in Money & Stuff

Life Insurance

In the great cosmic ballet that is existence uncertainty reigns and fate is fickle. In this cluster fuck that is existence, there is an invention that is both ingenious and mundane. It’s the financial world’s answer to the ultimate conundrum of existence — namely, that it (existence) tends to end, often unexpectedly, frequently chaotically. And it leaves behind not just grief but also the kind of bills that not even posthumous garage sales and go fund me campaigns can cover.

Life insurance, is humanity’s way of cheekily giving the Grim Reaper the finger. Its a way of saying, “You may take me but damn it there will be red tape and paper work!”

Picture the average human as a spaceship traversing a very small part of an infinite cosmos. At the unscheduled yet inevitable disintegration of your ship life insurance is the emergency protocol and little black box. It’s a responsible contingency plan which says, “Should this vessel meet an untimely demise, we won’t have to auction off the oxygen tanks to pay for the funerals.”

This isn’t to paint life insurance as some noble knight errant, it’s more like a savvy medieval merchant who knows there’s profit in selling the idea of security.

Life insurance offers a peculiar comfort – ultimately, we know that the universe is indifferent to our existence, people and ex-spouses may even be hostile to our existence, in a world where it is quite possible that nobody cares whether we live or die – the shareholders at your local life insurer are rooting for you to have a long life. Or at least not die quite yet.

And what of those premiums, the monthly tribute paid to the actuarial gods? They are the poker chips in this existential casino, the small price we pay for the peace of mind that comes from knowing that pieces of our loved ones won’t be left adrift in space. It’s a subscription service to a safety net, woven from the finest legalese, actuarial tables and marketing geniuses who literally George Orwell’ed “death insurance” into being called “life insurance”.

Finally, life insurance also taps into something profoundly human. Seventy thousand years ago a family or tribe cared for a sick child who couldn’t walk. For many, many years. The desire to care for our loved ones regardless of the cost to ourselves is one of the most fundamental attributes of our humanity. And we don’t let something as trivial as mortality get in the way of that primal need to care.

Life insurance is that need expressed, it is a love letter to the future, penned in jargon and legal definitions, and it says, “I am, I was, and here’s a little something to help you carry on.”

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