June 29, 2008

A Culture of Death - What does that mean?

This entire post came to me in the car last night at approximately 10:00 in the car on the way home from Florida. I spent to week at the beach doing three things, really - eating, sleeping, and recreating. My major form of recreation, naturally enough, was in-the-surf activity, but when that was not feasible I turned to reading, mostly. Agatha Christie provided the entirety of my reading. Five mystery novels in a week. On top of this, Aunt Kathy (whom I mention with the utmost respect and love) showed me all of her favorite TV shows - including NCIS, CSI, etc. More murder mysteries. I don't believe either of the two mentioned things are wrong in and of themselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a mystery story - the greatest author of them all (Chesterton) wrote a large series. I think, however, after a full week of them, it started to get to my mind.

It was in the car on the way home, watching another murder mystery (a movie adaptation of Agatha Christie), that I discovered something - my mind couldn't take it any more. I felt physically sick. This may have been my characteristic motion sickness, but honestly - I'm not the kind of person to fear bumps in the night, but I was honestly scared. Not scared of anything in particular (My mom was driving, so that might have been it... *shudder*) but just scared. I was constantly going over in my mind how I would get out of each improbable murderous situation I pretended to find myself in. This behavior, I believe, is both characteristic and uncharacteristic of me. I very easly get lost in something fantastic - Final Fantasy, Harry Potter (I've pretended to kill Voldemort in a satisfactory way many times, to fix the ending of the last book), Lord of the Rings, etc. I hate to dwell on bad things, however. I feel tired enough from work - I don't need to stress over things that aren't real. However, I was certainly stressed. When we got home (ca. 2:00 A.M.) I went straight to bed, but slept fitfully due to imagined murders I was solving/avoiding/performing. I couldn't get it out of my mind - I still can't. This led to some philosophizing.

Humans, as a whole, are absolutely obsessed with death. We are so obsessed with it, that we both invent millions of terms for it, "He passed away" "He is deceased" "She moved on" "She has shoved off this mortal coil - She took arms and, by opposing, ended it" (Shakespeare FTW), and at the same time use those terms to avoid the concept altogether. I'd like to push this off as just a complex of wanting to avoid it - we don't want at all to think about it, thus the euphamism. However, after thought this cannot be the case. Murder mysteries, horror stories, and war movies all dwell on death - inescapably. I can mention six television shows which are all about death. We don't like to think about it - but we can't get enough of it. Most paradoxical...

Death is mystical. If mystefies. It is a mystery. As a result of human beings having a fascination with puzzles, we can't get enough of it. Death, for some reason, just isn't natural. Nature, however, always tends towards enthalpy - in chemical reactions, gain of enthalpy (disorder) is what makes a reaction spontaneous (happens on its own) or nonspontaneous (doesn't happen on its own). Decay is the nature of the universe (after the fall, anyway) - the universe is spreading apart, the cicadas which a short time ago were a menace are now decaying, and the dirt in which we garden is nought but dead things. So death is natural.

Something, however, is wrong with death. A human does not want to die (the greatest saints, maybe, but this is because they were convinced that they weren't dying at all, but simply passing through a necessary evil in order to get to the greatest good). Fight or flight reflex - the human will grasp violently at life if death is inevitable. Another paradox.

Humans, nonetheless, are obsessed with death. In China, if you die, you are subsequently worshipped by your family members. Egyptions, Incans, Mayans, Aztecs - all of the above had mystic rituals involving death. Mummies are ways of both keeping the dead man partially alive, and of making sure that he is actually dead. Great pyramids and temples are built to honor death and the dead. For people who hate and spurn death, we certainly spend a lot of time working on it.

Today our culture is even more obsessed with death than ever. Death is rampant about us - the most helpless are killed for no reason whatever, or perhaps a very weak reason. Video games - even though they can be very, very good things - have a certain focus on it. Some bad one have no purpose at all save to glorify death. A funeral is one of the most expensive ceremonies today. We create weapons of mass death, the news is very good at pointing out death, and litte boys have fun blowing people up, or watching cartoons that involve glorified death. Why? From a purely materialistic point of view, there is no reason to it at all.

When Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes cannot solve a mystery, it is normally through lack of evidence. I believe that new "evidence" is needed here. What sort of evidence? Divine revelation.

Death is not natural to humans. We were not meant for death. As a result of the fall, however, death is forced upon us. Our parents rebelled against God - at the same time our physical bodies rebelled against us, or rather we subjugated ourselves to it (C. S. Lewis, Miracles). Thus, we cling to life, yet know that death is inevitable.

Still we are obsessed with death. If we hate it so much, why? Because somebody else hates us. Satan is single-minded - he wants us all dead. Think about it. Who is likely to die young - not the good, the evil. A drug abuser will die. An alcoholic will die. A nymphomaniac will die. It is obvious - the devil hates us, and wants us dead. Why? We can only go to Hell if we die. He wants us to suffer.

A very complicated culture has come about as a result. We are "Scared to death of dying here alone." (band Switchfoot, song Easier than Love). We are both obsessed with death - look at our entertainment! - and mortified by it (oooh, look at that verb, there). Morbidity is both appalling and appealing to us.

Death, however, can be viewed in a different light. Life Himself died. As a result, Death cannot be the same. It is not for death that Christians are longing, it is what happens afterward. Death is the only way we'll get to heaven. Similarly, the road to Florida is necessary if I want to go there on vacation. However, I don't long for the road - I want to be on the beach. God is the God of the living, not of the dead.

As a result, there is a serious problem with out culture today. The only thing to save it is for Christ to take this culture of death and have it crucified, to rise with him in glory in to the New Life. The City of God will come about.

May God bless us all,

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Blogger Theocentrica said...

...I'm glad to know I'm not the only one whose mind unhinges after reading more than one murder novel a week. X|

June 30, 2008 2:17 PM  
Blogger The Sojourner said...

We like to get old seasons of NCIS from Netflix and I've found that I have a limit of about 4 consecutive episodes before I start getting a little twitchy.

Lots of good thoughts here to ponder.

P.S. Mortified of death...haha.

July 07, 2008 3:11 PM  
Blogger Immortal Philosopher said...

Yeah, I love how many words we English speaking chaps have that have "death" as a root. It's quite fun, in a morbid sort of way. *g*

July 13, 2008 9:20 PM  

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