn?t my aim. Actualization is. My goal isn?t to live to be 100. It?s to compress morbidity and enjoy the biggest life possible in the number of years I?m alive on this planet. I let go of the ultimate outcome in the interest of living well today. I can choose to not do stupid things, but I?m ultimately not in control. I let go of fear in order to function.

There?s a profound and maybe beautiful irony here. Just as our fundamental instinct for survival wants to nail down surety and safety, Life with a capital L obliges us to check our need for absolute security at the door. The truth is, we always exist on the brink. It?s the nature of life itself – a confoundingly complex puzzle of infinite moving parts – ever shifting between creation and destruction. We have the capacity to observe this rhythm, but we?re also fully subject to it. As they say, none of us are going to get out of this game alive.

When we accept this truth, we can let it work within us. We can learn to configure our lives within the fact that we?re finite, that every single day is uncertain. We can live a different life – a more courageous and expansive life in acceptance of that hard reality. Fear of death, just like fear of almost anything, can keep us small. We shirk risk and its rewards for the promise of time that may never come.

While I?m not a believer in the afterlife, that doesn?t mean I don?t feel the significance or weight of the end of life. I tend to lean toward the concept of detachment. The ultimate fear we conquer is the fear of death. To accept our own finiteness is perhaps our final work in this life. The more we cling to ourselves, the more painful the prospect of dying is. The more we identify with a larger context than ourselves, the less suffering, despair or fear we face. We may not be immune to dark thoughts, but we put them in a bigger container.

I think over time we grow into our mortality as we do our maturity. That said, I?ve seen 70- year-olds who grasped desperately to the bitter and fearful end. Likewise, I?ve seen 7-year-olds dying of cancer accept their death with a knowing grace that both stuns and humbles. When we can emotionally as well as intellectually place ourselves within a larger storyline and accept life as the grand primal epic that it is, we find a right place within life – and perhaps make peace with death as a meaningful dimension of it.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. Please share your thoughts and revelations on this theme. Have a good end to your week.

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212 thoughts on “Our Primal Fear of Dying”

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    1. Chris, when I was a chaplain in a very large senior’s health and well being care program, it was the “Jesus freaks” ALWAYS the most afraid of dying. The more conservative the branch of Christianity, the more fearful of death.

      The Jews, atheists and agnostics, not so much. In fact, not at all. THEY were the ones with serenity and acceptance.

      If you need a crutch to accept your own mortality, recognize it for what it is.

        1. OnTheBayou: I do need a HUGE crutch to accept my mortality and accept it for what it is. It is the weakness of my mortality that drives me to Christ. If you feel you can walk on with your own version of acceptability and do so confidently well more power to you. I NEED Jesus, he IS the door from my perspective of course. I have been at death’s door on a number of occasions and have been with many who have been as well. I have watched my father die in front of me. I also have friends that are pastors and chaplains and hospice workers that have shared their stories with me. a Jesus freak does not necessary mean you have wrestled with the fear of death in your life. They might have a very superficial relationship with their faith though they “talk” the talk. To make an all inclusive assumptive statement that all Jesus people can’t handle death and all others meet death wonderfully is a complete misinformation from my experience and perspective. Just saying.

      1. Well I am a passionate born again pastor who looks forward to leaving this world for amy heavenly mansion.

        1. This Jesus Freak is not concerned about where I’m going I just don’t want to go out slow, suffering and suffocating. Would love to go meet Christ like my mom…. just dropped. … no lingering!

      2. As a born-again Christian in my thirties, I look forward to the day I get to meet Jesus face to face. I do not fear death necessarily, but I believe it’s important to be a good steward of my body and to live my life for the purpose that God placed me here. I am blessed to have been led to a Paleo lifestyle by my friends, and I appreciate all the good information that Mark has offered for better health.

        1. Denial and fantasy and wishful thinking are one of the biggest ways we humans have of dealing with mortality. Good luck with “meeting Jesus face to face”….Really? Whatever gets you through the night!!!!

      3. weird, maybe the seniors were just too demented…I’m very conservative,
        and very un-fearful…you said you were a chaplain???

        1. Texman, I confirm what OnTheBayou said. I used to work in the same setting, where we encouraged faith. My favorite quote from an attending psychiatrist was: “Jesus, Allah, Buddha, meditation, singing Circle of Life…whatever works. Better than benzodiazepines. Less side effects, anyway.”

          Anxiety about death is part of the human experience, especially when it seems imminent. We all have our different ways of dealing with it, so that we can be at peace and get on with living in the meantime. That includes the Primal approach, which Mark presents here.

          The difference is that the “fervently religious” (I refuse to repeat the phrase used by the chaplain, even though he said it self-deprecatingly!) these folks tend to announce their beliefs to everyone. I am informed that this is a feature of their faith, not a bug. I’m okay with preaching, as long as it isn’t hurting or hating on others. Whatever works, whatever gives people peace!

        2. Massey, I can confirm many seniors have minds which have been compromised if they are in need of care. They are flitting between memory episodes, finding it difficult to grasp reality. Attrituting that to any particular belief system, is unhelpful coming from a Chaplain. Speak to anyone who has worked in mental health. It’s not a condition specific to “Christianity”. People with dementia, have regular episodes of terror, because they are losing their ability to regulate their minds independently.

        3. Yes. I never really liked the title “Chaplain.” I thought of myself as a “Spiritual Support” person. I met people in their spiritual needs wherever they may have been. I can preach like a black man, I’ve worn a yalmuka in supporting Jews.

          I’m glad that you are a conservative Christian and appear to have no fear in dying. But that doesn’t negate my observations, many dozens of times walking people to that door I could not go beyond.

      4. What kind of chaplain calls religion a “crutch”?
        My experience is just the opposite. Religious people see themselves as part of the larger picture and don’t worry about their individual survival and safety nearly as much as the atheists. They seem to hold onto life much more loosely whether they believe in an afterlife or not.

        1. My spiritual journey has evolved since I was a chaplain.

          Some of my best friends are Christians. Still.

      5. A Chaplain’s role is to support the spiritual development, of whatever an individual chooses to believe.

      6. Not for all of us Jesus Freaks. I consider myself a conservative Christian and I don’t have that fear for myself. Ashes to Ashes and dust to dust. Faith isn’t a crutch but an awareness of reality. As Mark said none of us gets out alive and faith highlights that.

    2. So true! We in The Salvation Army embrace death as an end to serving faithfully our God. We are Promoted to Glory when we die. I sat by the bed of my 94 yr old mother this past September. As death neared, we were singing in happy expectation/anticipation of the angels carrying her off to be with Jesus! Death to those who are saved is not feared but perfect peace and joy!

      1. Hey Sonja– I worked for and with the Army in Ft. Wayne, IN for about 6 years. Majors Mark and Sandy Turner were great friends and while I never wore the uniform, I did identify with that great expectationof what lies beyond!

    3. Well. You got to it first!
      I live primal blueprint style because I think the nutrition, exercise, sleep & stress management are sound principles.
      But I put my faith in Jesus.

      1. Me too! I am not afraid of death because I know a better life awaits. Don’t care for the thought of suffering, though!

    4. Thanks Mark. I had just about talked myself out of leasing a horse this summer. Every thing you said was directly for and to me. Hi ho silver! away.

      1. Go for it Grandma 71! I rode for years and was never afraid – I think that confidence and sureness was the source of any success I had, because I wasn’t as talented as most!

        1. I taught for years, and the hardest thing to teach was confidence and sureness. Anyone can learn/teach the simple mechanics. Keep one leg on either side and your hand closed! Don’t give up riding if you enjoy it. Looking at the world through a horse’s ears is really living.

      2. +1 … no, +1 to the millionth degree!!!

        My mom rode with me, once when she was 82, and just this past October at 85. Of course, I had complete confidence in the horses and handlers.

    5. Animals fear the danger or pain. They do not think about death. Only us. The Bible says that God put the eternity in our hearts. We crave for it. Our existence is fulfilled in Jesus and his kingdom, not here. Not matter what we accomplished.

      1. No, not everyone wants to go to heaven. Many of us don’t believe in fairy tales, no matter how many people believe in them.

        And not everyone doesn’t want to die. I know I will, so why be afraid of it? It’s part of life, no escaping it, so why fear it? I haven’t feared the thought of death since I was a teenager. First think I told my new Medicare doc is that I’m not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of an ugly, painful death.

        1. Same here! Nice fairytales, but that’s it! 🙂
          And, yes, only the thought of pain sucks. Death will be without pain.
          Thanks for posting this OnTheBayou!

        2. I’m with you, On the Bayou. I’ve been reminded by some who know I live a Paleo lifestyle that, “You can’t live forever,” and I tell them it’s about living a hopefully long life, but one without pain and suffering as I approach the inevitable. It’s about not being dead while I’m still alive!

          It’s not the dying per se that alarms me–lights out is lights out, and we voila! lose the “fear” as we lose our conscious selves. It’s the difficulty in grasping the concept of “here today, gone tomorrow,” the loss of self. It’s so hard to imagine, to wrap my mind around my non-existence. But lingering on such thoughts is not really “existing” anyway, so why waste the time we have?

          For those who can’t accept their mortality, they must cling to their fairly tales and their chosen deities and must create an afterlife, I suppose whatever brings comfort…Yet, it’s too bad, there’s no way within the nothingness that awaits us to shout out to those having clung to their fairy tales, “I told you so!”

          I’m fine with the Universe recycling our atoms, our energy, and re-fertilizing our world. In that respect, and in that respect only, we never really die at all. We continue to contribute…

    6. I have had a near death 5 years ago and was ready even then. (And I am a Christian/Conservative Jesus Freak) Mostly because three of my daughters are there, my precious Grandmothers are there, and I miss them more than I enjoy life here.
      Just my humble opinion! ;o)
      By the by Mark I LOVE your blog and books- Thank You for all you do!

    7. I believe the same: I believe in the afterlife. I also agree with the writer though.. God didn’t intend for us to live in fear., he intended for us to know- that’s not all there is. JOHN 3:16 the way! the truth! and the LIFE!

      well said in short.

