Thursday, September 07, 2006

Morbid Reflections

Though I haven't seen the actual document, I am told that someone in Al Qaida or some such group has spelled out why he believes the cultural West is doomed to lose the so-called "War on Terror," why the West, in fact, is fated ultimately to be supplanted by fundamentalist Islam.

He writes, and I paraphrase, "You infidels of the West, you love life and fear death. We Muslims, however, do not fear death. We love it, and we embrace it. You are afraid of us killing you, but we aren't afraid of you killing us. Therefore, you will lose (in spite of your far superior weaponry) and we will win."

The guy, whoever he is, has a point. We in the West do love life, and fear death. It only seems natural to us. But is it natural? After all, death is "natural." It's part of our design; we were "made" to die. You could even say that we were born to die. Yet we can't make peace with this circumstance. We don't want to die, we want to live. This mindset affects us, even, or maybe even especially, if we are unselfish. We don't want our loved ones to die any more than we want ourselves to die-- in some cases, we want them to live more than we want ourselves to live.

Fundamentalist Muslims, on the other hand, don't think twice about their children being "martyred." Parents of suicide bombers celebrate wildly when their sons (and sometimes daughters) blow themselves to smithereens. Such a reaction is utterly foreign to us. No matter how much we console ourselves that a deceased loved one is "in a better place," more often than not we don't actually believe it. At the very least, we have grave doubts.

For the last few months, I find that I have been "much possessed by death," constantly seeing "the skull beneath the skin," as T.S. Eliot once wrote. Nothing dramatic has happened to provoke these morbid thoughts. But then is death itself really all that dramatic? It's just something that happens, everyday, everywhere, in many different ways. Death seems like an exotic thing to us, but in fact it is anything but exotic. It should be a very familiar thing. We should know it intimately. Yet somehow we are unable to comprehend it. Is this state of being the result of immersion in a hedonistic, affluent, secular culture? Somehow I think it is.

Somehow, we have to learn to become like the fundamentalist Muslims, only better. We have to be able to conceive of death as a thing not to be feared, in fact, as a thing to be embraced, even loved. At the same time, we must retain our appropriate horror towards murder and mayhem, which fundamentalist Muslims also appear to embrace and love, at least when they are the perpetrators.

I'm not sure this can be done. We are too weak-willed, too indulgent, and most importantly, too lacking in faith. The vultures are circling around us, we know it, and we know there's nothing we can do about it. We are only able to console ourselves with platitudes about a "better place," pious utterances we don't even actually believe. Good Lord, how wretched we have become!


Post a Comment

<< Home