What do Lana Del Ray and Christopher Hitchens have in common?

They both have the same attitude towards death. Del Ray, as many will be aware, thinks that we are all born to die. Hitchens, a few months before his death from cancer said, “Everybody is [dying], but the process has suddenly accelerated on me.” I had heard something similar from a friend in school once, that we’re all born to die.

I don’t know how many people really think this way, but I suspect it’s a fair few people. Whether this thought or attitude bothers them too, I also don’t know. But I do think that it’s extremely wrong.

I find it wrong not because I’m uncomfortable with the idea that all living things will die, but simply because it just makes no sense to me. Yes, we’re all going to die. But if I’m supposedly dying until that point, then what the hell happened to the word ‘living’? Are we ‘dying things’ instead of ‘living things’? Of course not. Living is a process of self-sustainment. When that process stops, then we are dying. I’m not sure if there’s a clear line to say precisely when this happens but I would argue that this happens late in old age. For now it’s beside the point.

Despite the blurry line between living and dying, I can say that the only thing that can die is what was once alive. We don’t say that inanimate objects die, we say that they cease to exist or are destroyed. We use the word ‘die’ or ‘death’ in a particular way to describe what happens to a living thing once it ceases to be living. There is no death without life and there is no life without death. They are two sides of the same coin. And there’s nothing religious about that statement, it’s simply an observation.

A lot of people are scared about dying, it is maybe even something every single human being goes through. In British society today we tend not to talk about it a lot. I think this is wrong and is quite harmful for our mental well-being. Let’s talk about the inevitable, the common thread that unite us all. By not talking about it we are making it harder to confront. And let’s also not view it as something negative, but instead as a privilege even?  An at times terrifying and painful privilege, but still one nonetheless. Because if you are going to die then it means that you are living right now. For many people it is perhaps not so much of a favour, because life is unbearably painful for them. But for the lucky ones amongst us that on the whole enjoy observing events on this spaceship Earth, we can be thankful. Richard Dawkins made the same point much better on a wonderful video about life and how unlikely and random it is. Take a look if you’re interested:

Perhaps a better expression then, would be that “we are born to live and then die”. Lana probably wouldn’t have sold as many records and Hitchens probably wouldn’t have upset as many people if they had both said that, but they both would have been more accurate. 

Advertisements