We are, as a species, both fearful and fascinated by death. And the more time passes, the more we push back against certain boundaries, the more interconnected we become, the more preoccupied we seem to grow with the most unlikely of threats to our well being.
We spend too much of our time living in obscure ‘what-ifs’ and not enough in the now.
We give ourselves over to fear, and we grow smaller in the bargain.
So let’s take a moment and go through it.
The vast majority of us will succumb to simple mechanical failure…,
Hearts stop ticking.
The vessels grow clogged with gunk.
Oxygen delivery becomes less than efficient.
The lightning in our minds that form thought and feeling becomes turbulent.
Most of the rest of us will fall to some kind of disease…,
Infections that taint the blood or clog the lungs.
Cancers that turn our own cellular building blocks against us.
Your next most likely exit is through simple accident…,
Our balance fails us.
We regularly handle objects which are sharp or heavy.
Often we run and jump and fly and drive, because these are the things of living.
And sometimes it is the living that kills us.
A tiny few of us have our lives taken away by another…,
War takes some.
Acts of terrorism account for a handful.
But far more often, it is our own neighbors who kill us.
Or the people we love best.
There are plenty of ways to die, and the statistics don’t lie.
But we see big flashing numbers on the news and we are convinced that the thing which is least likely to take us, is the thing waiting just around the corner to do us in. We become convinced that someone is coming for us, someone wants us dead, the knives are sharpening, the explosives are being wrapped in duct-tape, there are clocks and triggers and backpacks and high profile targets and you’d better be safe and you’d better stay safe and you’ll never be safe…!
You’ll never be safe because we are going to die.
But any one of us is 35,000 times more likely to die of a heart attack than we are in a terrorist attack. Yet, by and large, I don’t see that many of us suddenly laying off the cheese-burgers.
Which brings us to another way to die, one I haven’t mentioned yet.
Sometimes we kill ourselves…,
And here is one place where I think the statistics DO lie, because it’s not always as straight forward as a gun to the head or an overdose of prescription meds. Sometimes, yes, we kill ourselves all at once. But more and more I think we’ve begun to do it so slowly that we don’t even know it’s happening.
People won’t give up eating fatty foods, but they’re sure wiling to give themselves over to fear.
Some of us can’t face a world full of (mostly imagined) boogymen without the security blanket of a weapon in our pocket.
Some of us would rather not face the world at all, when it’s so much safer to just sit in our homes and watch the news and fret about all the growing dangers outside.
And here lately, all too many of us are happy enough to switch off the very traits that make us human: our sense of compassion, our willingness to endure personal sacrifice to ease the hardship of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
Make no mistake folks, we have become a culture which is living in fear.
And I don’t think I’d call that ‘living’ at all.
I find it disheartening that in this season of thanksgiving, when we are urged to count our many blessings, that bravery and generosity of spirit do not seem to number among them.
There are plenty of ways to die.
The real question is, in the long run, will we be able to live with ourselves?