I am not Afraid of Death

At Copenhagen Jazz Festival I had the privilege of attending a concert by Brazilian legendary artists Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. It was in many ways an extraordinary experience.

Former Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil captured my attention with his song “I am not Afraid of Death.” His intense and hoarse voice made the distinction between of the act of dying and death itself. While he certainly was afraid of dying he wasn’t afraid of death itself. “Death is what happens after me.” He sang. “But I am the one who has to die.” Drumming his guitar like a beating heart.

Gilberto’s claim has it’s roots in history. Facing a death sentence Socrates famously argued that he could not fear death as he did not know what it was. Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard furthered this idea arguing that fear needs to relate to an object e.g. dogs, war or an illness. Thoughts about death lead to anxiety which, unlike fear, doesn’t relate to a known object. To Kierkegaard anxiety was a simultaneous feeling of attraction and repulsion. When standing at the edge of a cliff one can fear falling. Simultaneously, one may feel an impulse to throw oneself intentionally over the edge. Kierkegaard called this feeling of anxiety “The dizziness of freedom.”

Não tenho medo da morte / Jeg er ikke bange for døden

(Translation into danish)

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