There’s been a few things in the last couple of days that’s gotten me thinking on the topic of death and the way we in our culture handle its reality. The most obvious one was the recent death of Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin. Here’s a guy that, frankly, was probably popular because he so gleefully waded into danger that would kill most of us and came out of it unscathed. Then along comes what should have been a routine day of filming that ended with Irwin being stabbed in the heart by the tail of a manta ray – something that has an incredibly low chance of occurring.
I think that the reason that people were so morbidly fascinated with the news of his death is that, at a subconscious level, we were all saying to ourselves, “if this guy who seemed invincible was actually mortal, I bet that I might be too.” Of course, this subconscious voice has a difficult time working its way to the surface past our own cultural conditioning.
What cultural conditioning, you ask? Well, to start with, our society has systematically attempted to remove the reality of death from our day-to-day existence. I’m reminded of this as I walk past the funeral home every day as I “commute” (ie walk) between my apartment and the school. We’ve turned death into an industry reserved for the specialists. It’s neatly tucked away from general public consumption in neatly kept buildings and men in suits. To greatly assist this process, we also put our elderly and sick in hospitals and “old folks homes” so that we do not have to be around as the life slowly departs from our aged population.
Add to this neat segregation the prevalence of young, beautiful people assaulting our retinas from every media outlet possible. Every time I shop for groceries, I’m assaulted by Cosmo, People and enough tabloids to keep up on the latest celebrity “news.” The message being hammered away at us is that we want to be young, and a specific type of good-looking. Will you ever see an old person here? Nope.
So, my hope is that the world we live in stops living in the fantasy land where death doesn’t actually happen to them. I guess that our part as followers of Christ in this is to stop blindly following the youth-worshiping, death denying culture so prevalent in North America. My wife just told me today that she noticed some wrinkles by my eyes, and there’s no way I’m buying cream or any crap like that for them!
I will die someday, and I know what kind of life I want to lead between now and then. I also happen to know that death is just the doorway to the rest of my life. How do we live like this is true in a culture that denies death even exists?