n Arnold Kling and Nick Schultz's From Poverty to Prosperity, they highlight the many ways life has become much wealthier, easier, better, than 100 years ago. A signature fact is that life expectancy has increased 25 years in the US over the past 250 years, and these stats are significant in Robert Fogel's nifty book The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100. Mortality stats are often given as prima facia evidence of a better life.
But, there is a downside. As mortality has gone down the preoccupation with death has gone up. Personally, I have experienced a small number of deaths, none of them of young people, as is typical. This leads to an unfamiliarity, and so it becomes scarier. The bestseller, Tuesday's with Morrie was supposedly all about how a learned man's dying was really about teaching a young Mich Albom how to live. I read it as a pathetic screed against dying, thinly masked against this hysterical objective. We have come a long way since Roman times, when defeated generals would regularly kill themselves in defeat, and a fallen gladiator would always present his throat to his adversary, accepting death (he was usually spared, however).
Death is so rare we think it unnatural, but it is necessarily as natural as being born. Given it is so uncommon and we generally don't believe in an afterlife, our fear of death is probably greater than it has ever been. Fear of death causes us to increase suffering to avoid death at all costs creating a further fear, the fear of the pre-death slide.
There's a neat scene in Marley and Me, where the old dog leaves the family because he knows he is going to die. The old dog knows how to die. One does one's best, and when the body gives, resign and accept this fact of life. Recently, an acquaintance noted his father was getting frail, and he and his siblings decided to force the widower into into a nursing home for his own good. After they informed him of their decision, and how it was in his best interest, he said, 'let me say goodbye to Billy', his pet goat. He then shot himself in his barn. This was seen by his pastor as a shameful end, but I think it rather stoic.
In our secular age, we think living is everything, and so doing everything to stop it is a good thing, but it's not. Regardless of motivation, facing death with equanimity is a sign of courage and wisdom, because it's hard to enjoy the present knowing you are going to be scared shitless with certainty in the future.
I don't want to die, but I also don't want to fear death, because via backward induction, it would imply I feel fear all the time. It's like competition: hating losing, but don't fear it; in this case, hate death but don't fear it. It is not the worst of all things.