The fact that everyone is going to die is well known to us all, yet it still effects us deeply when one of our personal connections dies.
Death is the cessation of biochemical processes. Total loss of homeostasis.
The former human, once animated by a variety of chemical processes is now just a lump of rapidly decaying matter that was once an organism. Death of individual cells, whether by apoptosis or some other means, is a regular part of life for multi-cellular organisms, happening on a constant basis.
Thus, a human corpse is no different than a human shaped steak, anything else is just sentimentalism. But, humans are sentimental. We honor these lumps of decaying flesh, and dispose of them with ritual and reverence. Strange creatures, we are.
One thing Lewis pointed out in a couple of his books: death is ugly. It's OK to think of death as ugly. It doesn't mean life is ugly. For example, we tend to think of blood and guts as ugly, and we should, because when things are working right you can't see them. You can only see them when somebody's been cut open, and (surgical intervention aside) someone who's been cut open is going to die.
I don't think it's bizarro that we honor the body that used to be a man. We wouldn't expect grandma to use a photo of the grandkids as TP, or the lover to blow her nose in her sweetheart's love letters. And the body was even more intimately connected to the person we loved than that.
Just a couple of random thoughts.
I generally think of my self as rational, and I've never been the least bit superstitious. But death has always bothered me a lot, way more than it should. And it's not a fear of dying, but it's after the death occurs that bothers me. When I was a kid, I was terrified of cemeteries, and to this day I refuse to live near one. I don't even like shopping at stores or eating at restaurants near them. Funeral homes creep me out even more. It has nothing to do with evil spirits or anything like that, it's just a visceral response to the idea of proximity to dead people. I have no rational explanation for why these things bother me so much; after all, dead bodies are just a bunch of chemicals, not fundamentally different from any other matter, as the OP suggests. I suppose it could be simply a result of never being exposed to such things as a kid; out here in the West, Europeans have a much shorter history than they do in most other places, so there is naturally less evidence of the dead laying around. I went most of my life without ever even seeing a cemetery, and no one close to me died until I was in my 20's so I never really had to be exposed to it growing up. Because I have such a negative visceral response to anything associated with death (black curtains, stately urns, coffins, the style of architecture that all funeral homes seem to have) the idea of dispensing with all the ceremony and just maybe tossing me out in the woods and letting the natural process of decay take over is rather comforting.
I don't know if this relates, but... the funeral director asked if I wanted to see the body before they closed by father's casket; the intention was to have a closed-casket funeral, because he had gone downhill a lot before his death. I said yes, thinking sure, I face things. I regretted it. He didn't look like Dad. It looked like something dead. The juxtaposition of him and the dead thing was sickening. The dead thing was a bunch of chemicals, perhaps, but they used to be him.
Couple things about death. First off I'm not afraid to die... However what scares the Hell out of me is not being able to take care of myself or just being a shell with no actual quality of life. I don't want to be in a situation where I need someone to help me shower, eat, etc. I would truly rather be dead if that were the case. Also I don't like the idea of being embalmed. I've seen the process and I find it rather gross, and it makes the body look like a wax doll IMO. When I die I just want to be buried right away.
I'm with you on embalming. I don't need my body preserved for some reason. "Green burials" sound better and better - let my nutrients go back into the earth, not preserved in a concrete vault.
I am far more afraid of my mind going than my body. Senility is actually something I am decently afraid of. But yeah, I have too much pride to be nursed. I don't like people doing things for me like that.
Also with you on being embalmed. Unless you're sitting up with the dead or something, it really is a waste.
But, humans are sentimental. We honor these lumps of decaying flesh, and dispose of them with ritual and reverence. Strange creatures, we are.
True for most humans, but not all. Wahabbi Sunni muslims bury their dead in unmarked graves - including the kings of Saudi Arabia. They feel visiting tombstones, monuments, etc smacks of ancestor worship.
That's interesting. Thank you.
Your feelings about death depend greatly on what you believe happens after. As a Christian, I believe death is the beginning and not the end.
I think we are overthinking death. I think our self-awareness is tricking us into believing that there's more to our life than it really is, and because of it we are trying rationalize our existence. Just like our ancestors had "supernatural" ideas about weather phenomena, we are having "supernatural" ideas about death. We just moved line a little.
Why should there be a point in our existence or anything rational about it? Why should there be afterlife or past life's? Why spirits, God's, souls, ect.?
I believe this are just a "fail checks" that keep our bodies in a state we call "alive". They help make a sense out of our surrounding and help us trough tough time, but i believe that's it, nothing more to it.
I'm not afraid of death. Maybe I'll live couple of 1000 year's, maybe I'm going to die in next couple of seconds. So what? All that matters to me is this moment and what can/i will do in this moment.