Death & the Not Knowing

September 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

When I was about nine years old, I was struck with the sudden understanding of my own mortality. I’m not entirely sure why at this age—nothing big happened; no one close to me passed away. But there I was, nine years old and suddenly terrified of dying.

“It’s not that I’m scared of dying,” I told my father, “it’s just…I can think and see and know everything around me right now. And I know everything that happened before I was born really happened, but I wasn’t there for it. And after I die, everything is just going to keep going, but I won’t be there. It’s going to keep going forever, and I won’t be there.”

It was the strangest, most overwhelming feeling. I wasn’t upset because I eventually wouldn’t exist to do the little things. I was upset because of everything beyond my lifetime that I would never get to know.

For this reason, whenever anyone asks about where I’d go if I could time travel (as a writer, you get this question surprisingly often), I always say the future. How far in the future? Well, let’s say I live to the ripe old age of 100. (What? I can be hopeful.) That would be in 2091. I’d want to time travel, then, to 2291, two hundred years after that.

Why two hundred years later? At first, I was going to say “one hundred years later,” but I figure that by going forward two hundred years, I could still figure out with a good amount of accuracy what had happened a hundred years ago in addition to seeing what things are like two hundred years after my death. If I’d gone, say, to 2591, the records of 2191 would probably be a lot blurrier (though with the current trend of information-keeping, who can say?).

Would this really satisfy my craving to know where humankind goes? No, of course not. I wish I could see where we are three hundred years from now and four hundred years from now and a thousand years from now (if we are still in existence in any form at all). I want to know if we survive when the sun goes out, and if we ever do find that intelligent life out in the universe and when, and what they’re like.

There are so many things to wonder about, and to know. But I think that by being able to see even a little past what I should have been able to see, I’d be that much more peaceful.


-Kat Zhang


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