“Hey! How are you?
I’m dead on the inside thanks! How about you?
Death is merely a five-letter word in the English language. However, the act of the same can be pretty grave (pun intended). This is the worst time for me to even consider talking about something like this. *cue cricket noises* But I happened to come across a podcast, where four smart “comedians” talked about death, facts surrounding it, and their own experiences. You can find it here!
However, that’s not the only reason I wanted to write about this. It’s incredibly weird to say this out loud, but I am fascinated by the mere mention of death. And yes, it is weird and creepy, and “Oh my god, Simone. What is wrong with you?”. I get it. But people always seem to be drawn towards death. I probably don’t make sense, but bear with me.
Without really getting technical about it, most believe that death is usually the end. The final destination to this journey we call life, the end goal of a well-lived life. But, the most common thing that people fear is death. Or more specifically, the concept of dying.
But why is death so scary?
We can often chalk it up to the mystery of what happens after. We have a very odd relationship with the unknown. We’re curious about it, but we fear it too. And that’s what feeds our fear of dying or death. But while this could generalise the whole love-hate relationship we have with death, it isn’t the complete story. Another common factor I’ve noticed is the way you’d go.
Death is inevitable, yea? Nothing lives on forever, all of us have to go at some point. And death has proven to get creative more than once. A horrible example of this would be the ‘Final Destination’ franchise. The deaths are over-the-top and extremely unbelievable, yet somehow they also make sense. Death obviously won’t hunt you down if you’ve had a near-death experience, but it will find the freakiest of ways to get you. It could be as simple as dying in your sleep or being trampled by a wildebeest stampede (RIP Mufasa).
But you know what fascinates me? Death seems fun and all (don’t attack me), but the afterlife is way more controversial than death is. The best example would be from that time I discussed it with a friend of mine. He was extremely done with me constantly talking about death, so he ended up challenging the very thought I had regarding it. He challenged my idea of peace after death.
We don’t know what happens after. Whoever has the answer to that, is dead. But most believe that what comes after death is just unlimited peace. I mean it would make sense, life isn’t kind to us. However, we don’t know this for sure. Things like afterlife, rebirth, heaven, or hell; all seem like various levels of an exclusive game. And everyone is allowed to have their own opinions and beliefs. And some of us believe in most of these while some of us don’t.
When it comes to rebirth, Hindu’s strongly believe in the afterlife and rebirth. The scriptures suggest that there’s a certain cycle to follow. They believe that the soul passes through successive lives, and the next incarnation is always dependent on how they live their previous life. The last known form you live in before reincarnating as a human is a dog. Maybe that’s why they’re a man’s best friend. However, if you die in the human form, you have to go through the cycle again. Now while this can be a never-ending process, there’s one thing that can put an end to this. Moksha, or Mukti, is liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth which is known as samsara. The term literally means freedom from samsara and is derived from the Sanskrit word muc (To free).
However, the Egyptians are most known for their beliefs in the afterlife and rebirth. According to Egyptian mythology, three afterlife ideologies existed; eternal life, belief in an underworld, and rebirth of the soul. Not only did they believe the afterlife existed, but they also ensured the deceased had a way of travelling to it. In order to successfully fulfil this requirement, they got creative. From tombs to coffins, the mummification, and finally the offerings; every little step was well thought of, and executed by them. I mean, I don’t even have to sell this to you, mummies are still well preserved and marvelled at by all of us.
Maybe the Egyptians were onto something. For them, death looks more like a celebration of a new beginning, rather than a sorrowful farewell to an otherwise eventful life.
Who You’d Be Today
Now, let’s go back to what I said earlier. I am kind of fascinated by death, yeah, that still feels weird to say. I’m curious about things like the afterlife, heaven, hell, or even purgatory. I don’t have a clear idea about whether any of that exists. But I don’t have the answer to what fascinates me about death either. However, fictional representations have further gone and elevated that fascination for it.
Anyone who’s a friend or knows me too well would know that I love Marvel comics and the tv show Supernatural. And both of these oddly have a visual representation of death. Let me explain.
In the Marvel Comic Universe (MCU), a character named Lady Death or Mistress Death is a literal personification of Death. She has an extensively vast storyline, as every Marvel character does. However, she is most popular for being Thanos’ desired love interest, and the woman responsible for him killing half the universe. Thanos appears to do so as a proof of his love to Lady Death, and while she initiated it, she later tries to stop it. Another fool who happens to be infatuated by her is our favourite mercenary, Deadpool.
Who knew a bunch of near-death experiences could be the best wingman ever? Having been so close to death so many times, Deadpool seems to have developed a liking towards her. And at some point, she seems to have reciprocated too. However, Thanos doesn’t like this and curses him with immortality. We see a version of this exact scenario in the Deadpool video game. Every time he dies, he can only spend a certain amount of time with her. So he keeps dying, just so he can. While this may seem like something out of Marvel alternate universe, it isn’t.
