YTAH's Weblog


Intimations of Mortality: Death Is a Cunt.

Posted in rants by YTAH on July 21, 2008
Tags: , , ,

And now for something completely … morbid. Rather than simply resting on my laurels and doing something funny, I thought I’d challenge myself a little and write something depressing instead. And, not being one for understatement or restraint, I thought I’d tackle the most depressing thing I could think of, and what could be more morbid than death? Also, why shouldn’t Yours Truly tackle this weighty subject? I mean, it’s served as the inspiration for high-quality literary output from lots of people – everyone from William Shakespeare to William Shatner, in fact. So I thought it was high time that I offer my own unique and original perspective on this matter, for your measureless (and unearned) edification.

Dark Knight promotional imageOff the Ledge, er.
Now, this may be a bit of a truism, but let’s face facts: dying sucks. It sucks fucking piles. And recently people have been dying off as if there were some kind of celebrity plague: Heath Ledger. George Carlin. The guy who built the Cookie Monster. All of this suggests that we find ourselves stuck in a moment of cosmic suckitude. It’s not enough that the next Batmovie looks kinda promising, or that stories about Ledger’s research for his role as the Joker – studying the speech patterns of ventriloquist’s dummies, for instance – presage a hard-to-follow performance, and makes you wonder how many more of these films could have benefited from his over-prepared contribution. It’s not even the additional implication that, pregnancy having worn out its fad value, death is now the accessory of choice. (Except that Lindsay Lohan and the Spears sisters seem to have escaped this one entirely. Hopefully this will change.)

What is far more troublesome is that this “death” business is one of the reasons people keep the religion malarkey going. Not that that’s any excuse, mind you. (There’s no kind of excuse for that.) Nevermind the fact that, as an approach to life, religion is about as outdated as the spiked club is to dating; it’s also rather dishonest. It basically involves imagining some supreme being into existence, and then worshiping said imaginary being for the sole reason of trying to convince yourself that life and the universe has some kind of meaning. Frankly, I think that’s sorta pathetic. Not to mention the fact that these people then go around expecting everyone else to follow their half-witted example. (George Carlin, meanwhile, was remembered by friends and ex-colleagues at a closed memorial service this weekend. Apparently a giant screen behind the speakers showed extracts from his most famous routines. I wonder if “Death and Dying” made the setlist.)

Wordsworth's gravePre-eXistenZ? Tell it to the worms.
I suppose now is as good a time as any to consider our title, and whence this derives. It’s my personal correction to a title for one of Wordsworth’s poems. This esteemed poet believed in pre-existence, literally the “existence in a former state or previous to something else”, specifically the belief in the “existence of the soul before its [merger] with the body”. It’s a concept he – and lots of other Christians, actually – stole from Plato; basically it refers to the supposed immortality of the soul. (For the netmonkeys out there – i.e. all you adherents of Wikipedianism – this is the idea “that the soul dwelled [sic.] in an ideal alternate [sic.] state prior to its present occupation of the body, and that it will return to that ideal previous state after the body’s death.”) My apologies to all Greek-lovin’ fuckwits, but that’s just bullshit. There is no ideal, alternative state, sorry; not now, not before, and sure as hell there isn’t gonna be one when you die.

George Carlin in DogmaGeorge Carlin says: “Say ‘No’ to Dogma.”
The consolation of religion, they’d have us believe, is that it trumps death. Ironically enough, this is also the supposed consolation of fame, or Hollywood. “Hey, look, you’ll live on in your work.” Fuck that. I’m with Woody Allen: I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it by not dying. The only view of an afterlife I can support is that of Frisbeetarianism. To summarize: George Carlin, the founder and the self-appointed leader of that religion, believed that when you die your soul gets flung onto a roof, and just stays there. I think that’s about as serious as I can be about the prospect of life after death. The only way you’re coming back after you die, sonny Jim, is as an extra from some real-life Dawn of the Dead. And have you seen the remake? No-one wants that to happen, not really. (And Zombie Jesus can kiss my ass.) The best thing about death is the way it clears up the place. You wouldn’t want everyone who’s ever lived to hang around, would you? Because that would make it difficult to justify the whole “procreation” thing all those Christians are so keen on. (Actually, come to think of it, maybe we should sell them on the idea that the dead are rising from their graves. Maybe that will get them to cease breeding stupidity.)

Heath Ledger and Brandon LeeThese jokers got nothing to crow about.
But since we’re exploring the idea of the premature deaths of promising actors, let us now consider the case of The Crow. Now you probably remember all the news stories about the death of the star, Brandon Lee, during the making of this film (in the same way his father Bruce yada-yada). What you might not know is that the guy who wrote it was inspired in his own pursuit of literary greatness by the death of his fiancée. He wrote the graphic novel on which the film was based because, he says, he believed that “there could be a love so strong that it could transcend death, that it could refuse death.” And then Lee died, so there went that idea, and it was back to “God is a bastard, if there is one.” Of course, this is a rather childish attitude, I feel. If, as Nietzsche had it, God is dead, then it doesn’t really make sense to blame him for the continued prevalence of death. In fact, blaming god would be about as useful as feeding Jell-O to a dead man. The continued belief in the existence of a god is self-defeating, really, whether or not you hold him responsible for the sad state of things.

Fact is, whatever your system of belief, there’s no real cause for alarm. People die all the time. They’re just not always famous people. And who’s to say that the premature and unlooked-for death of a talented actor – while lamentable – is a greater tragedy than the death of a competent colleague, or an infant crushed under piles of earthquake debris, or the victim of some far-fetched hypothetical situation? There’s no reason we should feel more sympathy for the death of someone we’ve never met than we do for the numerous thousands of people who die annually as the result of facile rhetorical questions along the lines of “If you found a suitcase full of money, and if you knew that if you picked it up a Chinaman would fall off his bicycle and die, would you take the money?” Because face it, folks, you’re about as likely to get run over by a moving bus as you are to run into some anonymous person of Asian descent. (And nothing separates any old run-of-the-mill Chinese person from that improbable joker except that ridiculously overwrought and unrealistic situation anyway.)

Still from The CrowTime, time, time…
Of course, being famous doesn’t exactly make dying more appealing, you understand. Everybody thinks about death, so you’re not that special. But coming up with some simplistic consolation is no better than taking an otherwise fine movie – Requiem For a Dream, for example – and slapping a “happily ever after” ending on it. Better to “stand alone on the shore of the wide world”, as it were, and contemplate the time when you too shall cease to be with a clear, conscious mind. Better, anyway, than arriving on the far shore only to discover that you got into the wrong boat. All you have is here, and now, and time. Lots and lots of time. Because contrary to popular belief, life is not short. As St. George Carlin would say, “Life is the longest fucking thing anyone ever does. What can you do that’s longer?” Life, as e.e. cummings so astutely pointed out, is “not a paragraph”, and death “is no parenthesis”.

Death is waiting“Your 11.30’s waiting in your office, sir.”
So here, finally, we arrive at the rather anti-climactic moral of this story. As the first bad guy from The Crow said before he got killed by a vengeful ghost: “This is the really real world, and there ain’t no comin’ back”, and death awaits us all. With nasty, big, pointy teeth.

[Originally posted on www.africans.co.za on Wednesday, July 02, 2008.]

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: