The War on Mediocrity
Producing art and music. Enjoying food and family. Realizing the beauty of nature and realizing our own mortality; the list of things that universally connects all human beings isn’t very long, but thanatophobia (also sometimes referred to as ‘Death anxiety’) certainly seems to be the odd one out. All throughout history, in vastly different geographical and cultural contexts, examples of people can be found trying to cheat their way out of death when faced with their mortality, albeit by trying to locate the fountain of youth, cryofreezing or drinking potions consisting of menstrual blood (yes, people actually did and still do this). Thanatophobia is something that almost all people can in some degree relate too, as it is inherently biological; just like with fear of heights or snakes, the fear of death is meant to prevent us from actions or situations that could be potentially harmful or even lethal to us.
Doesn’t seem so bad, right? Without this biological safeguard, who knows how ‘Jackass’-y our lives would be. There is, however, another side to thanatophobia, which is more psychologically based and doesn’t have the same evolutional necessity: the fear of an unfulfilled life. It is not necessarily fear of death itself, but the fear of laying on your deathbed and not being satisfied with what you’ve accomplished in your lifetime. For some people, this fear can cause such crippling anxiety that they are incapable of chasing their dreams and ambitions, causing a vicious circle which can ironically end up causing the exact scenario that they were afraid of in the first place, as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now, don’t be worried; I’m not just going to tell you all this saddening information without ending on a positive note. Thankfully, satisfaction is (unlike immortality) something that actually can be achieved in life; there are numerous ways in which people try to seek fulfilment in and give meaning to their life, from trying to change the world for the better to simply achieving a very successful career. None of these methods are necessarily ‘better’ than others, as it is something that is inherently personal. So unfortunately, I can’t give you a clear-cut fix or plan of action in your personal “War on Mediocrity”. What I can do, however, is tell you about what helps me in mine: creation.
Whether it is poetry or stories, different forms of arts and crafts, music or paintings; when you create something, you immediately leave a mark on this world that is bigger than yourself; after all, your creations will probably outlive you, and might even get read, seen or listened to by your kids or grandkids. Now I’m not saying that creating something immediately has an actual impact on the world like some famous books or songs have had, but if you think about it, that is exactly what makes it accessible for so many people; you don’t have to create a masterpiece to still get the satisfaction and fulfilment of having made something tangible, something permanent, all by yourself.
Again, I’m not trying to claim that this method will work in the same way (or work at all) for everyone. But if you’re ever feeling like you’re not doing anything with your life, or you’re thinking about what will be left of you after you’re gone, try to remember that creating something could perhaps give somewhat of an answer to those thoughts. Try to write a short poem, or come up with a short story, or draw something for example. As I said earlier, it doesn’t have to be perfect, or even good at all; after all, the satisfaction of creation, is universally human.