Four years ago, I was on my way to university to present by thesis when I got stuck into this enormous traffic jam in Barra. Usually at night time, the traffic there gets pretty heavy, but in that day particularly, it was so huge that I ended up stuck into that bus for more than three hours, in a course I usually take about 25 minutes to do. Not even in during the carioca réveillon I would get stuck in such calamitous traffic jams.
There just had to be a reason for that, and soon passengers started accessing their cellphones to know what happened where. An accident, no doubt... but what kind of accident? As soon as we got curious, people began speculating on what was going on for us to be in such situation: some were gossiping that a controversial Brazilian R&B singer was murdered for his involvement with drug dealers. All drivel.
Our bus driver was eventually communicated by the central that there was an accident in Gardênia Azul, resulting in a death and the subsequent massive traffic. It wasn't going to get any better so soon, so I had to abandon the bus and make my way to the university on foot. I was frustrated, terribly late, sweaty and angry with the poor configuration of our city roads, that wouldn't give drivers other options around Barra, resulting in such insane traffic jam.
And only after some time, I came to the realization: a man just died. A man lost his life while I was comfortably sitting in a bus with air conditioner.
I lost my first class that night, but the victim lost everything
. He (or she) was the reason all that mess started, but I soon found myself sympathetic with the victim. In our daily struggle, we don't realize our own mortality, and how we could be gone at a moment's notice.
The reason I've been thinking of such rather morbid story these days is because less than a week, Emma Morano - the last person alive to have been born in the 1890's - died. When I heard such news, I was sad because she and other centenarians give us a certain illusory hope that we can live forever... but we can't. And eventually, I realized that, for all her impressive longevity, her death was the same as anyone else's death. There are differences in the way we die, but ultimately, we all have to check out at some point. And this is the thing that goes unnoticed: that we die.
I'm not dwelling into metaphysical discussions if there's anything after life or not: I'm an agnostic, so I give myself the luxury of saying I don't know. But just the fact of not knowing can put you in a situation of having a different outlook on life, on being alive, to experience this reality that might as well be our only one.
In the book "South Park and Philosophy: You Know, I Learned Something Today", professor Karin Fry said there is something philosophical into the many deaths of Kenny, for in their banality and the sudden way they take place, there's a message about our own mortality, and how it could happen any time, anywhere. But I would also point out the indifference of Kenny's friends over his many deaths: this complacency somehow reflects the real life as well, specially in the big cities where many people die per month. We are so overflowed with information about deaths and dying - such as that by Emma Morano - that we grow accustomed to it, to the point we don't think about it. So it's not that it's something that it's not mentioned: quite the contrary, it's something we get in abundance.
We hear of death a lot, so we get used to the idea of death very quickly, to the point of indifference. In that bus, my indifference wasn't the only one, as others there too were more concerned to get wherever they wanted than to realize someone had died. Afterwards, the situation reminded me of "Y Tu Mama Tambien": the two protagonists are in a similar situation - stuck into heavy traffic caused by a traffic death. The narrator then tells the history of the man who got killed: he was a person, who lived, breathed and had parents, just like the real life. A person who existed for the sake of existing, and not for the sake of being a reason for some traffic jam.
Nevertheless, I was once through a situation in which such indifference was even more explicit. I remember I was in a bus at a traffic jam on a reveillon, and then there was an ambulance struggling to get by the cars; one man right next to me was annoyed by the loud sirens, and he just said "let the guy die already! We're not going anywhere in this traffic!" That was classy: he would rather think about his ears than in the next man's life.
I'm not saying that death in Gardênia Azul traumatized me: I don't mean to say that every death needs to be analysed deeply like this. It's just that we as people don't like to think about mortality, the implications and ramifications of it. We like to think lightly about death, because once we think about it deeply, it becomes scary, disturbing. This light view on dying may be then a natural mechanism of our brains for us to think more about our lives, instead of our deaths. This creates a desensitization of death, which once again may be natural, specially in our day and age of infobesity.
In the 90's, Trent Reznor brought the mansion where a pregnant Sharon Tate was murdered with her friends. He named the place "Le Pig", based on a writing the murderers left in the wall with her blood, and he made the place into a recording studio for Nine Inch Nails. Apparently, he thought that was a "dark place", since those deaths gave it a spooky vibe interesting for his work. However, Sharon's sister once confronted him about how he was apparently enjoying all that experience. And then he came to realize the whole situation: he saw the family's side. Sharon Tate was a human being. She was pregnant. Lives were destroyed that night: in and out that mansion. He reportedly cried that night
. Like me, he saw the deaths from another angle... and this is saying more than people who chose to ignore such angles because it's so much easier to do so.
We don't need to get all sentimental and philosophical every time someone dies: this is not the way the world is supposed to work. And we don't need to get all serious about death when it comes to fiction or entertainment. But it would be nice to realize at some point that life and death are much more complex than our daily triviality. And understanding that is the first step towards valuing our own lives.