Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Confronting Death

Throughout our reading and discussion of Heidegger, the issue of death as our only singularized experience and one that we will be unable to know seemed hard for me to grasp. On a day to day basis, the thought of death rarely plays a role in my decision making. The logic seems right- that if we consider our death and the limitation of time, our decisions will be to better our life and try to make it as meaningful as possible. Yet the focus on death, the importance of that decision, and the angst that Heidegger speaks of would make it hard to find the happiness derived from that decision or the joy of the single moment.

This idea of death made me start thinking about the movie Meet Joe Black. In the film, Bill Parish leads an extraordinary life. He is head of a multi million dollar corporation, he has a loving family, and the means to fund just about any desire. Coming into his 65th birthday, Parish receives a visitor: Death. Death, Joe, has taken form as a human being. In return for a chance to experience life, Joe will grant Parish more time to live. The movie is a great example of the extreme angst that comes with the idea of death and weighing one’s options. Parish resembles the authentic being. He is staring at Death in the face and recognizes his days and decisions are limited. In the beginning, Parish acts bitter and hateful towards Death, which I believe is a cover to hide the anxiety of the end.

If I were to think of death’s possibility, there would put a lot of pressure on a single decision, whether it be big or small. In the reaction to those decisions, I don’t feel that I would be content with any decision. First, I feel that it would be hard to find satisfaction in the decision that was made. There would be the constant thought and search for something better or greater that could potentially enhance ones life more than the final decision. Second, I feel that I would struggle to accept the decision without looking back. One would be more likely to regret the outcome if it turned for the worse rather than focusing on the issue and learning from the experience. In the movie, Parish conducts his life without the idea of death present in his decisions. Yet in the end, finds courage to leave his mark and his company as signifiers of his life that may not have happened otherwise. It made me wonder whether the idea of death had to be present in order for people to find that courage and whether or not it was a good thing to think about on a daily basis.

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