Because of the book publication, I've been asked several times recently what I think about how we handle death. I have responded that we need to be more bold looking at it. We need to not shy away from death, not try to get the viewing and the funeral over as quickly as we can. So many other cultures (throughout history and now) have stopped the course of life when someone died. People didn't just go back to work Monday. People didn't just reenter the flow of life as if nothing but a blip had occurred.
People mourned in a way that disrupted their life. Something had changed; it could not be minimized or ignored. Someone who mattered could not longer be spoken to, and hugged, and experienced. Life stopped for a bit; history slowed down; the universe felt the loss of even one person.
Perhaps it is a reflection of a society where human life has been trivialized and economized and naturalized that we barely have time to stop for death, an event that simply doesn't matter in the overall scheme of things. We are all atoms in motion, chemicals in a bag, in a universe of blind, pitiless indifference.
So I was heartened to read this in a recent article at First Things:
Death in times past was not necessarily less tragic to those who lost loved ones, but death was more prevalent, more public, more visible, and more a natural part of life than it is today. Our society is truly death-denying. Fitness centers, alternative medicines, an endless supply of diets are the order of the day. Consumers want the fountain of youth. You may object, of course, that death is all around us. The news and the movies are filled with death. But I suggest that this phenomenon itself is a further sign of a death-denying society. Death has become so commonplace as to be unreal. We can ignore death because it happens to others and not to us, or it is simply pretend. We can gloss over real fear with pretend fear. This is why people ride roller-coasters and go to horror shows.
Preach it. The life of pretend is for children, or for Peter Pan, but not for men and women who have grown up and seen the world for what it is.