    8. Thank you Mark for such an inspiring piece. Your thoughts on growing into our mortality really touched a chord. So true. I had a health scare about 18 months ago which really made me think about death and how to approach it. And although I am fine now I still think a lot about dying, perhaps more about the pain of those left behind. But of course as you say that too is just part of the process that we all must go through. I find that very comforting. So thank you again for your wisdom.

  1. I think we sometimes make mistakes when trying to discern risk. For example, some people might think jumpig off a cliff into the ocean is too risky. And yes it is a risk! But staying sedentary is also risky.

    Sitting around and choosing not to live because of fear is far riskier than living life! A fear driven life is probably more stressful and chronically unhealthy.

    I think the best way to live is to be hopeful and faithful. We need to see things as they are, make confident choices, and accept the consequences.

    Thanks for the food for thought!!! Love it when this place gets philosophical. 🙂

    1. I’m with you! It’s the risks we don’t take that hurt us most. I don’t know who said this: if you aim at nothing, you will surely hit it.

      Risks involve changing our minds, and that can be scary. Changing our diets, going back to school, asking for a promotion, kicking racist/sexist/ageist/fatist notions out of our thinking..these are risky.

    2. I think you make a great point, Catania. The expected risk of the two activities (jumping off a cliff vs. being sedentary) may average out the same, but in jumping off the cliff, you are either fine or dead, whereas in being sedentary that little negative is accumulating day by day.

  2. Mark– You know how much I respect you and the work you’re doing for our Primal Community– and I am not stating this to start a discussion on faith or the afterlife.

    Fear of death is natural– however, for those who come to faith and believe in Christ there is a hope beyond the grave-

    On the other hand if you believe this life is all there is– and when it’s over it’s really just nothing, then I don’t understand how there would be fear of death–unless it is regret about what you “missed” doing in this life.

    However, the one fear I can understand is the fear of the unknown.

    But Mark– if you think about what I have written here–no matter which category one considers– the greatest take away is to live every day to its fullest–as healthy as you can be–as joyful as possible–and truly partake in the real gift that life is!

    1. > On the other hand if you believe this life is all there is– and when it’s over it’s really just nothing, then I don’t understand how there would be fear of death

      That’s just it. This is all there is. How do you let go of that, knowing there’s nothing else?

      1. If there is a God — and, spoiler alert, there is — then like everything else that exists, there are things that are true about Him and things that are false. We who have voices better start telling the Truth without fear. Otherwise, our silence, and the emptiness that silence creates, will leave the world to the darkness which those who think this is all there is are already experiencing.

        Even as a Christian though–I do love Mark’s motto and have it on my desk–LIVE LONG DROP DEAD

        1. The great thing about MDA is that while Mark and many believe in Evolution and others in God– we all love the Primal Lifestyle!

          We can agree on the fact that healthy living and eating paleo-primal is not just healthy and energizing, but it is something that adherents can share to the fullest–as witnessed by the Friday Success stories!

          I have turned perhaps a hundred folks onto MDA and some have become devotees–it has changed their health for the better. One guy I run hills and sprints with is a great friend and claims he’s an atheist– but he has embraced MDA, lost 25 lbs of blubber, and regained his health. He’s ten years younger but he still can’t beat me on the sprints or the hills– maybe that’s because he has no faith (ha ha).

        2. Pastor Dave, you seem like such a loving an approachable pastor – your church is so lucky to have you! I am not a religious person, by the way. I just wanted to say that I have noticed that none of your comments (in this thread and others on MDA at least) ever seek to offend, which is such a wonderful, open-minded attitude that all of us should try and emulate. I respect your respectfulness!

          Its funny, but I just finished watching the Cosmos series and it totally changed my perspective on life and made me not worry so much about death. The fact that earth, it’s life, our galaxy even, are all so insignificant and tiny and disconnected from the vast universe, and yet none us would be here without any other part of the universe – so really everything that exists and has existed is connected to everything else. I find that fascinating! And, oddly comforting.

        3. > If there is a God — and, spoiler alert, there is

          Ok, ok, you have your faith. You need to believe in your deity. Fair enough. Personally, I see faith as nothing more than sustained wishful thinking.

          But consider that fear of death begat the need for god(s). Grok’s fear may have created the mythologies that we know today as religion.

          As Mark said, we’re “wired for survival”. Those 3 words articulate why we fear death. For someone like me, it’s a finality, and that’s rather scary.

  3. Perhaps the tendency to plan ahead correlates with thinking in eternities instead of in heres and nows, sometimes leading to thoughts of an afterlife. I think that requiring that things lasts forever in order to be important can makes thoughts of death weigh more heavily.

    It’d be interesting to hear about how much hunter/gatherers fear death.

  4. Mark. I really enjoyed reading this. I have accepted the whole “circle of life” concept straight out of The Lion King. It may sound simplistic but I am comfortable with that. Maybe one of those new seed pod caskets so I can help populate the sacred forest as an oak tree as a tribute to my California roots. (No pun intended)

  5. Like Mark I have no belief in any afterlife…once we’re gone, we’re gone. I must say I do not dwell on death a deal. Perhaps this is because I do not see much of it in my direct personal life, but that day will surely come.

    The one thing I am very clear of is that my lack of faith in a life beyond leaves me very firmly rooted to carrying a huge respect for the lives we all have and with that, try to bear no ill will, live with good grace, be kind and well mannered and as respectful as possible.

    1. I agree! As a scripturally literate, Tolstoy inspired agnostic, I do not fear death nor the wrath of God. I try to live within the philosophy of the Gospels because it seems like the right thing to do as a civilized human being. Live according to the Golden Rule and if there is an afterlife, one will have no apologies. When I die and if Jesus is there to greet me, it will be a pleasant surprise. I followed his ideals to please myself and not him. He has way too many other people to worry about. My journey of faith begins with me. It is also nice to have the reference of a great man who chose death over the oppression of human hierarchy. I’ll do the same if called upon to do so.

  6. It’s nice to see a real basic Primal post again. I think that considering the prospect of a certain death also helps us realize we are part of the circle of life and not above it. When eating and living in general we should recognize everything lives and dies and has it’s place. That is part of the reason that living Primal is ethical and sustainable (as anything anyway) when done mindfully. Certainly industrial agriculture does not fit this bill, nor does a world with only plants in it. One must think “What Would Nature Do?”. In the end however, we are not nature’s master and it will do what it will do whether we support it or not just in a different time frame.

    1. Here here, Mark’s article is wonderful, and like you I believe we are here only once, this is no rehearsal and there’s no afterlifel!! My personal take on death is it’s like it’s before you were born – nothing!! So enjoy life, and my personal creed is do unto others as you would be done by!!

        1. Strange to me both post are full of hope, they certainly don’t seem to “believe in no hope”. No afterlife doesn’t = No hope.

  7. Though I do not tend to live a very courageous life, I DO seek meaningful experiences within what I consider “safe” parameters. I don’t fear death, itself, but I fear some of the causes of death. Unfortunately, we seldom get to choose the scenario! Live life fully, kindly, adventurously, and without regret – in whatever ways are suited to your level of joy and comfort. The thrill of risk-taking can be exhilarating. Calculate the risk, though; try not to act on blind stupidity. 😉

  8. Personally, I found this to be a very elegant reminder that each of us is part of a larger, ever-shifting system. For the most part, many of my close friends and family (my tribe, if you will), are pretty cognizant and accepting of their own mortality – however, they’re terrible at accepting the same about others.
    For example, my grandfather has spent the last decade caring for my grandmother, guiding her through steadily worsening Alzheimer’s, as well as colon cancer (currently in remission). She has been unable to speak for some years, and has been confined to her bed for the last 6 months. We have no way of knowing what her feelings are about her situation, about her life, but my grandfather sees it as his duty to continue to fight for her, to keep that flame alive for as long as humanly possible. It’s an incredibly difficult situation, with a definite outcome but an uncertain timeline. I think it’s that uncertainty that terrifies him most, as well as the rest of our family.

  9. My Christian faith tell me that there is an after life. Logic and reason also tells me that there must be an afterlife. If one has a soul or conscience and the soul is not defined in physical terms, then it makes sense that the soul will not suffer a physical death. Regarding the ‘fear of death’, even Jesus feared suffering and dying. That is part of being human.

  10. I am most definitely a Jesus freak, but I have no idea what an afterlife will really consist of. I do know that the life I’ve been given now is what I can see and choose to enjoy it to the fullest. Hmm…to live life abundantly. Wonder if Anyone else ever talked about that?

    1. Nobody knows what an afterlife will consist of, although there are plenty of people who like to claim they do. Boiled down to the basics, at some point in the past we weren’t and now we are; at some point in the future we won’t be. We don’t remember what came “before”, if anything, and we don’t know what will come after.

      If all the mental trappings of being a Jesus Freak makes people happier with their lives, then fine. I say go for it. Although I do believe in a higher power, I’m way too aware that a lot of set beliefs might not turn out to be what we’d like them to be.

  11. I’ll say it this way: having a working mythology is primal and rooted to human evolution

    1. Maybe it’s rooted in Creation!

      For if man were just an accident, but wonderully and fearfully made–yet just something that came out of a chaotic world through elements of chance– the odds in favor of that occurring would be uncalculable!

      1. In addition to science NOT saying that evolution is pure chance, how do you calculate the “odds” against there being an invisible God who plays hide-and-seek with the human race, blames us for being what he created us to be, as well as blaming us for what we don’t know about him (a subject that’s supposed to be beyond our comprehension, anyway). Some calculate the odds as being WAY in favor of that being just one incoherent fantasy from one of humanity’s 100,000 religions–ultimately to be accepted on faith, which, I believe, is invoked only when the odds are against.

        1. I think I understand your thought process on this Varian– and when you really get down to the bottom line — you really don’t know if God exists or not.

          None of us can know everything–and therefore the possibility of His existence still remains, even for the skeptic, a possibility.

