There are many philosophies available to help people cope with the idea of death. One religion will claim that you don’t have to worry about death, as you will be reincarnated again. Another will tell you not to worry too, but because you will land up in paradise, another will tell you that you won’t be conscious to know the difference, so why worry?
But the most practical philosophy comes from Umberto Eco. He advises that the best way to prepare for death is to convince yourself that everyone else is a complete idiot.
If you lie dying, how can you confront death, if you think that desirable, young people of both sexes are dancing in discos and having the time of their lives, enlightened scientists are revealing the last secrets of the Universe, incorruptible politicians are enjoying a better society, newspapers and television are bent on giving only important news, responsible business people are ensuring that their products will not damage the environment and doing their utmost to restore a nature in which there are streams with drinkable water, wooded hillsides, clear, serene skies protected by a providential ozone layer and fluffy clouds from which sweet rain falls once more? The thought that you must leave while all these marvelous things are going on would be intolerable.
Instead try to think that the world is full of idiots, that the dancers at the discos are idiots, the scientists who have solved the problems of the Universe are all idiots, the politicians who propose panaceas for our all our ills are idiots, the journalists who fill page after page with vacuous gossip are all idiots, so are the manufacturers- all idiots. In that moment would you not be happy, relieved, and satisfied to leave this world of idiots?
When must one start thinking like this? Not too soon in life, says Eco. We should start by thinking that all the others are better than others and then, shift bit by bit, having our first doubts around forty, revising our opinions between fifty and sixty and attaining certainty soon after.
Even removing this piece of wisdom from the morbid context of death, Eco’s philosophy has immense appeal. There is something liberating and invigorating about the idea that everyone around you is a complete idiot. It makes one feel supreme.
Don’t you idiots agree?