Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Consciously Forgetful: the Culture and Death

It tells us something about the state of the human soul that people have to be reminded of their impending death before they will consider it. Death is perhaps the greatest of all realities we face as a race, and yet think of how few give time to consider its approach. Christian groups have recognized this and thus often use some sort of witnessing style that points folks to ponder their end and their relative preparation for it. The witnessing encounter, however, usually serves not as a reminder but as an initial warning to the person wrapped in a protective blanket of naturalist, materialist, and escapist fabric. To watch the world at work is to realize that it is in a maddening rush to forget its certain end.

How interesting that programmed into the very essence of our lives are continual--and oftentime sobering--reminders that we are surely decaying and will surely die. In fact, decaying, or aging, is in fact another way of thinking of dying. From the moment we're born, we're dying, in a sense, because at birth we are placed on an irreversible course toward nullification. We think little as a society of this fact, but it's true. We're dying. It's just a matter of time before the process completes itself.

The ancients were more honest in their worldviews about death. The Stoics, Cynics, and Epicureans confronted their mortality head-on and then constructed ways of dealing with it. It is my belief that these philosophical attempts to reconcile life and death were ultimately insufficient and fatally flawed, but at least those people attempted as they did. Today, in America, it seems we would rather turn up the Itunes, pour a stout glass of something, and entertain ourselves until we are numb and have forgotten our fate. The pretending, however, does not make the reality go away. Death must be faced, and it is a force one cannot trifle with, a state one can scarcely escape.


Anonymous AE said...

I staired into my wife's beautiful face, one that is worn from the death of her sister having a heart attack, and told her that the EKG from the doctor showed an abnormality in my lower left ventrical. The reminder of death is rude, forceful, and violating of life and love.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous chesed said...

wow- this completely resonates with me- even as a Christian I try to tune death out

2:42 PM  

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