When Chris was answering a question about the role of TV in modern life I was thinking of something I never really thought about before: the idea that television (and, of course, movies) is giving us about dying. I am not so much referring to the well-known fact that the average TV hour shows a lot of killing but more to those scenes where somebody is in the process of dying, either because of being killed or being sick or for any other reason. You see somebody, perhaps in the arms of a beloved person, speaking the last words and then passing away.
Remember, that we are living in a culture which is in almost totally ignorance of death and dying (despite the thousands of theatrical deaths we’ve seen). Who, if living in a Western society, has witnessed the process of dying? For me it took 40-something years to be with a dying person for the first time. The experience was profound. I felt a peace of mind I probably never felt before or after. I am not a religious person, I neither believe in any gods nor reincarnation and am particularly suspicious of soteriological belief systems, meaning: I was not waiting for such an experience.
And when I find myself watching the average TV show, I am often estranged by the fact that nothing of my experience is matched by a death on the screen. By comparison the screen event is hollow at best and much more often only transporting the sad part of dying.
Maybe it is impossible to do it different because a camera can never fetch, what is going on during dying. But as we are very ignorant about the real process: what wrong images of dying and death do we get by knowing them only from TV or the movies?
After I thought about this I noticed that it might be the same with childbirth. I do have no kids and I never witnessed a birth. What wrong impression about that might I have caught over the decades?
Thanks for reading.