ACentral Feature of Death and Culture
ACentral Feature of Death and Culture
Accordingto the movie, “Flight From Death – The Quest for Immortality”,the audience is exposed to the glaring reality of mortality and humancharacter. The movie evokes some underlying human characteristics,which struggle to defy death, through examination of alternatives incultural and religious beliefs. The movie asserts that in every humanform, there is a dilemma of pursuing immortality, despite a strongreality on the inevitability of death. Humans live in a paradox,which though identifies death, tries to disapprove its existence bypursuing immortality. However, the process of immortality evokes someof the fundamental human characteristics of fear and despair.
Themovie identifies how humans turn against each other when they feelthat their immortality, or the belief in the same, is provoked. Basedon the movie’s main points, humans will go to extremities toguarantee their transcendent survival. They seek and identify waysthrough which they can extend their lives to immortalities and fightagainst any other force opposed to the transcendent beliefs. Themovie is based on Ernest Becker`s “Denial of Death”. In thisanthropological book, the author maintains that humans exist indualism between the physical and symbolic self. The author claimsthat humans understand the finiteness of the physical self, hencefocus on extending the symbolic self to infinity through sacrificingfellow humans, engaging in extreme violence, and attacking others todemonstrate the superiority and uniqueness of the immortality path.
Themovie depicts humans as inherently immortal-bound, but finds theirfate among mortals, hence trying to break away from the inevitabledeath by exercising extremities and attack on fellow humans, whocreate barriers of ideologies and beliefs. Cultures and religions aresome of the most influential forces towards an individual’s questfor immortality. Gradually, beliefs and faith create irrefutablebeliefs in immortality among humans.
Theyestablish an immortal destiny, which counters the inherent reality ofdeath. However, any person who perceived the beliefs and faiths asmisleading faces the wrath of the humans destined forself-immortality. The cultures embark on creating intrinsicperceptions of human immortality. They perceive any defense action ontheir faith as imminent to elevating them to stardom and heroism.According to Becker’s account of the human mortality dilemma, thereis an inherent denial of mortality (Becker, 1973). This denial isinfluenced by the fact that humans are the only intelligent andrational beings, able to conceptualize their lives and destinies. Thehuman ability to identify and associate life with death causesintrinsic panic, which leads to quests for immortal assurance.
Themovie focuses on observable behaviors during burials, which identifywith immortal symbols to demonstrate the continuity with life of thedeceased. In cemeteries, people fill the graveyards with symbols ofculture and religion. The meaning of the symbols is to establish thebelief in continuity of life after death. Any symbol associated withimmortality is presented and included in the deceased person’slocation of the physical self, as a sign of belief in the continuityof life. The movie shows how human character and relationships areinfluenced by the assurance of immortality.
Wheneveran individual’s immortality is threatened, or belief in the same issubjected to questioning, humans loyal to the belief findopportunities to engage in heroic acts by terrorizing and declaringwar on all opposing forces in order to be guaranteed unconditionalafterlife in immortality. The visions of transcendent realities inimmortalities cloud human principles and perceptions, making themwilling to engage in any form of violence to protect and maintainvisions in afterlife and hope of immortality. Every person feelscompelled to harm a fellow human being in order to prove theexistence of an immortal self once the physical self collapses indeath. Within this argument, the movie shows the unpredictability ofhuman actions once the transcendent beliefs in immortality arethreatened.
Thefact that majority of humans belief in afterlife, creates contentionand conflicts among humans, hitherto bound by moral and mutualunderstanding. One of the movie’s approaches is questioning thecharacter of man, once subjected to the belief that life is mortal,and the only immortal opportunity is under threat. The tests showthat people become subjective towards their personal quests ofimmorality, and will not hesitate to harm others as an act of heroismto protect and uphold belief in immortality. Death and cultures arebound by beliefs and conflicting human natures between mortality andimmortality. While humans understand that death is inevitable, theyperuse through countless strategies to strengthen their transcendentbeliefs in immortality. Cultures introduce the aspects of immortalityand continuity of life. These aspects shape human perceptions andcharacter, leading them to extreme violence to protect their beliefsand prove the superiority and legitimacy of their immortal course.
