Despite society’s relentless full disclosure, one topic is still verboten.
April 16, 2010
Do You Realize – that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize – we’re floating in space
Do You Realize – that happiness makes you cry
Do You Realize – that everyone you know someday will die
Do you realize one of the few remaining topics still off limits in general conversation is death? It may be the only one. The other inevitability, taxes is talked about all the time, especially with President Obama promising more and more of them. The subjects we are not supposed to bring up at a dinner party, religion and politics are ranted about with passion and impunity. And sex? Please. Our society has become so hyper-sexualized I can’t feel my dick anymore! The Internet, reality TV, and social media (not necessarily in that order) have not just opened doors of communication they’ve kicked them down and burnt the splinters. Nothing is taboo.
Except death. In particular our death. Save for the occasional funeral, none of us ever talk, text or tweet about death. Not with friends. Not with peers. Not even with our own family. It just doesn’t come up. It doesn’t want to come up. Sure, we can relate to death in the movies and news stories but not in our own lives.
Is that because it’s a downer? Well, so are the Chicago Cubs but we LOVE talking about them. I think it’s more than just being depressing that keeps all of us off the topic. I think our ignorance of death is just too profound to talk about. Ever.
More specifically, our fear of death is too profound. Even the most spiritual among us can’t say with any certainty what happens after we die. Heaven? Reincarnation? Fertilizer? No one knows. Nor will anyone ever know until it actually happens -which it will. And that’s just too scary to think about, let alone discuss. At least openly.
Death is the ultimate common denominator. There is no cure. No one can avoid it. It’ll happen to you. All that other stuff (sex, religion, politics) is inherently debatable. Those topics, if once politically incorrect, now electrify us. In addition, the ability to hide behind online personas makes us impervious to any sensitivity.
But pseudonyms are no protection from the Grim Reaper. Nothing is. Not God. Not even social media. Ashton Kutchner may have more Twitter followers than anyone on the planet but in fifty or so years he and they will all be dead. (You can’t tweet death!) Then what? Oh, I forgot…we don’t want to talk about that.
Check out this dark and lovely video about death by The Headlights (film courtesy of Daily Planet in Chicago.