Friday, July 25, 2008

"Give Death A Chance"

What do we really know about death?


Then why do we try so hard to avoid it?

It doesn’t look good.

What do you mean, “It doesn’t look good”? If we don’t know anything about it, how do we know how it looks?

It’s unfamiliar to us.

So what?

We don’t know what it’s like.

Rome was unfamiliar to me. I went there, and I loved it.

You’re saying…

Just because we don’t know someplace, doesn’t mean it isn’t great.

Death isn’t a vacation. You don’t come back with pictures and funny stories. “It was fantastic. And the leather goods are exceptional.” There are no brochures on death. No Rick Steves Visits Death on the Travel Channel. You can’t go to the travel section at Borders and pick up Death on Fifty Dollars a Day.



I was thinking about something else.

But it was funny.

A little funny.

What were you thinking about?

What if it turns out that death is way better than what we’ve got here?

You mean death is better than life?


Why is that funny?

Come on. Somebody commits a terrible crime – the worst thing you can imagine – and what do we give him as a punishment? Death!


So? A person does the worst thing you can imagine, and his punishment is being dispatched to a place that’s way better than the place he came from? You don’t find that funny?

Ironic, maybe. But not really funny.

His punishment is a reward. Are you kidding me? That’s hilarious!

Not to the victims.

Of course not. They were taken against their will. But if death is a better place, I don’t know, it’s like you’re in Hebrew School, and somebody kidnaps you and takes you to a ballgame.

That’s funny. Though it’s hardly the same

That’s what a lot of people call it, you know?

Call what?

Death. They call it “A better place.” You’ve heard that. “He went to a better place.”

Religious people say that.

That’s right.

They’re talking about Heaven.

Most people have very good feelings about Heaven. Mark Twain was an exception. He said if Heaven was 24/7 harp music, he’d rather not go. But generally, Heaven is well thought of.

And yet, the people who speak most enthusiastically about it don’t seem all that eager to get there.

I know. If something was great, you’d think people would want to get there as quickly as possible. It’s like “I hear Maui’s paradise.” “So you’re going there?” “No rush.”

When the guys who think it’s great are in no hurry to go….

It’s hardly a testimonial.


You know what I always found fascinating? Near death.

You mean “The White Light”?

That’s interesting, “The White Light.” But that could just be the back of your eye. I was thinking about the people who have bad heart attacks, doctors fix them up, and the people are transformed. Suddenly, former cowards are skiing down mountains and marrying women named Bambi.

I’ve noticed that.

You know what I’ve always wanted? That “heart attack” feeling without the actual heart attack. The intense realization that life is short without the excruciating chest pains. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. I realize life is short, but it doesn’t stop me from taking long afternoon naps. Why aren’t I out enjoying life?

Maybe you’re enjoying your naps.

I am. But you know what they say: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I’m sleeping now. It’s a waste, isn’t it?

For all we know, death could be very invigorating. You’ll be coming there refreshed, from all those naps.

That’s the problem. You can’t plan for death. If we only knew what it was like.

Unless it’s bad. Then I don’t want to know.

You know the real problem with death? Bad public relations.

What do you mean?

Here’s a condition nobody knows anything about and we automatically assume that it’s terrible.

It’s terrible for the people left behind.

That goes without saying.

Well, excuse me for saying it.

That’s fine.

I just thought it needed to be said.

Okay. No problem. I’m just thinking. You have a product that’s generically neutral. You know nothing about it, one way or the other. It’s not like a bad political candidate, where you have to make the smell go away. This is easier. You’re not starting in a hole.

Except for the image.

So we change the image. That’s what P.R.’s about – “re-branding.” We’ll put a new face on death.


First thing, you define the problem. When you think of death, what bothers you the most?

The Fear of the Unknown.


You just made a scary noise.

You can’t help it. A scary noise accompanies “The Fear of the Unknown.”


Sure. Watch. “The Fear…of the Unknown.”

Oooh. You’re right.

Our job is to separate the idea of death from the scary feeling. Which death doesn’t deserve because…

We don’t know if it’s scary or not.

Exactly. So here’s what we do. We hire a Pitch Man, a spokesperson for death.

Bruce Willis.

George Clooney.

Bruce Willis is earthier.

I like Clooney. He’s more upscale. Okay, we’ve got George Clooney…

…or Bruce Willis…

…standing in a woodland setting, wearing jeans and a sports shirt. Simple but stylish.

I like it.

It sets the tone. “Death is natural.”

What does he do?

He’s walking along, passing a rippling brook. He picks up a stone, and checks it out. Then, he looks at the camera and says,

“Life. It’s a pretty good deal. You hike the trails with your favorite lady, surrounded by the beauty of everything around you. Life gives us a lot to be grateful for. A lot to enjoy.”

He skips the stone across the water.



“Sure, life’s great. And I’m holdin’ onto it as long as I can. But who knows? Death could be great too. Hey, they were both invented by the same Guy.”



“So forget those gloomy predictions. It’s not like anyone really knows. It’s just death. The next thing to do. (AFTER A PAUSE) I’m kinda lookin’ forward to it.”




So what do you think?

That was good.

Thank you.

But you know what?


I’m still scared.


These musings were triggered by the passing of a guy named Jerry, whom I didn't know well, but whose intelligence, kindness and decency were top-of-the-line among human beings.


growingupartists said...

What's most spooky is how much more assured I'd feel if someone did stand up and say with authority, "it's no big deal". What kind of spell is that, where common sense doesn't even interject with, "wait a second, how would HE know about death?"

What prevents the viewer (guilty as charged) from wondering "who wrote his lines", "how does he keep his voice so steady", and "what does big business have to gain from this particular ad"?

I wasn't born blind, how did I become so believing?

JeffH said...

Not sure I'd be anxious to exit, even if there were x-number of virgins awaiting me. I'd like to know in advance what they look like before I make any commitment.