          The God you describe is not the God I know. He created us perfect, yet pride and selfishness– the same which is rampant in the world today–messed up our relationship. That had to be restored through God becoming man– putting on human flesh and dwelling among us.
          Christ’s sacrifice atoned for our sins and allows those who put their faith in Him to have everlasting life– not just after death–but something we possess right now.

          I can’t convince you or make you believe what I believe– being born again is nothing I did–it’s God’s work.

          Neither you nor I can know everything–science can’t know everything–so when I die, if I am wrong and my faith is a fantasy– it doesn’t matter. When you die, if my faith is real–it matters much to all who do not believe.

          I credit God with everything in my life–even the smarts to eat primal and get the right exercise– and to know that even when you and I are worlds apart on the subject of faith or evolution or Creation, I can still enjoy the things we have in common such as Mark’s Daily Apple.

          Two things make me sad– those who dismiss the possibility of creation and the God behind it—and those who think primal eaters are weirdos.

          Thanks for replying to my post– ain’t MDA the best!

  12. So many of you listed “positive” qualities to live for. How can you KNOW what is good and what is bad? If there is nothing but this life then if a thief and rapist and a murderer decide that is a better life, why not? And naturally, many do decide that is better for them.

    So lovely to believe in knowable truth and struggle with that and that this is just the beginning of a lovely relationship with our Saviour forever…plus, fear really does leave in the sacred space and time of that relationship…total acceptance no matter what and overwhelming Love.

    1. Rape and murder probably hurt. Don’t need a God to tell me that it’s bad. That’s how we know it’s bad. It’s not pleasant and it’s a threat to our survival.
      A kiss, a hug or even sex feels nice therefore it should be good. even if it’s outside of a marriage. Simple.

  13. Funnily when I was a kid and religious I was uncontrollably scared of death. I’d spent nights awake trying to imagine what it feels like not to exist, which of course made me panic and keep me awake all night. The more I prayed the more I was afraid of death. The older I got the more after life and the whole “God” thing seemed to lack any logic. Then one day I simply stopped believing and the fear was gone.
    I replaced fear with logic. I can still think about it, even more now after my dad’s death, but all I need to do is to remind myself that I will become part of this planet, join the circle of life, rot and feed some animals that keep on living. That gives me a sense of relief which religion and no amount of praying ever could.
    Perhaps religion comes from a primal way of assuming something is there “just in case”. Eg. I see “foot prints” of some sort and assume it’s a predator somewhere around the corner. I can’t explain those foot prints so I just assume there must have been a predator and it might be just hiding somewhere so I’d better get out of here = better chance of survival.

    Fear of death – best to assume there is something after this, it will take away my fear and I can get on with life without obsessing about it.

    That would explain to me how religion evolved.

    1. Jake, I agree that it’s best to assume there is something after this. Common sense and a little in-depth logic back up the idea that there must be a higher power, and that life on this planet is meant to be a learning experience for whatever comes afterward. At least, that’s how I see it.

      Unfortunately, many organized religions take it too far. In the name of power, control, whatever, they promote and capitalize on the natural human fear of death through brainwashing; i.e., “You have to be absolutely perfect in this life or you will go to hell.” Not only that, you have to be perfect according to their specific dictates, never mind what you might privately dare to suspect.

      IMO, this type of fear-mongering is precisely why so many people leave their religious teachings behind once they are old enough to think for themselves.

      1. All the major religions say you can’t be perfect and Christians are just told to try to be perfect – try to imitate Jesus.

        1. Pretty easy to strive for, to be like Jesus. No religion required.

  14. Well said. I was an ER nurse for quite a few years and one of things that I learned from that experience was to live life for today because you never know if tomorrow will arrive. Frequently I ask myself ” What will I regret on my deathbed” I can guarantee the answer won’t be that I didn’t spend enough time at work or that I didn’t play it safe enough. My goal is no regrets and I work towards that.

  15. Well said Mr. Sisson, well said. As a father of 5 young children, I periodically think about death and what would happen to them should I pass before they are grown. No amount of life insurance and planning will ever ensure that my genetic offspring will be able to continue on and have offspring of their own, despite that being the ultimate evolutionary goal. I have found that on days when I think about death, I do find myself enjoying each and every moment with my family a little more. I stop worrying about tomorrow and focus on today. Maybe its the bacon snack we are all sharing, a game of cards, or an intense game of backyard soccer, but I tend to find myself engaged in those moments more than normal and commit to memory the awesomeness that togetherness brings, even if it is finite. You’re a good man, Mark. Keep up the good work.

  16. I think of my Dad, my brother, two of my cousins who have passed over and in my heart they are still with me. I look at my husband, of 25 years now, and think how empty life would be if I did not have him. I had cancer so I know the fear of dying, and the impetus toward life. I have faith in God that when I pass it will be to the light world where all of the people I have loved will be. I want to grow and believe in light, and not the darkness.

  17. Great article. There is a whole “death positive” movement. Caitlin Dougherty has a book call “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and has a great Youtube channel called “Order of the Good Death.” Until we accept death as a part of life, we ain’t really living.

  18. As another Jesus freak I have lost the fear of death. I couldn’t put my finger on the moment when, but I remember times in the past when I had it, and I haven’t had it for some years. It’s very liberating to be without it and it changes a lot of common assumptions when you make the switch. You should only ditch it though if you have confidence in an afterlife, otherwise hang onto it until you do.

    I love this quote translated from the works of Cato by a 17th century knight Richard Baker –

    Betimes thinke on thy last end, and be steady;
    He that feares dying is halfe dead allready.

  19. I’m an old person, and although I am not afraid of death, I’m very afraid of what happens in the process of dying in our culture today. Unless you die suddenly, the medical/industrial/religious complex will keep you alive and tortured far beyond the time when death would be welcome. I have an advanced directive and healthcare power of attorney in place, and have told all my younger relatives exactly how I feel about death and what I do not want to happen near the end. I also have plans for ending my life early in case of Alzheimers. Just my opinion, but something we baby boomers are starting to talk about seriously.

    In the meantime, do everything I can to be strong and healthy.

    1. Casey, I am with you!! Death doesn’t scare me in the least, I am actually looking forward to the day when I can quit this planet, and I really don’t give a fig if there is anything on the other side, but it is the fact that if I became sick, I do not have the choice to end my life in a humane and medically assisted way (I don’t feel I should have to move to Washington state to have this option). I find it unconscionable that human beings everywhere are not permitted to end their life outside of suicide, which can be a very frightening thing to contemplate due to the risk of failure or causing unanticipated and unnecessary suffering. I am just hoping and praying that if I develop an illness that does not take my life quickly, I will have the courage to end my life at the time I am ready to go. I don’t appreciate that the medical community or the religious community have decided FOR ME that I must cling to life until the ravages of an illness do it for me, or all medical interventions have failed. Yes, I can end my life on my own, but the ability to do it without pain or fear is far more humane in my eyes.

  20. Very interesting post Mark. While I am a non-believer, I do think we are energy, which is never lost but changes form. I have no fear of death, but rather a fear of possible pain leading up to it, especially if my death were to be cause by months and months of lingering disease, which is all too possible considering the horrible way I took care of myself in my younger days. I’ve seen people doped up on morphine to keep the pain down as they lay in their hospital beds, and to me that is a lot worse than death itself.

  21. I am sitting here smiling as I read these comments. Love reading Marks writings, love the Primal eating. But, I always had a problem with Mark’s references to evolution as I am a creationist. That being said, good to know there are plenty of believers going primal.

    1. +1
      I’m even enrolled in the PB Cert. course.
      I sometimes struggle with how to couple primal blueprint & Christianity, but really living primally (eating well, sleeping well, exercising) is not against my faith in any way, so I continue to believe in creation & get on with my day.

        1. I’ll say it this way: having a working mythology is primal and rooted to human evolution

          Me too and basically so did St Agustine in 400AD. What’s amazing is how old the debate is between Genesis literalism and Genesis as allegory

          http://www.pibburns.com/augustin.htm

        2. The Catholic church reconciled the then new concept of evolution from Darwin just that way. I think that papal pronouncement came late in the 19th century.

          Of course, it’s just a cop out to physics and chemistry, no god (or goddess) required.

    2. +1 but also -1, I am afraid. I applaud your happiness at finding peace with your earthly mortality through a belief in Christ and the afterlife. But I cannot support your having “a problem” with Mark just because he chooses to reconcile with his mortality in a matter that differs from yours. Judge not, were His words, no?

      1. I never said I have a problem with Mark. Just a “problem” with evolution.
        Speaking the truth in love is not judging, though many people mistake it as such.

        1. With respect, I must point out that In actuality, you said, and i quote, “But, I always had a problem with Mark’s references to evolution as I am a creationist.” If you meant to use those words, that what you express is not having a problem merely with evolution, but rather having a problem with Mark speaking his mind about evolution. I believe a truly open mind and heart (a rarity, I allow) would not profess discontent with others’ speaking their minds. Unless I do not understand what you mean, when you say you “had a problem with Mark’s references…”

          I do not have a problem with you and others believing in creationism, why must Mark’s (and incidentally, my own) disbelief be a problem for you?

        2. (Actually, you weren’t quoting me, but as I accidentally replied to the earlier comment, I’ll reply to this one as well.)

          What a funny round-about argument.
          Having a “problem” with someone’s references doesn’t mean having a problem with the person as a fellow human being.
          I’m sure Mark didn’t take offense to the original comment and neither should you.

  22. I believe in “Leave no trace behind.” No headstone, no offspring, and especially, No Money! Seriously though, excellent post Mark. Too many people think they will have a tomorrow. But, there are no guarantees and this is a very gentle reminder of that. Thank you. Live for today, save for tomorrow. Life will handle the rest.

  23. Very well said! I was an introspective child (still am, haha!) and spent a great deal of time contemplating such things. I’ve always endeavored to strike some sort of balance between reasonably thinking and planning for the future, but not fixating on it, so ample time can be spent engaging in the present. I find it comforting to ask myself, if I died today, would I be happy with the life I lived. And that leads to some brief reminiscing of the numerous wonderful experiences I’ve had and feeling grateful for the life I lived. And that makes me optimistic about tomorrow. Everything from here on out is just bonus! Make the most of it and carry on!

