Death which is excruciating and untimely is the ultimate stab in the back to a culture that prioritises the pleasure and autonomy of the individual. Death which is unrecognised, boring, and unmourned is similarly unsavoury. Death of any kind, in fact, is uncomfortable. Perhaps not so much for those who are dead, though opinions differ widely on the situation for them; and it is likely that the experience of death need not always hurt … but it tends to at least for those left behind. We prefer not to think about it in concrete terms, let alone talk about it. But, let’s consider this prohibition as like a sign saying “don’t touch” without any further justification – it invites disobedience.
As an aside, one of my favourite portrayals of death (a little morbidness was probably to be expected) is the ‘death of rats’ in Pratchett’s Discworld. “The Death of Rats, also known as the Grim Squeaker, is not, strictly speaking, a personification in his own right but rather an aspect of Death allowed an independent existence. “ More on that here.
Since leaving highschool a few years ago, at least two people from my year-group have died in what can only be called mysterious circumstances. Death, particularly coming at the age of 21 or 22, seems cruel. Death is a real and present problem, an assault on our inherent dignity as humans. As relational beings whose capacities and interests are able to transcend the everyday world of material things, we consider life valuable and are hurt by its loss. But what the hell to do about it? Is our concern about death in the long run akin to crying over spilt coffee, or is it a hint towards the fact that life is truly valuable, and might continue after death? Or, perhaps, neither of the above? It is fairly clear that if there is such a thing as a ‘problem’ in this world, death makes the list. Merely recognising this is not to assume that there is a genuine solution and thus to bootstrap our way into the afterlife – but it can I think justify our desire that there be one. It is not irrational to hope for a better order of things.
Commonly accepted views of the world; the Weltanschauungen of the West, views acceptable to the modern consensus, or whatever you call them, tend to shut down claims to real knowledge about the afterlife. But, and you probably knew this was coming, Christians have claim to real knowledge about the afterlife. The claim is that there is a man who died, and who is now alive forever, and that as such, eternal life is real and available for all who follow him. The claim is based on historical realities; or, so it is said. I’d love to chat about these things. In light of the universal nature of the problem of death and the utter inadequacy of the usual position (naturalism/atheism/physicalism/agnosticism/meh-ism, or what-have-you) to deal with it, this purported solution is worth exploring a little further.
[I intend to craft this more, probably tone it down a little, and submit it to the uni magazine in few days’ time; we’ll see if I get around to it]