Unfortunately for me, Marvel hasn’t introduced the character in the movies. However, we got the closest thing to her; Hela, the Goddess of Death. Odin’s firstborn, and Thor and Loki’s older sister. She seems to possess the same kind of powers as Lady Death in the comics. From being extremely overpowered, to bringing back her army of the dead. Despite never making it past the Ragnorak movie, Hela was a fan favourite.
But my favourite version of death has to be from Supernatural. According to popular belief, Castiel has had the best introduction. But I think Death did it better. Not only do they introduce this man making his way to his destination in slow-mo, but we also hear a beautiful rendition of O’ Death which somehow makes the scene even grimmer. Do you know what I love about that scene? He drives in a pale grey 1959 Cadillac Series 62 coupe as a nod to him being the Pale Horsemen. The best part? The license plate says “BUH-BYE”. But who is Death?
The Angel of Death, or the Pale Horsemen, he was the oldest and most powerful member of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. When we first meet the character, he is under the spell of the archangel Lucifer. A pivotal character up until Season 10, this ancient primordial entity has existed alongside God since the very beginning. He may be extremely old, and probably looks quite feeble, but he has immense power. But even though this celestial being has so much to him, I love his immortal love for Pizza. How Supernatural has managed to make us root for the “bad” guys, I will never know.
I Laugh In The Face of Death
I’ve often noticed how death, just like many other things, is perceived differently by every single one of us. While most people tend to walk around on eggshells, some of us find reasons to laugh at or enjoy the idea of it.
I came across what now is one of my favourite theories regarding death. A YouTuber named Shane Dawson talks about something called subliminal messaging. We’ve come across a few of them through ads, music, and so much more. But his theory was specifically talking about the dark reality of shows us millennials grew up watching!
These have been around longer, but a lot of these cartoons casually showed death in fun or positive light. He talks about a really out Mickey Mouse cartoon where we see him commit the act of killing himself and failing multiple times. It wouldn’t be as grim for our young minds back then, but now? I’d still laugh at it, to be honest.
We have seen it all. From watching Tom and Jerry killing each other, or themselves to watching a cartoon jump off a cliff, happily screaming freedom. Cartoons back then were fucked up, but it brought to light a theory I weirdly believe in. He believes that because of the subliminal message of the death being fun in our cartoons, we’ve grown up making extremely fucked up jokes about death.
Now, if you know me, you’d know why I believe this theory. But apart from making awfully grim jokes, I’ve across so many people who tend to fit this narrative. Do I think making jokes about something like death is problematic? No, because the only problematic thing is me. But this whole attitude most people have towards death, that’s what makes this trait seem problematic.
Like the Egyptians, Ghanaians celebrate death too. They solemnly believe that because death is a homecoming, and an appropriate celebration is needed. This is where the famous funeral dance meme was born. While the tradition has been around for a while, this fun-filled routine graced our feeds back in 2017. It was when this group got featured in a documentary by BBC Africa. And we now in 2020, they have taken over the meme culture.
But despite all this, what do I think of death?
One More Light
I’ve been hinting towards this from the beginning of this post, but I love joking about death. It probably looks like I don’t respect it, or I’m trying to make light of an underlying situation. Or like most have accused me of before, I want to be ‘try-hard edgelord’.
Here’s the thing, we’ve all come across various examples about how gruesome death can be. While most of these tend to be in the form of historical or current events, I’ve lost a few closer to me as well. Death to me, seemed surreal. It was where everything would end. The suffering, the pain, your life, all of it comes to an end. It’s us bidding farewell to what we once had, and moving on to embrace what we might.
Even though our bodies are mortal, our soul lives on. And that is one of the only things that scare me. What if there’s absolutely nothing after death, just emptiness. I can best explain it by using Supernatural as an example. When Castiel ‘dies’, he is chucked into the ‘Empty’.
What’s the empty?
According to the Shadow, the being that controls and guards it, the empty is a realm that existed way before God and his sister, the Darkness. This was where every angel and demon travels to after they die, and they proceed to sleep for eternity. According to Shadow, no one ever wakes up in the realm. But Cass did (obviously).
And that got me thinking. What if we’re chucked into the empty, and wake up. Are we doomed to roam awake for eternity, or does the shadow put us back to sleep? What if we peacefully bid adieu to our lives, and have nothing to look forward to.
Despite this irrational fear, I don’t look at death in a negative light. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing. Death is often unfortunate, way too soon, and often gruesome. Things aren’t right in the world right now, but that doesn’t mean that death is bad. Death is inevitable and inescapable. I’ve always believed that life is like a play, we walk out on stage, play our part, and then we’re done. So we’re not dead, we’re just waiting our turn for the next time we can come back out.
But this still doesn’t explain why you make jokes about death.
Nothing I say is going to sound like the right answer, so we’re going to stick with saying I have a dark sense of humour and hide my trauma by joking about them. So does that mean I fear death? No. We have already determined what I fear. It’s just funny seeing everyone’s panicked reaction right after.
There’s so much I want to talk about, the trauma, how we truly perceive death, and so much more. But this already feels like a drag, however, let me know if you want a part two in the comments. But if you enjoyed reading this semi-morbid piece, then you can find more of my work here!