Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Death Isn't Such a Big Deal Anymore

I think I'm onto something, but I don't know what.

During the past several years, it seems to me that a greater number of prominent figures have been dying than when I was younger. I know, that's what happens when one ages.

That's NOT it, though! No, I believe that there really are many more well-known people dying today than when I was a youngster...many more, as in orders of magnitude more.

As a consequence, the death of prominent figures has grown commonplace and not as jolting as it once was.

I'll tell you why! There are just more of us around and, in particular, MORE PROMINENT PEOPLE! That's right, there are many more people today that command our attention than in the past. When I was growing up, only a select few got to be famous. Today, everyone is; well, almost everyone.

Television, radio, the internet, and all the internet-based streams of information are flooding us with enormous volumes of information, much of which involves "special" people like actors and actresses, musicians, politicians, etc., etc. The simple fact that there are more media with lots of space to fill is encouraging this. Think of Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, the slackards who play on TV "reality" shows, NASCAR drivers, famous dog-fighting football billionaires, technocratic philanthropists with bad livers, and all the others who do not have any predecessors...they are the "new prominents" that are filling up our newspapers, magazines, computer screens, and water-cooler conversations. There are simply more prominent people, people who die and who, because they are well-known, create a media buzz when they "expire."

The result of this mushrooming growth of the prominently departed? Death isn't as big a deal as it once was. Sure, Michael Jackson's death brought about a media circus, but his departure from the land of the living was the exception, not the rule. We're just becoming desensitized to death.

Funerals aren't what they once were. We're becoming immune to the grief brought on by public figures' deaths. We no longer really care that someone like Walter Chronkite died; we muss around a bit and cough out a few expressions of appreciation for his life, but we don't grieve. Not like we used to. Or, I should say, they used to. Somebody used to really care. Now, it's just another adrenalin rush in front of the television or, more likely, a flush of joy at being among the first to get the word by Twitter or on Facebook.

We have a new attitude toward death because there are so many more people we're exposed to who have a 100% chance of dying. If their deaths don't give us chills up and down our spines, deaths of more "normal" people won't even be noticed for long.


Kathi D said...

William Shatner is a trending topic on Twitter today and the first thing everyone thought was, "He's dead!" but actually he has done a genius reading of Sarah Palin as beat poetry.

KathyR said...

"Everything dies, baby, that's a fact."

This post gave me a Springsteen earworm.