  24. Thank you, Mark, for your perceptive thoughts on Life/Death and living in the moment!

  25. As someone who has faced death myself and seen innumerable others do the same, I will say that the idea of death and dying is never something I’ve been able to come to terms with completely. I was in the Army, did a tour in Iraq, worked on a Shock Trauma unit afterwards, and am now pursuing a medical degree with dissecting/prosecting human cadavers being a major component.

    I think the hardest part for anyone is, simply, the fear of the unknown. We don’t KNOW what lies ahead, despite what we choose to believe. I was raised in a non-religious household and turned to religion after a bad deployment as a source of comfort…for me, it helped a lot and gave me a source of hope that there is something nice beyond this life for everyone. But at the end of the day, I can accept that I don’t know. No one does. And whether or not we believe in an afterlife or just a reversion to whatever we were before we were born, there is no way to conceptualize the lack of physical existence. Seeing someone die, hearing them breathing or even talking one minute and flatline the next, really does leave you wondering, “What the hell just happened?”

    I suppose it doesn’t help that, as a philosophy major (I know…my parents were thrilled…but at least the Army paid for it!), I spent the better part of my senior year working on my thesis on Descartes’s notion of Self. Basically…what the hell it is, whether or not it is independent of the physical body, and whether or not it can be artificially produced. There are a lot of questions like that that have been posed by those with the time and means to do so, and at the end of the day so much of it just brings us right back to a big, fat, “I Don’t Know.”

    I don’t think religiosity has that much to do with fear of death–I think a lot of people, myself included, are just uncomfortable with that level of uncertainty. As someone in my late twenties, though, I do agree whole-heartedly with Mark that (even though there are certainly exceptions) as we age we generally become more accepting of the end despite all of the “unknowns”…I’ve had patients and people close to me who have made some extremely dignified choices and I like to think that when it’s my time, I’ll be ready.

    1. Yes! People that claim to know what happens “after” really weird me out. Would be nice to not need an explanation for existence, as a species, so badly.

  26. Clearly a lot of passion on this. For me, Gaia is my ‘God’, the Earth is my heaven, and I am connected to every living thing. They are my brothers and sisters. I find it magical and immensely satisfying the Circle of Life. All the trillions of things that had to happen for life at all, much less any of us.

    Plus a God never made any sense to me even when young. Why would the most complicated thing come first? It just, quite literally, makes no sense at all. Where did a god come from? But as long as people believing in it don’t do harm to others, AND respect my right to believe in anything I want and keep our society secular, then it is what it is. Their choice. Unfortunately people often do great harm in the name of their particular god.

    Would ‘eternal life’ be nice? Yeah, beats the alternative. But, and Primal living was a big part of this, my outlook leads me to cherish, revere existence, others, and the Earth. This is my heaven, this is my world, every moment of every day is special and to be cherished.

    The most ironic thing of all is that me and my wife have come very close to being ‘born again’ in almost every imaginable way with Primal. Much healthier, happier, younger, from sick and dying to thriving. I find this immensely ironic given neither of us is much for organized religion. We’ve transformed well beyond anything we could have hoped for or imagined. No prayer involved. Just reverence for life and our ancestors and the Earth.

    1. Thanks Larry. I’m with you.

      ‘Gaia is my ‘God’, the Earth is my heaven, and I am connected to every living thing.’
      Wonderful sentiment.

  27. This is why I’d either like to die in my sleep, or die drugged to the gills. I got a taste of that fear the day I realized menopause had really occurred–I felt my life was nothing but a giant, slow downhill slide from this point on.

    1. Yeah, I had that feeling for about a week after I turned 60. I was wrong. I’m having more fun than ever, and I appreciate every minute. Maybe you will see it, too.

      1. I spent my 50s working too hard, sitting too much (computer programmer), going through endless hot flashes \ and rage during meetings, and so on, and finally reached age 60. I quit my hated job, started weight training and cycling, and am now more fit and active than at any time since I entered the corporate rat race 40 years ago. And so much happier. I would agree that for many of us, menopause is nothing to laugh at. The best revenge is to be healthy and happy. Menopause is, ultimately, a form of freedom … to be exactly who you are without giving a damn.

  28. To everyone reading this: what if you are wrong? We do not get a “second chance” once we die. The terror would come from no way to reach heaven but immediately going to hell. Since millions believe that eternity exists, it is absolutely essential to make the right choice. If a non-Christian does not pose this question to himself while there is still time, either total bliss or total agony hang in the balance. On such a enormous choice, no one can afford not to ask “what if I am wrong about Jesus?” At least urgently pray for an answer. Remember that if you ARE wrong, eternity, weather heaven or hell, is forever.

    1. Really? I’m a good person whether or not I believe in a god. I am kind, warm, love to help others, feel incredibly bad if I hurt someone intentionally or not.

      And some ‘god’ is going to say oh you are going to eternal torment because you didn’t believe in me? Really, really? Doesn’t matter you are one the kindest, warmest, humans, or one of them, I’ve ever seen, lived a very giving life, sorry. All I can say is that thing your are conceptualizing is about the worse monster I could ever imagine, if that were even remotely true.

      I wish people really thought out what they are implying. It is kind of a sickening concept once you think about it, isn’t it?

      1. Larry, in the natural world good (and evil) does not exist: http://www.richmond-philosophy.net/rjp/rjp13_tanner.php

        No one can draw on nature to define “good.”

        To a lot of philosophers “good/jbad/evil” is a cultural invention. Team sports have rule that you don’t violate.

        What if someone belongs to a culture that values beheading infidels as a “good”? Is that culture wrong? No….not within their value system. Such acts might be deemed evil in another culture but in this naturalistic world their is no universal good, bad, and evil. Those terms are relative to within the culture that labels its social actions.

        In this naturalistic worldview Universal Human Rights are not *real*.

        If human rights are *factual* (if universal good is knowable) then they must be supernaturally so….and their is more to reality than just nature.

        1. ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field; I’ll meet you there.’
          Sufi Poet Rumi.

          And please do NOT do unto me as you would like done unto yourself. I may not appreciate being treated the way you like to be treated.

          Non-Violation in thought, word and deed is my intention in life.

      2. Yes, thank you! “If you don’t believe in me, you spend the entire length of the universe suffering beyond imagination”.

        The level of narcissism in that idea is incredible, and yet people accept it unflinchingly.

        Also, the implication that people should be believe solely to avoid going to hell has always made me laugh – exactly the wrong reason to be a believer.

    2. The idea of burning forever in hell comes from Greek philosophy, not from the Bible. The Bible teaches that everyone at one point or another will be resurrected and given the opportunity to know God and become part of His eternal family. We do get a second chance.

      1. I agree. The words that have been twisted into a place of internal torment actually all mean “grave.” And as for Revelation’s “lake of fire” — that book itself says it was all written in “signs” so things in that particular book are to be examined as symbols, not literal statements.

        1. AND according to the Revelation’s lake of fire – It burns “death and the grave” so the “torment” of those is not of the people, they were removed already, the “torment for eternity” would be that those conditions are actually “jailed” in non-existance for eternity. I’m ok with “live long and not dropping dead” especially if we don’t age and get sick (another Bible promise).

      2. Well the Catholic Church does not teach that everyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus goes to Hell. There are some thresholds for “mortal sin” such as knowledge and intent etc and there are doctrines such as “baptism of desire” and “invincible ignorance” that preclude good people from going to Hell. An old priest I’ve met says “Jesus just wants warm bodies of good will.”

        1. From one catholic to another you said what I what I was thinking.,,and the church hasn’t had a problem with evolution either btw

      3. Actually Zoroasterism preceded the Greek contributions to this hell we still live with, that of the concept.

        In Zoroasterism, one crossed over a bridge and met “The Accountant.” Uh, oh. St. Peter’s spiritual ancestor.

        And let’s not forget that in Judaism there is no Christian type hell. So much for not changing one dot or tiddle, as Jesus is alleged to have said. Well, maybe he didn’t, but his followers sure did. Enter the then current Greek culture as already noted.

        Jews believe that when you die your spirit goes to Sheol. A sort of holding cell. No beauty, no fire, just a gray existence. BUT, at the end of time, God will reward the faithful by letting them spend eternity with him, and the “unrighteous” will be blown away like chaff. No fire, no sulfur, no devil. Just the lack of being with G_d.

    3. Please save your energy and keep your fear mongering to yourself. I respect people’s rights to have their own beliefs, but I have zero respect for ones like you who attempt to use your beliefs to scare others. As most people are raised with religion, a whole lot of us have already posed that question to ourselves and decided not to live by fear.

    4. I don’t know if God exists, but this is the kind of nonsense I was raised with and why I am not in church today. I simply don’t believe good people are going to hell because they were born in the wrong country that doesn’t permit religion or believe another way or that some unbaptized baby, etc. would go to hell. Man’s conception of religion is often an abominiation. But when you start questioning the initial existence of the universe, how did it start? God becomes a rational explanation.

      1. A burning hell is a human teaching not a Bible teaching. I’ve read the book many times and came away with the “simple truth” – God made humans to live without end. When that didn’t happen with the first ones he made plans to “fix” that at some point in the future.

        I don’t care if some don’t believe in God nor the Bible, some who call themselves Christians don’t live like they believe in it. It’s ok, we are all free to choose. Beautiful, life can be beautiful even without a belief in a God if anyone wants it to be.

  29. I’ve always loved what Roger Ebert wrote about death, because it pretty much spells out how I feel:

    “I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.”

  30. I’m not an afterlife believer, and I wholeheartedly embrace “living in the moment” which I’ve been practicing (not necessarily attaining) for years. My son, currently on vacation in a rather remote area of Thailand, told me once that he didn’t want to be on his deathbed and all he could say about his life was that he worked for the same company for 30 years. I got it. Immediately. I embrace that concept, along with doing my best to help others, and growing my compassion. Following a “primal” lifestyle, finally losing 40 pounds, and starting (at age 63) to build muscle, gave me the self-esteem I’ve chased for decades. Now, with new energy and strength, all the pieces are fitting together. This was a very good article, which I will be passing on to others. Thanks for your insight.

