In today’s Metro newspaper there is a brief interview with Sir Michael Caine, who is currently promoting his latest film, ‘Is Anybody There?’. I’ve not seen the film, but what really grabbed my attention was Michael’s answer to the interviewer’s pertinent question about death.
Do sombre films about dying make you think about your own mortality?
I never think about my own mortality. No, no, you must never do that. I always have so many plans for what I’m doing. I’ve behaved my entire life as if I’m immortal.
Clearly Michael Caine doesn’t like to think about death, but it is the only certain thing in his life. Whether or not he will win an oscar for his performance is unknown. Whether or not he will be in the next batman film is unknown. That he will die is known. It saddens me that he deliberately and consciously chooses not to ponder or prepare for this eventuality.
It’s not an uncommon way of living. In day to day life, I suspect most of us behave as if we’re immortal. Death is not something we like to think about, so we simply don’t think about it. Maybe this is because people want to avoid the unpleasant. Maybe many think there is nothing we can do about death, so there is no point wasting time thinking about it. Neither are good reasons to not think about one’s own death.
We should never avoid the unpleasant simply because it is unpleasant. Many things which are beneficial to us are unpleasant. The child who refuses to eat vegetables will end up with a vitamin deficiency. The person who refuses to exercise finds themselves unable to run for a bus. While there is obviously no point in looking for unpleasantness for its own sake, avoiding it for its own sake is equally foolish.
Poor as the first reason is, the second is much worse. There is something we can do about death. But first we must consider what death is. Death is the absence of life. No surprises there. But what is life? Jesus said life was more than having a heartbeat, more than filling and emptying our lungs with a multiplicity of gases. He taught that life is knowing God. If He was right, then death is not knowing God, and its nature changes radically. It doesn’t take a genius to see that we don’t inherently know what God is like, let alone know Him personally (just look at the many and varied gods people have worshipped over the years). Rather than knowing we will die, we find out we are already dead! But Jesus said more than that. He said He could give people eternal life – an eternity of knowing God. Indeed, this is the very reason Jesus was born and died, and the means by which we are enabled to know God’s love.