by Caleb Schrock-Hurst – Horizon Columnist
I had a problem this last week. For this issue of “Why You Should Care,” I went through my typical routine of picking a topic I knew I would enjoy writing about (gun control), thinking about it, surfing around the interblag looking for inspiration, and listening in classes for good ideas from my teachers to borrow heavily from.
But this week, it didn’t work. I sat down to write and got nowhere.
Why? Two sudden deaths in communities close to my own brought up memories and hard questions that have never been fully resolved. My mind was, and still is, elsewhere.
All I could think about is death. And so, let’s talk death.
We are, at our core, desperately afraid of dying, no matter what we tell ourselves. While sitting on uncomfortable wooden benches in church, we tell ourselves two main lies: 1) we are 100% sure about this whole afterlife thing, and 2) that the benches actually are comfortable.
Just look at how our society functions: We push death as far away as possible and pretend it cannot touch us. We relegate the dying to nursing homes, hospitals, and slums, making their deaths seem unreal and inconsequential. When death inevitably breaks out of the walled area of our lives where we have tried to cage it, it shakes our very core and alters our patterns of living.
Death is frightening in every sense of the word, but many would argue that we give it this power. They would say that if we would remember that death is a part of life it wouldn’t hurt us so bad.
And I think this is mostly a load of crap.
Sure, before the age of antibiotics humanity was much more familiar with death, but people were still incredibly heartbroken by death and burying multiple young children didn’t make it any easier for parents. Just to make it through their lives, they needed to come to terms with the reality of their inevitable demise. The search for rationalization of death continues.
We may forget about it a lot and push it away constantly, but when it comes down to it, we will die. We try desperately hard to escape that fact. No matter your relation to Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, or some other supernatural power, your experience on earth–the only existence you have ever known–will come to an end.
Here is where I have arrived with my own thinking: Every human is condemned to die, but the world, our memories, and our species, have the chance of living on. We are infallibly mortal, but we have the chance, and the responsibility, to contribute to something glorious: the first, and so far only, sentient species ever.
Roughly 99.999% of human lives won’t make a single long-term named contribution. However, everyone has the ability to work toward the collective good of humanity. Only then can we live on in this reality through the lives we helped.
Remembering death gets us a long way toward accepting the our role as humans, not as individuals, and selfishness becomes impossible when remembering our own collective identity as the human race. If I am just going to die, what’s the point of earning a million dollars at the expense of others? Why oppress the peasants when I won’t live on but humanity will? To those conscious of their own mortality, selfish living is ludicrous. The only way to find meaning in what would be an utterly futile life is through aiding of others and in doing good for all of humanity.
All the people I know who have died, suddenly or otherwise, have done so with this marvelous knowledge inseparable from their lifestyles. Their names will one day be forgotten, but their ideas and hopes and dreams live on in their children, their ideas, and they will be one day be honored as spiritual, physical, and ideological ancestors.
To my Christian brothers and sisters, I believe that admitting your fear of death is the key to overcoming the fear of death that no amount of faith can fully dispel. And though some may see it as heretical, having a non-divine hope in death is a backup plan worth investing in.
It is time to expand our consciousness. And no, it won’t magically make you not hurt when a loved one passes away, or when you see your friend mourning a loss, but it will make you realise that there is, and always has been, something to live for: Humanity as a whole
Caleb Schrock-Hurst is a Sophomore at Hesston College where he works as a Writing Assistant, Ministry Assistant, and Horizon contributor. He would like to study everything, but when forced to choose selected English, History, and Music. Outside of academics his main interests are tennis, Bernie Sanders’ political campaign, the global church, and Arsenal Football Club. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on campus if you wish to exchange verbal or physical blows. (Editor’s note: Caleb Schrock-Hurst’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Horizon staff or Hesston College.) (Author’s Note: I’m really proud to have earned a disclamer!)