Urban people generally do not think about death or reflect on it. They may remember it for a brief time after an acquaintance or neighbor dies, but it quickly fades from their minds during their daily lives. Only those who have lost loved ones have a true grasp of their own mortality. The coronavirus pandemic has created two significant differences in our lives. Firstly, it has forced city life to grind to a halt. Secondly, it has reminded people around the world of their mortality and fear of death.
The daily rush has a drug-like effect, preventing us from focusing deeply on anything. For example, after having a nice meal at a restaurant in the evening, one may quickly find themselves on a subway or bus heading home without even realizing it. After completing a work project, a new to-do list arrives, and in the evening, a glance into the fridge may reveal missing food. At the market, a notification reminds us of our bills. A whole week may go by without realizing it, and if someone asks, “How are you?” the answer might be “I don’t know where the week has gone.” During this rush, it is nearly impossible to remember our mortality.
The television series “Dead Like Me” on Amazon Prime tells the story of an eighteen-year-old girl named Georgia who dies when a toilet seat from the de-orbiting Russian space station falls on her. After her death, she is assigned as an angel of death. Her job is to take the souls of people whose time has come. The two-season drama offers a unique opportunity to question life and death. Georgia is not the only angel of death; there are others, including a character named Betty. Betty takes Polaroid pictures of people before taking their souls. In the fifth episode of the series, she gives Georgia tens of thousands of pre-death photos, filling dozens of shopping bags. This scene is particularly dramatic. It reminds us that we are all prone to losing ourselves in our daily hustle and bustle, forgetting that we will die one day. If this series depicted reality, we might find ourselves in one of Betty’s polaroid photo bags one day, ending the life we care so much about. Fortunately, Betty takes pictures of the people whose souls she has taken so that someone will remember them fifty years after their death.
We only judge what is right and wrong by time. Taking something that is not ours is stealing, but until we get caught, we might think it is the right thing to do. For example, during the protests after the death of George Floyd in America, a few opportunists ransacked shops and stole goods. During the protests, cameras captured one person stealing a big television screen in New York. This person may have believed that what they did was right while watching the TV that they stole. However, two months later, when the police identified the thief from the camera footage and went to his house to arrest him, he realized he had made a big mistake. Many things may seem right in the short run, but in the long run, they may prove to be wrong.
Knowing the time of our death can have a huge impact on our decision-making. There is a big difference in our to-do lists between dying the next day and fifty years later. Moreover, the existence of a reward and punishment system affects the decisions we make. Reflecting on the concept of death with the coronavirus pandemic and “Dead Like Me” has led me to review most of my choices.
Whether we believe in the existence of heaven or hell, it will not change the result. Not believing in gravity does not change its existence, and the same is true for death.