  31. This post hits very close to home for me right now. In 6 weeks time I have lost 2 close friends (40 and 38 years old) and a cousin (44 years old) all very suddenly. We also lost my father in law last August, also pretty unexpectedly. Before this, I had only experienced a hand full of deaths in my entire life so this was a lot for me to deal with. I was absolutely devastated by the losses of so many people that I loved in such a short amount of time. At first it was very hard for me to accept as I haven’t dealt with much pain in my life, and I struggled with this. However, I am also six months pregnant with my first child, and I had to think about my baby and try not to sink into a depression that would cause harm to him. I did a lot of thinking about death, something I haven’t done much of in the past. I realized that while we are so very blessed to have this life to live, death is a part of that life. We don’t get one without the other. It has taught me to enjoy every minute that I can, and remember that it could all be gone in an instant. It has also reminded me of what really matters in this life, and to always appreciate what I have in my family, my husband and my unborn child.

    1. I wish I could give you a hug … if you would accept one from a total stranger. But here’s a virtual one {{{{Monica}}}}.

  32. Great Post Mark! I am a Christian as well but love Marks insights.

  33. I believe that we are a code, a unique sequence of mostly carbon atoms. I believe that there is a possibility that this code will eventually be replicated or so nearly that we have almost the same consciousness and in that way are reborn.. Until that happens, it’s nothingness.

    1. I’m with you but I feel it is the electromagnetic energy that has arranged the atoms that establishes the code. Energy is neither created or destroyed, it is transferred. This energy is is what is often described as a soul.

  34. Beautifully written. Actualization is my life goal. I love it. Healthy risk taking and benign neglect are central to my personal philosophy. Thank you for encouraging conscious thought rather than auto-pilot fear based emotion. You are inspiring me and others to be “more” alive.
    Blessings.
    Monica Macha

  35. Has anyone heard of or had an ayahuasca ceremony? Puts all those fears to rest quite forcibly and also lets us peek into what awaits. You don’t know what you don’t know. Right?

  36. A very thoughtful and well written article.The eventuality is death because our mortality is assured in this earthly body.Death is the transition from our earthly life to our Spiritual Finality.
    I do believe in an after life and look forward to a glimpse of my Creator’s face and living in His presence.From Him we come and to Him is our return.

    1. There is some proselytizing in the comments, but most people are just discussing their own experiences and perspectives – and for people of faith it’s pretty much impossible to discuss our views and thoughts on death without bringing up our religion.

    2. Mark is a very intelligent man.
      I’m sure he thought about the comments on today’s post long before it went live.
      I applaud him for posting it anyway and allowing everyone (regardless of belief) to have their say.
      This is the first amendment in action!

  37. Interesting this would be posted, considering that often these things melt down into major flame wars between people. But so far I am, indeed, impressed with this community! Obviously the conscious decision to life a Primal life puts folks into a good place where they exchange thoughts and beliefs without yelling at one another.

    IMHO, death is primal, the fear of it is not. The desire to live, and live comfortably is primal.

    My father died what I would call a “good death.” He was only 61 and died of the complications of congestive heart failure due his choices of lifestyle. He faced the consequences of those choices with as much dignity as possible in a hospital setting. His wife and two children were there at his side when he drew his last breath. When the spark snuffed itself out, I was the one who closed his eyes (and yeah, I could tell when he passed based on his eyes and the nurse at our side confirmed that moment for me). I’ve brought three children into this world, but that moment of being there at my Dad’s passing was the most profound moment of my life. It was a pure, raw primal moment.

    As for risk, y’all are welcome to it! I’ll be happy and content if I have peace and quiet for the rest of my days, no matter how many of them there are to be.

  38. As a pagan I honor the cycles of nature. I’ve tried to reconnect to those cycles. I’ve learned to hunt. And, my intention when I go is to have a natural burial so that my body can create the soil that grows the plants that fed the animals that fed me. Closing the carbon cycle is a sacred act. Energy is not destroyed only transformed.
    As far as risk goes, in the words of Helen Keller:
    Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.
    Helen Keller
    US blind & deaf educator (1880 – 1968)

  39. While it is understandable that everyone in Primal wants to be a cross-fit coach or farmer or something, I’ve said before that there is no more primal job than hospice worker.

    I believe in an afterlife but I am neo-pagan not Christian.

  40. All people who have very near death experiences report on how they float above their bodies and can actually look down at their physical self. This is their spiritual self leaving the physical body and observing the physical reality from a different level of consciesness. This has been documented time and time again and all the reports are of lightness and generally a pleasant experience. Modern science hates any proof of our spiritual nature and generally dismisses all of this as nonsense. It is true and we are spiritual beings having a physical existence and when the physical ends we return to the spiritual level. There is plenty about this subject in David Icke’s book Remember Who You Are. We should look after and respect our physical bodies but never forget our spiritual nature.

    1. Patrick, thanks for the reference. There is tons on information about how our consciousness survives our physical death. Much of the information is disregarded as nonsense. For those living the primal lifestyle (and anyone else for that matter) and consider themselves risk takers can investigate with past life regression therapy, read Brian Weiss, “Many Lives Many Masters” or some of the more esoteric information, my favorite is the Jane Roberts/Seth information.
      My point being that if we are committed to living fully, we must include challenges to our thoughts and belief systems, not simply physical challenges

  41. Hi Mark, thanks for posting this, it’s like you read my mind. For a while now I have been suffering really badly with anxiety, and, as anyone with anxiety will know, you are always afraid you are dying when you have a panic attack. This in turn has lead to a big fear of death. I recently found some excellent advice on how to cope with death anxiety, one concept of which is to accept that death will happen to us all, and to tell your self that you will die and that could be today, tomorrow or any day. The literature I read spoke about how most of us are in denial about our own death and how we develop coping mechanisms to avoid having to think about the inevitable. Ultimately, as you spoke about in your article, I think the main thing is to live each day and not put things off. I do have some problems with this though, it’s not as if I am putting off going on a round the world trip, I just can’t afford too! But that is the evils of modern day living, we unfortunately need to work to pay for everything to ‘survive’. Please can we all just give up working and start living off the land?! I would do it but I’d be alone :(. I am not religious, but I am spiritual, and this may be my own personal coping strategy, but even though I can’t afford to go on all the fabulous adventures I would want to go on before I die, I find peace in being the best person I can by helping others out, and trying to enjoy all the little things in life.

  42. How can anyone think that our brains could survive after death? Just think about humans with brain damage. For example, phineas gage- he had an iron rod destroy his frontal lobe which resulted in a complete change in his own personality, his wife could not even recoginze him after this injury. Or H.M. who had his hippocampus removed as a treatment for his epilepsy, which left him unable to form explicit memories. How does anyone believe that death- the decomposition of the entire brain can magically result in restoration of functions that are easily removed when the rest of the body is intact. How can you regain language, personality traits, senses, etc.) after your brain has decomposed? I fail to see how anyone can accept this theory.

    I would like to add that the average lifespan is increasing and there are serious efforts to reach immortality in humans. It may take thousands of years, but theoretically there is nothing stopping humans from immortality. I am a young graduate student and I plan on researching aging and increasing the human lifespan as my life goal.

    There are also movements such as the singularity, and the 2045 initiative to help reach human immortality.

    Even if I will never benefit from the research I hope my great great great great etc.) grand children can and will no longer have to fear death as I do.

    1. When we extend the lifespan of humans through healthier eating and better living, and even unlock the secrets of immortality what is the answer to the inevitable problem of overpopulation?

      How will mankind tackle the moral questions presented in the requirement to reduce population growth and even depopulate?

      I suspect it we are moving into new territory and that we will become more man-unkind than man-kind. I think that the future holds troubling times for humanity. Where is the human evolution taking us? Is it good or bad? What if God does exist and what if the bible has already predicted these things to come. What can we do? Maybe the quest for knowledge is all there is but maybe there is something more.

      Perhaps its better that we live the intended human lifespan but enjoy it more by engaging in the Primal lifestyle? Value over quantity.

      I feared, I prayed, He answered. I used to think God and the bible utter nonsense. Relics of more primitive minds. But now that I have experienced personal confirmation of His existence from him. I no longer need science to support it with rational evidence. As a friend told me, “God loves crazy people, because you have to be crazy to believe!”. I.e. it defies rational human thought and yet now, I truly know in my heart that He is real.

      I find comfort and joy in waking up each day for another chance to do something good and live for the glory of God. If you have your doubts, why not try a prayer, sincerely and from deep in your heart and see what happens next.

  43. Because I accept the reality and inevitability of death, I see no reason to “live each day to the fullest”.

  44. First, like many others here, my view of death is very much informed by my Christian faith, and by the grace of God I do not have the general fear of death that I used to, and only by the grace of God will I be able to face death without fear when the time comes.

    “I think much of our fear ironically comes from not accepting the inherent insecurity of our existence.” I think this is huge. Our modern Western culture is often so insulated from death and the reality of death and dying, at least compared to previous eras. We don’t see it as often, and when it does happen, we rarely witness it directly. And I think we’ve lost a lot of the needed ritual and time and permission to grieve that we really need. A quote from Dune that always struck me as so true – “To suspect your own mortality is to know the beginning of terror; to learn irrefutably that you are mortal is to know the end of terror.”

    Finally, I have always feared chronic pain, illness, and disability much more than death – especially prolonged time in the hospital/ICU hooked up to multiple machines. So it’s not so much the death I fear, but a prolonged, artificially drawn out dying.

    1. “Only by the grace of God?” Really? Then how is it so many self-proclaimed atheists, agnostics, pagans, etc. have the same lack of fear of death as you do? Without the crutch?

