By Katherine Yaremko
You probably don't spend much time pondering your death or imagining yourself as an elderly individual analyzing the actions of past years. Each of us knows that a personal physical end awaits at some point, yet death is still largely considered a taboo subject, one to be tacitly acknowledged, but not discussed. It frightens individuals, and understandably so.
In one attempt to cope with this fear, some of us take comfort in the belief of an afterlife. While each individual is allowed his or her own beliefs concerning this matter, the fact remains that we cannot know with certainty what happens after death. Even if we enter a new life, we can have no guarantee that it will resemble our current one, or that we will be able to operate within it as we do in ours. We are faced with the staggering, overwhelming notion that one day each one of us will cease to exist, at least physically. With a limited timespan in our reality then, how many of us take full advantage of available opportunities? Many, including myself, probably do not.
Numerous publications exist about overcoming fear, cultivating courage and fulfilling one's highest potentials, and my purpose in preparing this article is not merely to add to their collection. There is a reason the phrase "Live up to your full potential" is a cliché. I personally do not believe in prodding someone into living a life one does not want to live. No one can force you to achieve what you deem not worthy of achievement. This article, is to encourage those who want to do something more, but may be sidetracked by fear or doubt. As a member of this group, I am far from achieving this goal myself, but my progress is continual.
If there is something I am learning, it is that humans' lives are governed by fear. As Einstein stated, "Fear or stupidity has been the basis of most human actions."
Most of us have also probably heard a story at some point of someone who survived a near death experience, and afterward mentally reconstructed his or her entire life, organizing priorities and reversing negative attitudes or habits.
Taking risks, even if they result in less than desirable consequences, allows for the development of our intuition. One can use this intuition to analyze future situations.
There is a Buddhist idea involving the contemplation of death in order to better understand the importance of life. This concept is one that can be utilized by anyone in order to come to the same realization. Such a practice can actually increase the focus on day to day life and improve one's ability to appreciate everything.
Humans take an enormous amount for granted. Philosopher David Hume noted that we expect the sun to rise each morning, just as we expect food to continue to nourish us, even though the continuation these things can never be completely guaranteed. They have always been, and we have no reason to believe otherwise.
I am not suggesting that we should suddenly worry that the Earth will stop rotating or that our bodies will no longer be able to absorb nutrients. It serves to show that life is also something which is not guaranteed, and as such, should not be pursued with ambivalence.
Maybe the most profound realization is that the world and the people in it do not contain some hidden, objective, noble, romantic notion. There is no dictatorial code written across the universe; there is only what you choose to pursue.
Katherine Yaremko is a sophomore political science student. You may e-mail her at