Yep, I’m going to talk about those things. ‘Cause they’re two important subjects I have not covered! Ahem. It seems to me that there are way too many taboos in modern American culture against talking of those two subjects–sex and death. I have a hard time understanding why. I mean, think about it. These are two of the most important things for humans. Making a new life, and leaving an old life behind. These are gateway moments. They shouldn’t be things that no one wants to talk about. I think it is not only unreasonable to avoid speaking of them, but also unhealthy.
Now, by my observation, Christian culture in particular has a very strong taboo against speaking of sex, while non-Christian culture has stronger taboos against talk of death. This is of course a gross generalization, and I’m by no means saying that every segment of those cultures follows these taboos. But they do seem to be rather prevalent.
First off, why should there be a taboo against speaking of sex? In any culture, but in Christian culture especially. I’m not saying lewdness is okay; it clearly states in the Bible that that’s a sin. However, it seems that Christians treat sex as something mysterious and forbidden. Something completely inappropriate for polite conversation. A word that shouldn’t even be uttered if you can avoid it. Now, does this make any sense at all? Where in the Bible does it say that Christians should act this way? God made sex, like He made everything else. Who are we to say that something He created isn’t appropriate to talk about? What’s more, He decided to make the act of procreation fun and pleasurable. He didn’t have to do that. As I once remarked to a friend, “God could’ve made us bud, like sponges, but instead he gave us something much more fun and exciting.” Now, why do I think the attitude many Christians seem to have about sex is unhealthy? Well, think about it. What is the best way to get someone curious and excited about something? Make it mysterious and forbidden. Most parents, Christian or otherwise, would say that they don’t want their children to be out having sex. Well, don’t tempt them to go and figure out what it is, then! Rather than drawing a fog over the subject, obscuring it, show it in the light for what it is–a gift, which, like the other gifts God has given us (our lovely natural world, for example), should not be abused.
Now, you have to wonder, why is that taboo so prevalent? Well, in a sense, I think it may be a sort of backlash reaction. I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’ brilliant book, Mere Christianity, and he says something in there that I rather agree with. In the chapter on sexual morality, he states that it is his belief that the human sexual desire has grown grossly out of proportion with its purpose. He uses the example of food. Food has a purpose–to refuel the body. Most people like and enjoy eating, and many will eat too much if given the chance. However, most people will not eat excessively too much. Maybe twice as much as they should be eating. But people don’t go around wallowing in it. They don’t take food magazines off to a secret room and sit there salivating over them. If people were to do such things, we’d think them rather deranged. Likewise, sex has a purpose–to create new life. The human desire for sex has clearly grown far out of proportion to its purpose (if you want a much better explanation of this concept, read the book, because Lewis says it way better than I did). I think that therefore, Christian culture tries to suppress this disproportionate desire by covering it up. Refusing to talk about it. Keeping it hidden. But doesn’t light chase away darkness? When did it ever work to make a shadow go away by building a dark box around it? Such will only make it stronger.
This problem is obviously not as prevalent in non-Christian culture, but it seems to me that this culture also has the wrong attitude about sex. I shan’t go into this here, however. Maybe another time. What I will consider, though, is the taboo that non-Christian culture, specially, seems to have against talking about death. In my opinion, this taboo is just as unreasonable and unhealthy as the other.
Again I must ask: why should people avoid the subject of death? Death is just as much a part of life as sex, as eating, as breathing. In a way, death defines life. So much of human life, of the human perspective, the human psyche, is shaped by the knowledge that we will all surely die. The fact of death is so often the proverbial elephant in the room, the one thing that no one wants to bring up. For many people, it’s uncomfortable, depressing, sad. But should it be? Death is just another step in life. Most people believe in an afterlife. Maybe you’re a Christian, and you believe you’re going to go to Heaven. Maybe you’re a Buddhist, and believe that you’ll be reincarnated somewhere and live life anew. It doesn’t matter, for the purposes of this discussion. The point is that the majority of people believe that death is not truly the end. In that light, shouldn’t death be something exciting? Not something to be pursued, but something to embrace gladly when it comes. And because it’s something exciting, why should we avoid talking about it? The only reason it should be a depressing subject is if you’re an atheist and believe that death is the end, that you will just lie in the ground and rot until you’re nothing.
To be sure, the subject of death is often avoided because no one wants to make someone else sad. Someone’s brother or mother or best friend has just died, and so you don’t want to talk of death because you don’t want to remind them of their loss. But does it really help a grieving person to act like the dead friend or relative or whatever is not dead? To act like nothing happened? To pretend everything is all right when it really isn’t? Of course there are different attitudes to take towards death. Be sober or excited about it depending on the situation, but I don’t think you should fear it, or treat it like something horrible and not to be discussed.
It’s unhealthy to be afraid of something that is not fearful in the first place… many people will argue that Death is in fact a very fearful thing. But I don’t think it is. If you truly believe in some sort of afterlife, then why on Earth would you be bothered by the idea of visiting it? People–myself included–don’t want to leave their earthly lives behind before they’ve had a chance to really live them. Very understandable. I don’t think it’s healthy to want or pursue death. But never fear it. Death, in many ways, is a gift. People strive for immortality, but what would be the point in living forever? Is it not likely that you would become apathetic and bored within a couple of hundred years? You’re not going to die, so it doesn’t really matter when you get something done. You have the rest of your life to do it, and your life is forever. Maybe another hundred years or so would be nice. But immortality would be terrible. If you live forever on this earth, then how can you ever meet God?
Thus, it is my opinion that neither sex nor death is a subject to be avoided, treated as awkward, forbidden, or mysterious, or considered unsuitable for polite conversation.
P.S.–I promise my next post will be something light-hearted and amusing. :P Also, I haven’t forgotten about Them Doctors! I just have to figure out what happens next.