      1. I was not commenting or judging on how anyone else, whatever they believe, comes to a place where they do not fear death. I believe that all that I am and all that I have, down to every breath that I take, is a gift from God. I was not trying to spiritually one-up anyone and I apologize if that’s how it sounded. I just wanted to give credit and glory where I believe it is due.

        But to answer your question, I would still consider it a blessing from God, even if they don’t believe, for He loves us even when we do not love him and every good thing on this earth is a gift from God whether we acknowledge it or not.

        And a crutch is a good thing if you are crippled or weak. Am I supposed to be ashamed that it is my faith that strengthens me to walk through this life and all its trials and difficulties? Do you look down at people who need MDA or their friends or their families to support them with whatever they are going through? Are you really a perfect island that needs no one and nothing to support you, ever?

  45. Reading these comments makes me realize Joe Rogan is right – experience with psychedelics should be a requirement for all adults in this world.

    We can only perceive a very small portion of what exists in the universe, and as such to waste time trying to convince others about what exists after death is absurd.

    I’m with MS. Live life fully and be kind to others. Everything else is irrelevant.

  46. Why is everyone so finite about their opinion about afterlife? The fact is that we don’t know for sure. No one ever came back to describe the afterlife (Although there are some stories that may or may not be true about remembering past lives).

    I personally CHOOSE to believe that our life here is not the end. It makes me feel better thinking that this is just a prelude to something beyond and different that will never end, in some other form of existence. I am not religious, and am not sure if I am spiritual or not, but I do think that we don’t know much, and are also limited in our conception of what is possible. I think that the universe/reality contains unlimited possibilities and dimensions which may include after life.
    Yes, I do agree that none of us know for sure – 100% either way, and that there is a possibility (which I like to think that is very small), that this is it. That we simply expire like an empty battery when our life here ends. But that only makes me appreciate this life more, and not rely on something else that will come after.
    But the possibility of continuing the knowledge journey and experiencing more adventures after this stage of life is over comforts me a lot, and makes me fear death less. I am not excited or happy to about the inevitability of death, (After all I do try to do everything I can to extend my life as much as possible by being healthy). But I am a little curious of what we may encounter beyond.
    EB

    1. I completely agree. Believing isn’t the same as knowing. I’ve never understood ultra-religious persons who either can’t or won’t make the distinction between the two. Are they afraid to question the validity of their own beliefs?

      I can’t say that I definitely believe in an afterlife because I don’t know for a fact that one exists. I like to think there are lessons to be learned in this life–which I see as just one rung on a ladder–and that something better comes afterward. Otherwise, what would be the point of being here at all?

  47. Beautiful post, Mark. Thanks for addressing this important subject.

  48. I’m a Follower of Christ, I love Him as my Savior and Redemeer of the world. I believe He led me to the Primal lifestyle during a major illness (C.Diff infection) to help heal my body. But during the last two years of illness, I have come to understand suffering as I never have, appreciating it as a gift to make me more like Jesus. I am not afraid of death, I know I will be spending eternity with my Lord, it’s the suffering part to get there that’s hard. But, if suffering can be used to prepare me, then I accept that too.

    1. That was beautifully worded, Jennifer.
      Thank you for sharing that.

  49. Seeing how complex the world is shows that there is a Creator. That’s just common sense. He has a plan and shares it in detail in the Bible. Death is the door that opens to eternity and our life on earth is where we decide where we will spend it. Make the wise choice. Seek God and He will be found.

    1. No it doesn’t, no it’s not.

      How about if I seek God and I find Allah? Or, Zeus? Or, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, loving me with his noodly appendage?

  50. I knew one day that this type of article finally would come out….just because I am a creationist doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the Primal principals stated here…I just don’t think I evolved from a rock or ooze…. 🙂

  51. I think Vera might enjoy the 3rd book in the C.S. Lewis Trilogy, That Hideous Strength. Most of the responses can agree on what theologians call “General Revelation.” Another great read is The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis.

  52. My concept of death comes from my several experiences with general anesthesia, a trip into an utter void, totally free of consciousness, deeply and completely restful far beyond any mere nights sleep. If I had never woken again I would have been fine right where I was.

    However I do fear death and think of it constantly in the sense that I am never satisfied that I am living fully and courageously enough, what the millennials call FOMO today. Having recently reached sixty the time is passing at an alarming rate. There is the constant conflict between security in old age and throwing caution to the wind, letting go of some monetary security in order to live a more exciting and nomadic life. I have watched too many people spend the last 20 years of their lives shuttling between doctor visits and hospital stays, that’s my biggest fear.

    Like others here I am grateful to Mark for bringing me to a higher quality of life and health. I always tell people, this (Primal health) is better than money.

  53. Sounds like Mark has discovered the Stoics. They are very well worth reading, a real philosophy of living as pertinent to this age as it was in the Classical world. It also doesn’t require religious belief, yet someone who does should find nothing objectionable. Realize that everything in life in impermanent, and instead of longing for what you don’t have, learn to want what you do. Much of what you have are things that you once wanted, but when we get them we take them for granted and want something else. The give very practical techniques for getting more out of life, enjoying what you have and being less affected by the inevitable downturns. Seneca wrote a wonderful essay on the shortness of life, which everyone should read at some point.

    A good modern introduction is William B. Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. Original works by the main stoic writers – Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, and Gaius Musonius Rufus, are available online for free. Epictetus mentions what is now translated as ‘god’ a lot, although he did not have the Christian god in mind at all, of course. But those that do can happily assume he did.

    1. Hm, I think of Mark’s leanings as well as the primal philosophy in general as being more epicurean in nature but I may just be filtering it through my own (epicurean) lens!

  54. Thank you, Mark for your post today and for giving of yourself to the cause of the Primal Lifestyle. I am a Christ follower and I find your MDA blog very encouraging! I and many others are blessed by your work. I also appreciate the respectful posts many have made today. We all have been given this precious gift of life! As none of us can claim to have brought our own self into existence, let us live each day to our utmost. Life truly is a gift! For me, my chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, albeit imperfectly.

  55. Jesus Christ said, ‘I am the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE! I have seen so many loved ones die like Monica. Hugs for you too, been there, done that. Have known heartbreaking grief too. But what a wonderful joyful holy experience to have been with the ones as they passed who followed Jesus! The loss of all conscienceless after death? No way! Thanks Mark for opening up this topic. Seems to me to be a God shaped vacuum in humans since early man. We can fill that, live life to the full now with great expectation of a life beyond the grave!!

    1. as our culture doesn´t give us much insight on how to cope with our mortality, it can be very helpful to look into the research around Near-Death-Experiences. Try and read Raymond Moody or the rather new book by Pim van Lommel, this is excellent research, scientifically sound and as the results go against the grain ;-)) of CW like any other primal wisdom that´s shared here !

  56. There was an old sketch from the Mary Tyler Moore show in which Rhoda was told of the death on an old lady, friend of hers Rhoda remarked on the irony that she never left her house for fear of what could happen outside if she left. It turns out she was killed in her home by a car which skidded out of control and crashed through her walls and killed her as she watched tv.

  57. “Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?” — Epicurus Epicurus

    1. Ummmm.. the fear of not, and the creation of God to explain away any human ignorance.

  58. To Jake…Giving ones life for another “probably hurts. That’s how we know it’s bad. It’s not pleasant and it’s a threat to our survival.” Right? That money I stole or that person whose body I used ‘feels good…it feels nice, therefore it should be good…even if it’s outside of” a rule here or there. “Simple.” Again, you must ask yourself how we can know if something is good or not…where does this come from and who gets to decide? Go there. Search truthfully. I pray for your journey. It’s awesome!!!

  59. Shary, you wrote that many religions promote the concept that, “You have to be absolutely perfect in this life or you will go to hell.”

    I am incapable of living a perfect life. That’s why I have put my faith in Jesus, who died on the cross for my sins, and rose again on the third day to defeat death. Because of this, when God the Father looks at me, he does not see my imperfections, but rather the imputed righteousness of Christ. This is a concept known as substitutionary atonement. The Bible says, ‘For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.’ (1 Pet. 3:18) The amazing thing about Christianity is that it is NOT a religion that requires perfection. I would encourage you to explore the truth about faith in Christ. If your definition of a religion is what you stated above, then Christianity does not qualify.

    1. Aaron, you missed the point. The teachings of organized religion, belief in God, and belief in a life beyond death are three different things.

      I’m glad your beliefs work for you. Blind faith doesn’t cut it for me. I need something more tangible–and it IS out there in abundance. It isn’t necessary to commit to religious dogma in order to believe in God. All you need to do is look around you and appreciate everything in nature as being the work of a vastly superior intelligence.

      God-given miracles are all around us on a daily basis–the sun and stars in the heavens, the earth we live on, the mountains, the rivers and oceans, the wildlife… In fact, everything. Many of us (who are walking, talking miracles ourselves) take these things for granted, but I don’t know why. I can’t make a planet or create a mountain that would rival Everest, and I know for certain there isn’t anyone living at this level of existence that could.

      See, these things are my “truths” because they exist on THIS plane, where I can see them. They aren’t just concepts and beliefs that absolutely no one can guarantee. Renewal of life within nature each and every spring gives me hope that there will be a period of rest and then “renewal” for me after I die since I, too, am a part of this God-created nature.

  60. As a Buddhist and spiritual human being, I do not fear death or think of it as something negative. It’s inevitable. We all will move on from this life, so why worry about how or when it might happen? If you are living your life with compassion and loving-kindness, all the while making the most of your time here, what more can you really ask for?

  61. I’m a vertebrate paleontologist by training (I did my PhD dissertation on Miocene glyptodonts), but I see no contradiction between evolutionary biology and religious belief. The day before my husband died, I asked the hospice nurse if he could still hear me. Her words were: “Yes, he’s either still in his body or somewhere in the room.” This from a hardened, highly trained, no-nonsense pro who cared for the dying for decades and seen many people die. I hope that will be a comfort to someone out there reading this.

  62. Mark:

    I was touched by your post and compelled to comment. I think we’re on the edge of surmounting inevitable death – and I believe that is a natural thing.

