At lunch today with some friends, I asked a character question that never fails to fascinate me: "If you were going to die precisely a year from today, and it was possible for you to know that fact beforehand -- would you want to know?"

Defining the terms here: You would die instantly -- a piano falling on your head or something -- with no suffering. It is not possible to avoid that death once you know about it (that is, you couldn't hide inside your apartment to avoid pianos), but at the same time, it will come to you whether you know about it or not. And you could still die earlier than that if you're stupid -- for instance, walking across the floor at a piano-throwing competition.

I would want to know, so I could travel around the world, take care of the Tasks I Must Complete Before I Die, have plenty of time to spend with my family and friends, and generally make that last year a great one, without all the constraints that come from having to plan for the long-term future. I would actually be really grateful to know it was my last year so I could enjoy it properly -- not that my life now is unsatisfactory; just that I can't take off to spend a month in the South Pacific, say, as I would if I had so little time or reason to save money left (relatively speaking).

But one of my friends said she would rather not know -- at least not a whole year in advance; maybe the last two months. She would prefer to live her life without the shade of imminent death hanging over her, and she likes living now as if everything already were the last time -- enjoying each moment for what it is, rather than worrying so much about the future. Which also seems like a wise way to live.

So I'm putting this up in the poll: To know the date of your death and its imminence? Or not to know? What think you?