How Spoiled We Are
If you like the wonderful British novelists of the XIX century (Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope & Co.), or even if you are a bit interested in the past, you’ll know already that in the past, premature death was – unfortunately – a much more frequent affair than it is today.
I do not bore you with the countless examples in said literature – suffices it to say, people could predict which people could make it to a ripe age, as a sickly child or weak teenager knew his chances were rather bad -, but you might be more familiar with some of the great of the past. Beethoven died aged 52, Chopin 39, Bizet 36, Mozart 35 and the great, great, great Franz Schubert 31.
It would seem, only two centuries ago death was everywhere. Birth (for women of course, and children), disease and war were constant dangers, and the premature farewell to this valley of tears an ever-present possibility.
No rosy and healthy young wife could tell you she wouldn’t be dead in less than 12 months’ time, whether of birth or disease. People knew it, and lived with it as with something both natural, and God-given. Again, we see it in the novels of the time – in their sum, certainly a very accurate portrait of the reality of the times – and this reality must have been full of uncertainties if even in the Sixties of the XIX Century – when the medical advancements had been plentiful – Trollope could put in his character’s thought the doubt that perfectly healthy people could live for long; with which he expressed what must have been generally felt as the ever-present possibility that even young and healthy people might be carried away in a short period of time.
Why do I say this to you? Because the Trollope book I am reading – boy, the chap was good! I am astonished he should be so comparatively underappreciated nowadays – reminded me of a trailer of a movie I never saw, in which Nicole Kidman performs a mother struggling to cope with the death of her own child and – it appeared from the trailer – becoming blasphemous in the process.
It stroke – and strikes – me as shocking what absence of historical perspective must be necessary to not even write, but even think such screenplays. Nowadays, life is a man-given right, and his end an unforgivable offence. This world is the centre of everything, and therefore the end of the life on this world as a little child not the promotion to an infinitely better one, but something to be grieved to the point of hating the One to Whom this life is due in the first place. The same belief in God is negated when one doubts the goodness of the God he still says to believe in. You can’t really believe in a cruel Christian God unless you are seriously, seriously disturbed. If you believe in the Christian God, you know He loves you. If you doubt this, you doubt His very existence, and make a cruel joke of Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection. If you blaspheme Him because of what you are supposed to know comes from Him, you make a fool of yourself.
We are extremely spoiled in this day and age. Thankfully, we enjoy unprecedented health and a life expectancy that would have been a dream only two generations ago. Sadly, this has gone together with a
. I do not blame the medical advancement of course, not do I think that better life conditions made people less religious – it being very obvious that some of the places with most comfortable life conditions are among the most religious -. What I think is that the shifting of the attention to the life below led to the loss of the very meaning of both the life below, and the one above.
I blame the mentality which infected the country from – say; at least as much as one can say such things – the Sixties, a mentality which encouraged people to think that their human condition here below – not their eternal destiny up above – is in the end what really counts.
Seriously, a society which makes of child death a reason to justify blasphemy – and I do not know whether this was the content of the film, of whether it ended with a more Christian message; but you could notice the trailer strongly leveraged on these feelings – is a society which must still learn to understand the first things about life and death. I compare the movie with the reaction of the presidential candidate Santorum to the death of his child, and see the difference between a Christian and a secular world; though I do not doubt for a moment the Santorums will carry their loss with them to their grave.
How spoiled we are. How misled by bad shepherds feeding us theological double-entendres meant to appease us whatever out thinking, and to dance around truth without ever touching it (how about this: “all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown.” You can immediately see the two ways in which it can be read. Ah, what masters of flattery the Conciliar Fathers were…..). Secularism polluted the entire Western world and instead of fighting it, the Church was polluted Herself.
We live longer and longer, but in our attitude to death we become more and more like little children who understand nothing and ask their parents in the hope of answers they will, if they are lucky enough to get them, not understand.