A friend recently sent me the video of Ricky Gervais’s Golden Globes introductory speech. Though much of it contained foul humor, I must admit I found the other parts hilarious. There’s a meme circulating showing Tom Hank’s look of disgust compared to Adam Driver’s of pure delight. The meme credits Driver’s look to his time in the military. As an Army veteran, I can attest to the fact that dark humor is in the water. Joking about things like death and the ill fates of others is a temptation that I often find myself giving in to. My wife often has to explain to people that my making fun of them means I like them.
However, Gervais laid a line that struck me, but not because it was funny. When some might have begun to show some discomfort in response to his jokes, he told them to lighten up because, in his words, “We’ll all be dead soon and there is no sequel.”
Maybe it’s my dark sense of humor, but I find myself taking the same tac quite often. When I find myself worked up about something, 98% of the time, it’s something that needn’t be a source of anxiety. The way I walk myself down from the mole hill made mountain is to remind myself, “you’re gonna be dead soon.” When our daily “problems” (I’m thinking about things like others’ opinion of us, traffic, being offended by pretty much anything, anything to do with social media etc.) are seen with the dark backdrop of death in view, they tend to shrink and even disappear.
Of course, I don’t start with death. First, I start with the fact that all my days are numbered by God. No amount of worry or kale will change the day set for my appointment with the face of Jesus. Since that’s true, I have learned to accept my inevitable death with a relative degree of peace, at least when I’m thinking about it in the abstract (I’m not immune to utter panic when turbulence shakes my airplane). Then, I think about what comes after death. This is where Gervais’s speech and Christianity take a sharp, 180 degree split. For us, there is a sequel and that is the key. Behind the backdrop of death, is the bright horizon of God’s smiling face.
The fact that we will all be dead soon is a salve for so many interpersonal problems, if not for all of them. What is a slight by your spouse, or an overlooked accomplishment by your boss, or a harsh word from your parent, in light of unending bliss in perfect interaction with the eternal God of all creation? If I’m going to behold the very face of God tomorrow, what’s the use in hashing out an hour long conversation with my wife because her tone was slightly less than angelic today? Or her eyes did half a roll when she saw me throw my socks three feet short of the hamper (I’m no Kobe Bryant)?
Of course, we all deal with relational issues more serious than these. But, in comparison with our future, our relational issues really do devolve into trivially trite liturgies of self-importance. “The way you said that really hurt my feelings.” “Well your actions prompted my response because my life is just so hard right now and I can’t handle your hurtful actions.” “You think you’re life is hard? Consider how hard mine is by comparison.” “Ah, yes, let’s devote the next 6 hours to analyzing how horrible our middle-class American lives are and getting mad at each other and the world.”
It’s interesting that Gervais seems to have his hand on the pulse of something so true, while missing the elephant in the room. He’s right that all people die, and the more time that goes by, the faster that day approaches. But, he’s wrong to think that the absence of a (much better) sequel solves the problem. In fact, the opposite is true. If there is no heaven or hell, why not be offended by everything you don’t like? If this life is all there is, why not try to make it as perfect for yourself as possible? Naturalistic evolution is inherently selfish. Only the perfect life of Christ breaks the selfish cycle of inward obsession. Once we accept His perfection in place of our own sinfulness, we can look forward to His blessings and look past these “light and momentary afflictions.”
So, the next time someone does something you don’t like, consider letting it go and reminding yourself, “I’m gonna die soon.”