    I’ve been paleo for about 3 years now, and I understand that we are animals of paleolithic evolution – however, we are obviously fortunate to be living at the leading edge of a technological era where we will very soon be able to reconfigure our own genetics (repair, enhance, supplement, etc.) and that’s just a few years away.

    Work on molecular level damage repair by Aubrey de Grey of SENS Research Foundation, genetic re-coding by George Church at Harvard and Craig Venter, organ growing and regeneration by Anthony Atala, and many others in many fields are rapidly changing our possibilities to free ourselves of our natural genetic limitations and biological fragility, and re-engineer ourselves. Of course one will always have the choice to continually deteriorate with age, get cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and a thousand other pathologies, and die from them – but in the foreseeable future, that degeneration will become a choice. And I have no argument with those who would chose “natural” degeneration and death for religious, spiritual, fearful, or philosophical reasons, as that is their choice – though I would personally prefer to take advantage of all the coming technologies, as much as I do when I post from my amazing computer on this amazing site across the amazing internet.

    Also, the technology of cryonics is becoming so advanced with M22 cryoprotectant and helium persufflation that within the next 2 years, we will likely be able to bring a full body to liquid nitrogen temperature – well below the glass transition point – with practically no ice formation or micro fracturing within a few minutes, and then back to ambient temperature. Alcor, 21st Century Medicine, Arigos Biomedical, and others are developing new technologies that will be able to literally freeze you in time. And all that is just biological – not considering the incredible, exponential advances in computing technologies and brain mapping that may allow other possibilities to eventually circumvent biological death.

    Yes, you can still be hit by a bus, die in the woods and not be found for a week, or some other personal catastrophe that ends your existence. And yes the world will have to cope with all kinds of immense resource challenges from massively extended healthspans, as well as the moral and ethical issues. And yes, maybe our consciousness exists at some quantum level and can’t be so easily rebooted if it’s interrupted. And yes the universe may dissolve into an even soup of photons in 100 trillion years no matter what. But if any sufficiently intelligent life form can develop technologies to transcend their biological origins, then that too is a natural part of life in this universe. And living in 2015, it is a part of life that we are on the leading edge of being able to participate in.

  63. I find much truth in your blog today. I come from a very large family. My grandmother was the oldest of sixteen, she had thirteen of which my mother was third youngest. I remember attending my first funeral, of an uncle, at the ripe old age of three. Many more followed, including my own mother when I was 12. That being said, there were also many weddings and new babies’ christenings to celebrate. As I grew older I also learned that my family heritage being Irish also meant Irish wakes and after-funeral gatherings. Death became just another celebration, an acceptance of death as part of our life that continues. Facebook keeps me in touch with many cousins, their children, and their children, most of whom I have never met. It surprises me that the younger ones are hungry for knowledge of past generations. We have been sharing pictures and stories galore. A new way to carry over old traditions while creating new ones. Amazing and wonderful!

  64. What if its true?… I had been 99% convinced that there was no other life after our death on earth but I had married a Christian and so more out of respect for her beliefs I reserved a 1% just in case something truly unexpected came along and changed my otherwise entirely made up mind (I didn’t think it possible though).

    I found Mark’s site and changed to primal foods. I lost a lot of body fat. It worked. I also tried getting more connected with the natural world in general. I made more time for sleep, started avoiding other possible contaminants like fluoride in toothpaste and drinking water for example.

    I have an inquisitive mind (as do most of us) and it occurred to me that its very strange we are only just now finding out about which foods humans operate best on and of course I started to see that maybe there are organisations out there which prosper from our ignorance and resulting illness.

    Anyway I got quite concerned about that and searched online for answers. I found out a lot and become increasingly alarmed. The big problem with us all living longer is global overpopulation and decreasing resource availability. So when I read of immortality here I must say its probably not a good thing to aim for (with utmost respect for those of you with academic interests in that field).

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could all live forever? Well it would except that there’s not enough space for us ALL. Longer life expectancy and immortality necessitate increased global human population management i.e. human sterilization programs and possibly even more radical and evil solutions to combat the resulting population explosion. The world population is already of concern to some as is the environmental damage humans are doing to the only planet we have on which to live.

    So where am I going with this comment… well I got really scared. So scared in fact that I started to pray. Despite my 99% previous certainty that God and an afterlife (Heaven/Hell) could not exist, the 1% I’d kept open was about to take over. I still did not believe in God but I started to believe in Hell on earth.

    To my enormous surprise, my prayers were answered. I mean I asked God specific questions in my prayers and he answered them very specifically. He answered me through dreams, used other people to pass me messages, and through the bible. Of course I have no scientific proof to share in support my new beliefs and many will scoff at my story (as I did of others before) but now I have real faith. I don’t feel any need to have God scientifically proven to me because I already KNOW he is real. I truly did not ever expect to begin believing, but now I do with all my heart and I am so glad.

    So back to the foods! Whether you believe in creation or evolution, to eat Primal is proving to be of great benefit to our health. Either we evolved to live best on certain foods or we were designed that way, whichever you subscribe to it’s pretty clear that the foods available to us before we (mankind) started processing them appear to be much better for us.

    God or Nature provides the good stuff and mankind’s interference often changes our food into something harmful to us. So to simplify the question of whether a food is good or not I just ask myself, is it God-made / Nature-made or Man-made and I have my answer. I really think that if we only eat what God/Nature has provided us with we will stay well and express our genetic potential.

    LETS ALL STICK TOGETHER REGARDLESS IF YOU BELIEVE IN CREATION OR EVOLUTION, EITHER WAY WE ARE ON TO SOMETHING VERY GOOD HERE.

    If you have reserved 1% too, have a look at these stories:
    Akiane Kramarik
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6HLg2XUFOg
    Colton Burpo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWFUCcUTHu4

  65. I’ve been interested in death as long as I’ve been interested in religion… about 40 years. Done bible college, Wicca, etc. Settled on a non-cultural form of animism, similar to your first nation folks had and some european influences.

    Now I don’t fear my death. I do have regrets for how it will affect others and things I never did.

    Such is life.
    And death.

  66. I greatly respect Mark for his Primal teaching, his unending ability to generate new primal eating content (especially about not being perfectionistic in following a caveman/woman diet). But I must say his views on life/death/no afterlife are not unique–they are obviously strongly influenced by Buddhist teachings and the California-style modernism that has grown out of Buddhism, filtered by the anti-establishment revolution of the 1960s and brought forward to today’s refusal to consider as valid the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which our country was founded. I think even Mark would admit this influence on his views. His spiritual brothers would easily include Apple Whizkid Steve Jobs (now departed into the afterlife, trust me) and basketball super-coach Phil Jackson (who combines Buddhism w/ Native American spirituality). I don’t say this to judge Mark–only God can judge any man or woman; I only want to clarify that his point of reference is clearly Buddhist and not a totally unique school of thought. As for my views, I encountered Jesus personally when I was 19 years old, falling in love with Him and His gracious forgiveness of my sins, past and present. I have decided that orthodox Christianity IS worth my time, attention and devotion–I follow NOT “church-ianity” but Christianity as revealed in the Old and New Testaments. My last statement must be that the universal fear of death is NOT based on the esoteric reasons that Mark and many new-agers here have listed, but on our “primal” knowing that we are sinful and that there must be consequences for our sin. Until we meet Jesus and embrace Him as Lord (our Boss) and Savior (we’re figuratively washed by His blood via our faith), we will always fear death, for we instinctively know that there must be payment for disobedience. As the New Testament says, “The wages of sin is death.” Death is separation, and this verse speaks of spiritual separation from God for eternity. We must solve our sin problem for fear of death to lose its power. I personally can’t wait to meet my Savior–He has forgiven my sins and therefore I have no fear of the final accounting we all will face. Praise God for Jesus’ blood! I live fully the life He gives me here on Earth, and do not fear the afterlife He has promised to all those who trust in Him.

  67. That was an awesome post-and really touching and warming comments. I love this community. Mark, my favorite line of your post…”I desire to live (my version of) a full life more than I desire to be completely safe. Security isn’t my aim. Actualization is. My goal isn’t to live to be 100. It’s to compress morbidity and enjoy the biggest life possible in the number of years I’m alive on this planet. I let go of the ultimate outcome in the interest of living well today.”
    Actually, I think Jesus said the same thing. It’s why I am a follower of Christ. And when people ask me why I follow Jesus, I ask them, ‘Who else did you have in mind? Because the list is really short’.
    Jesus didn’t ask people (as Christians seem wont to do) “If you died tonight what would happen to you?”, He rather asked a more pertinent question, “If you don’t die tonight, how are you going to live your life?”
    I so appreciate most of the comments being left today. I have been blessed.

  68. While the concept is easy the execution of it is the hardest thing you ever do…
    Indeed facing your own mortality is the trigger for a shitload of fear.

    However I’m going to print this post an put in on my loo’s door to read it every day…

  69. After seeing only the title of this post I thought this may have been an early guide to coloring organic, pastured Easter eggs.

    1. Oh, those nasty old Pagan ceremonies assimilated by the Christians?

  70. Well put and very timely, for me–dealing with grief, here, from two devastating losses and the aftermath.

    I AM glad that I have a belief in an afterlife, but I don’t pin it down to specifics–a patchwork spirituality fits me just fine. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for every single day, and glad to be ABLE to feel gratitude.

  71. I was raised Roman Catholic But have been an atheist for years. I never understood what mocking Christianity accomplished? We all ascribe to certain philosophies to guide us through our lives. Some prefer religion, others philosophy while a few embrace nihilism. I think our choices are a manifestation of our intelligence, education level and life experience.

    Religion was a mechanism to bring order to the chaotic world of mankind. Millions were introduced to their respective faiths via sword point and persecution. However organized religion has produced fine learning institutions, medical facilities and charitable works.

    Until I begin seeing atheist hospitals and other philanthropic endeavors in lieu of skeptical glances and mocking comments I will continue to “tolerate” the musings of my more religious brethren in the primal community.

  72. Interesting and an amazingly civil discussion on a topic which often gets ugly very quickly. Speaks volumes for the community Mark has built – common interests, not dogmatic!

