More on Death

Following up on another recent post regarding death, I found this a fascinating article.  It brings in the technology angle in terms of how to redesign death so that it isn’t as depressing as it really is.

Of course, from a Christian perspective, of course death is depressing.  Death is unnatural – it isn’t supposed to be part of creation, and is here only because of disobedience and sin.  It is universal in scope – nobody escapes it, whether they die before being born or live to be 116.  While pop philosophy and pop theology constantly attempt to redefine death, to take away the pain of loss and offer some sort of alternate reality, Biblically death is described exactly as we encounter it – as our enemy.

So redesigning death is challenging on many levels, since we aren’t the ones who designed death in the first place.  While we can adjust how we describe it and the ceremonies that we surround it with, death is a fundamental other.  It is beyond our scope to redesign.  We must deal with it.  We must have an answer for it.

The article highlights the very narcissistic nature of undertaking to redesign death.  The app described is ultimately an appeal to our fear of death and being forgotten, an effort to allow us to pretend as though we won’t die at one level – we’ll live on in Tweets and pings and notes and location identifiers.  We desire to continue to hold a place in people’s lives and technology has the ability to help ensure this.  Of course, this isn’t really a money-maker, as the developer realized.

Secondly, in attempting to redesign death the reality is that it is more a redesign of how we live, which is arguably just as hard.  From this standpoint, I think that the app could have a lot of appeal.  Right now most of us live in denial of death.  We don’t want to think about it.  We don’t want to prepare for it (statistics say 70% of Americans don’t have wills in place).  We want to prevent it and find it unfair even when the person involved has lived a very long and full life.

An app like the one described in the article would be helpful in reminding us that we will one day die.  We don’t know when or by what means.  This reality should infuse our living – what we do each day and how we choose to do it.  What we say to our friends and family as well as our enemies.  How we prioritize our resources, most importantly the resource of time.  An app that encourages us to live by reminding us of our mortality could indeed be valuable, so long as it isn’t ultimately an appeal to our vanity and narcissism, and a shallow attempt to make it seem as though we haven’t died.

Death happens to everyone.  The bitterness is that life continues for the rest of the world after our passing.  We will gradually slip from the forefront of thought and memory in the lives of our friends and family who survive us.  If death is really the end, then this is indeed a tragic thought, that our life and relationships and memories are truly meaningless.  If death is not the end, if there is hope that our enemy has been defeated, then the bitterness is tempered.  We still fear death and don’t look forward to it, but in Christ we have hope as well.  Not the hope of an app, but the hope of a Savior.

Which is what all of us really need.

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