InLynch’s book, “The Undertaking: Life Studies from the DismalTrade”, the author observed his father’s deep concern for deathas influenced by the fact that death was an inevitable extension fromlife. The book gives an account of one of the practical andtheoretical undertakers, who placed keen interests on death and itsinfluence on the living. In the second chapter, the author observesthe pathetic preparedness of the living in understanding the dead.The author’s observation is that people have commercialized manypractices and programs, making them to appear comfortable andcontented. However, the glaring reality of death’s proximity tohuman lives tends to escape human perceptions.
Inthe book, the author identifies a strong correlation and closerelationship between death and life (Lynch, 2009). Although thelatter appears naturally and appeals to all, the former seemsforgotten until a significant issue affects the living. This meansthat people disregard death, and concentrate more on the dead, ratherthan evaluating their perceptions on death. Death is inevitable.However, people tend to forget the thin difference between life anddeath, as well as the progression towards death with each livingperiod.
Theauthor claims that the dead cannot feel, or appreciate the concernsof the dead, since their physical self have succumbed to death.However, the author argues that people need to appreciate theuniqueness and inevitability of death, hence making it significant tothe living rather than to the dead. Mourning should emphasize on thefeelings and perceptions of the living, rather than being transferredto the deceased, who lacks feelings, perceptions and beliefs.Therefore, death is a concern for the living, which identifies theirmilestones and understanding of death. They get to witness theseparation of a decaying physical self from an unknown symbolic self(Lynch, 2009). This helps in prompting positive living, due to theinevitable belief that death comes closer, with each living moment.
InChristianity, there is an inherent belief in life after death. Theteaching emphasizes on the existence of eternal life to all humanity.However, the religion states that eternal life is separated into twodestinations: heaven and hell. Heaven is a perfect place withinfinite happiness, joy and comfort. The place is guaranteed to allthose who adhere and abide by the word of God. Heaven is a perfectplace for immortality. It offers humans hope in a better andunlimited future (Hui & Coleman, 2013). It separates the humanexperiences from the perceptions of heaven in order to encouragepeople to observe Christian teachings, as one of the ways of pursingimmortality. In Christianity, the inherent denial in mortality iscountered by promises of perfect places, which offer people eternalhappiness, hence convincing and encouraging people to hope for thefuture, rather than embrace death as part of human life.
Additionally,all those people found to have contravened the rules of the lord aredestined to eternal damnation, which is characterized by eternalfire, suffering and pain for the affected groups. In both instances,immortality is assured. The only difference is in the manner in whichpeople will spend their immortal life. Christianity encourages peopleto observe moral and ethical principles. The underlying principles inthe doctrine empower people to be followers of Christ, and executetheir mandates accordingly in order to have an eternal spot amongother saints. The religion creates intrinsic perceptions among itsfollowers that heaven and hell is real, hence promoting theestablishment and conviction in the power of immortality (Tongeren,Raad, McIntosh, & Pae, 2013). Once these aspects propagate,humans are dragged into conflicts of ideologies and find themselvestaking sides to protect their best bet of immortality.
Becker,E. (1973). TheDenial of Death.New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
Hui,V. K. Y., & Coleman, P. G. (2013). Afterlife beliefs and egointegrity as two mediators of the relationship between intrinsicreligiosity and personal death anxiety among older adult BritishChristians. Researchon Aging, 35(2),144-162.
Lynch,T. (2009). TheUndertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. NewYork, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Tongeren,D. R., Raad, J. M., McIntosh, D. N., & Pae, J. (2013). TheExistential Function of Intrinsic Religiousness: Moderation ofEffects of Priming Religion on Intercultural Tolerance and AfterlifeAnxiety. Journalfor the Scientific Study of Religion, 52(3),508-523.