Staring death in the eye

I had a dream that the United States was at nuclear war with an unknown enemy. Sitting in my car, I saw a mushroom cloud erupt in the distance, presumably New York City. Seconds later, I watched as a second missile appeared in the sky, clearly heading to a location a short distance from my position.

In that moment, I was certain that I was about to die.

Even though this was a dream, it was real enough that I awoke in a sweat, breathing heavily, genuine panic coursing through my body. I thought for sure that what I was experiencing was real. As such, I was afforded an unusual glimpse into how I might act when facing my own death.

In a word: Resignation.

As I watched that missile heading to the Earth, I turned away from the oncoming blast, feeling utterly resigned to my fate. There was a brief moment of anger directed at the unknown man responsible for my demise, but I was also fascinated and intrigued by the tenuousness and brevity of life. In the span of a few seconds, the uncountable multitude of things that filled my life with importance, joy, worry and meaning would all be over. Memory and word and deed would all be instantly erased forever. Though the actions taken in my life might continue to have some impact and meaning to those who survived the attack, a lifetime of learning and building and developing myself as a human being would be wiped out in the blink of an eye. In a single second, everything that I had ever said and learned and done would become irrelevant and meaningless to me, as I would cease to exist.

No wonder so many people believe in an afterlife.

Yet there was also a dash of comfort in this dream as well. For as catastrophic as death might be to someone who views it as the end, I found myself able to accept the inevitable with greater strength than I could have ever imagined. I was devastated at the thought of all that sudden and irreversible loss of my life, but I also knew that my time had come, and so I was calm and surprisingly fearless in the face of my doom.

It’s not the kind of dream that I would wish upon anyone, but at the same time, I was granted more insight into myself than ever before. It scared the hell out of me, but it may have also made me stronger and given me a damn good idea for a book.