    My take away – know what you believe and why you believe it. Do your homework – compare and contrast all worldviews and see which has the most to back it up historically, archaeologically, scientifically (remembering to beware of “the science is settled” mindset – think Ancel Keyes), etc.

    Facts matter, feelings are often fickle and it takes faith even to become an atheist.

    Be intentional about what or who you put your faith in and continue to test it against what you decide your plumbline is – making sure it’s a firm foundation. Has it withstood the test of time, persecution and challenges? Just as Mark continues to look at the evidence to tweak us to a better way of primal living we should do the same with issues of faith/spirituality.

  73. Death is the ultimate illusion. There is no “death”… all is merely transformation of LIFE…

    I am life, this form I’m using is very transitory. I’m not. I’ll just live in other forms.. from bacteria to protozoa, to plants, animals, and the life of the soil itself.

    Change is scary, but it is not the end.

    Disclaimer: used to be a RWC christian. I’m very agnostic/buddhist now, the older I get, the more I understand the grand sweep of things… it’s very paleo, but it’s also very much ingrained in us, to embrace LIFE. Life is precious, yes… and to be cared for, protected, and nurtured… but the idea of “death” is pretty much the boogey man of the mind.

    1. Death’s the truth but Death’s a lie…

      “Farther Stars”
      by John Hiatt

  74. It’s be nice to see some rational discussion instead of wading through the fear-mongers

  75. You’re wrong Mark! The ultimate fear is “when will my coconut oil run out?”

  76. Mark, what a great post. Please don’t dismiss the possibility of an afterlife. Continue to seek the spiritual truth just as you have shown millions the physical truth in Primal Living. For me (and it appears many others who have posted here) the spiritual truth is centered around the almighty loving God and the Trinity. Seek the Truth in earnest and you shall find.

  77. I think the concept of living forever is the most scary thing I have ever heard of! Seriously people, most of us by 80 years of age can’t remember what we ate for breakfast! How do you think you can cope with immortality?

    Don’t give me the “Jesus will change us so we can” line. That wouldn’t be me, and it wouldn’t be you. If you are human you have a finite beginning and a finite end. Pretty simple. You can believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden if you want. You can also believe in a benevolent creator that gets upset if you don’t pray to him — both are on pretty much on the same level.

    Science isn’t always perfect but evolution is pretty much a true law on nature rather than a theory.

    The concept of a singularity and that the universe arose from it and has a total energy of zero (gravity being negative energy) makes my head spin. As does the general theory of relativity and the uncertainty principle.

    Just because I can’t wrap my “primal” brain around curved space and time etc. doesn’t mean I will reject reason, logic and science for a fairytale.

  78. @Chris: Since I couldn’t reply directly to you, I am doing so here. Your comment: “It’s interesting the Christianity is the target of you venom. You wouldn’t be a Talmud following Jew would you?” is beyond despicable. You have dragged perception of the non-Christian public of Christians down a huge notch by such an anti-Semitic question. Say, is it suddenly 1938? Is your favorite movie, “Ship of Fools?”

    I’m tempted to say, “You got me,” just to get your goat. But since I don’t lie, I can’t.

    I clicked on your name and was taken to your webpage, “Thinking Man’s Christianity.” Do you not understand what an oxymoron that is? No, all you can see are trees, step back and look at the forest, Chris.

    My spiritual journey is approaching 70 years, and like many atheists it started with years of Christian indoctrination. Eleven years of perfect Sunday School attendance pins. Fast forward, I have investigated many religions, tried to embrace the Christian faith, several of them, got a masters degree in theology, even. I’ve lost count of the number of “ecstatic/mystical experiences” that I’ve been privileged to have. No religion required.

    Been a Quaker for almost twenty years, you can believe in a god or not, all is well.

    Along the way I found that there is only one option that doesn’t require cognitive dissonance: atheism. So, today I am a spiritual atheist. I know that there is something more, but no god is required.

    And no hatred of Jews or anyone else allowed. I don’t hate you, I don’t hate your Christianity, but I do hate your “Christ killer” prejudices.

  79. As an African, its almost a taboo to talk about death in the midst of family gathering or anywhere at all.

    For someone like me, who has moved with foreigners so well and lived in foreign country, i see that its a topic that must be in our thought daily.

    Though, some white people live reckless life; hence, their story of death aint a primal fear.

    I’m loving MDA!!!

  80. This was a pretty profound post. When someone has to confront death it is always hard, sometimes though, it is harder for the family than the person dying. No matter who it is, it is always hard.

  81. I knew this would prompt religion.

    It doesn’t get more Primal than “God.” Since our race existed, gods have been our go-to for everything, from lightning to death.

    Anthropologists have accounted for about 1,000 gods since the Grok days.

    It makes perfect sense that the billions and billions that existed before us were wrong about 999 of those gods, and that one of today’s the major religions has the inside scoop on the “right” God.

    I have a great respect for anyone who admits to themselves that a big part of them, and every human that preceded them, innately WANTED to beleive in something that made them feel watched over, special, and immortal; it could even explain things they couldn’t currently, and still do not, understand. I have even more respect for those that also seek the truth, no matter how inconvenient it might be.

  82. Well, for the agnostics, atheists, and non believers I give you the planet earth, and all that is within it. It comes with your life, and as stated here, perhaps it would be a better place if everyone tried to be their best and do their best for their fellow man. While the former here may shun religion, it certainly can add much in the way of satisfaction to your short time here. While survival of the organism is a profound part of living, so to is the adaptation of understanding your mortal being. As for me being a Christian, I’m just too pragmatic not to be. How so? Well, is there good and evil in the world? Is there right and wrong? Mankind as smart as he is hasn’t figured out how a single cell functions. And then how can a country named Israel survive the 350 million Arabs surrounding it without supernatural assistance. Oh well. If you think we’re only flesh and blood what or where does your sixth sense come from? A spiritual influence? Like most critics, if you aren’t educated in a specific topic, how can you really be objective?

  83. The cross of Christ transforms all suffering. By union to Him and the Cross all suffering is transformead into a portal into resurrection life, experienced existentially. I know the afterlife exists because I experience the afterlife lived in the present. I know the resurrection of the dead is real because I am being raised from the dead daily , weekly, year by year. Fear is transformed into hope because to know eternal life is to subvert fear itself. Faith is itself a primal category and all men have improved assumptions and hierarchies of value. The resurrection of Christ gave a footprint in matter that we might leap to the heavens

  84. I’ve been close to death and witnessed it many times now in my life. I’ve ridden motorcycles and horses and fallen very hard multiple times luckily without serious injury but at speeds that should have been fatal. My Mother died from cancer while I, my husband and sister were with her. Lots of pets have died in my arms, mostly from the vet’s needle. I drive thousands of miles every year for my work (I’m a touring musician) and I don’t know how many times over the last twenty years we’ve come so close to major accidents often involving multiple vehicles including semis. Also, I’ve suffered bouts of severe depression and a few times seriously considered taking my life. And yet, here I am, 57, relatively healthy and very happy indeed. I was never afraid of dying, more afraid of HOW I’d die. I’m still afraid of the method of my death but study with a wonderful shaman and attunement to Reiki has completely erased any fears I might have had of the afterlife. Also, the experiences I’ve had with my pets and Mother dying… well, there’s just more to life and death than life and death. That’s all I know for sure. That and love, unconditional and undeniable love, awaits us on the other side. I LOVE my life, my friends, the whole universe! But knowing the love ahead of me only makes everything more beautiful, more worthy of respect and care and a wish to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible so I can drink up every bit of the wonder that is life. And one more thing- that love doesn’t care one bit what you call it or how you access it or anything like that, or even if you don’t. It’s just waiting to welcome us home.

  85. Interesting article and the responses to it. Strange though that no one has mentioned Reincarnation, either for or against.

  86. The definition of faith is believing without proof. No one can prove (or disprove) God. Anymore than we can prove or disprove wind. We can only observe what we can and make the best sense of that we can.

    Personally, I think the world is much too organized to have happened by accident but I have no idea what that really means.

    I can imagine God as a father who gave us free will because I know what it is to give my own child the best I could then turn her lose to make her own mistakes.

    I believe the life Jesus of Nazareth lived was a good one and we do well to emulate that. And to emulate Mother Theresa. And Martin Luther King, Jr. And many others who lived well for people beyond themselves.

    As to fear of death–many years ago Reader’s Digest printed a story about a female named Linda. She was being encouraged to leave her known world and travel through the tunnel towards the light. I assumed she was being encouraged to die. She wasn’t. Her known world was a womb and the tunnel was a birth canal. She was being encouraged to be born.

    That story gave me a new perspective on death. None of us will know what happens after death until we die.

  87. I believe all the “good” people will all go to heaven – its just defining who they actually are…

  88. Excellent post that highlights some of the truly progressive aspects of the ancestral health movement as opposed to the constant bickering over what to eat or not eat. As a trauma surgeon who has seen death weekly for over 20 years, my response to Mr. Sisson’s essay is : Amen or your personal equivalent. Well said. tx

  89. Dear Mark
    I have looked at your blog from time to time and have always found it very interesting and informative. It is well researched and well articulated, plus you make it clear that you respect others people’s research, opinions and preferences. For these reasons and others I am very appreciative of your blog. This piece about our fear of death is so profound and so beautifully written – amazing!! It made so much sense and was written with such empathy. I found it extremely insightful and very helpful – so much so I felt compelled for the first time to respond to a blog!!

  90. Jesus Christ! If I can’t escape the religionists on a Paleo website, where can I escape them.

    I realise this probably won’t get past the moderator, but I make my point. Understanding evolution is an IQ test, and is NOT compatible with religion.

  91. I turn 50 today and I’ve been a pastor for 20 yrs. I understand that as human beings are beliefs and faith tend to be a little fluid as we grow as individuals, but when I see the miracle of birth or the wonders of nature, I can’t get passed a Great Designer. In the beginning God…and For God so loved the world. God Bless you all.