Newman’s Nook: Death is Imminent, Don’t Fear It

We are all going to die. Eventually. That’s a simple fact of life – death and taxes are coming for you. Nothing reminds us of our mortality more clearly than the popular (over 6 million downloads and counting) Japanese mobile game Survive! Mola mola (Apple, Android).

screenshotIf you haven’t played it before, Survive! Mola mola! is a game about the ocean sunfish, aka mola mola. In the game, you play the role of a random newly hatched ocean sunfish and you try not to die. That’s the game – don’t die. The game has touch and click controls and you try to survive. You feed the fish varying things, unlocking new and larger things to eat as you progress. You go on “adventures,” which are basically different things the mola mola will do in its life. These include encountering fishermen, swim deeper to try to find more food to eat, and trying to shake off parasites. Yet, in the end – death is always imminent. From the time you are in the egg to the time you get out, death is around every corner. Some mola mola do not survive as eggs – each adult female will lay 300,000,000 eggs at a given time. Some mola mola will choke on shrimp shells. Some will run into rocks, not moving out of the way in time. Death is everywhere and the more you learn about the mola mola’s lifespan, the more you see of death.

After you die in the game, you restart as a new fish. This one stronger and healthier than the one before. Less likely to die from the way in which the previous mola mola died, but still readily prone to death. Death is still everywhere, you are just smarter and stronger than the previous fish. Make no mistake – you will still die.

One of my favorite forms of death in the game. And the most delicious.
One of my favorite forms of death in the game. And the most delicious.

As a human, death is still around every single corner. There are potential muggers. There are diseases. The very air we breath is slowly killing our bodies – as oxygen heavily oxidizes every part of our being weakening it. Cancer is all but certain if you live long enough. Death is imminent and unavoidable. So, what in the world is the point? We’re all going to die, so what are we supposed to do and why are we supposed to do it? Should we fear death?

In the case of the mola mola, the fish doesn’t want to die and obviously tries to avoid it. Sometimes, however, death just happens. They don’t want it to happen, but it does. Sometimes the sight of death causes the mola mola to die. Do they fear it? If they truly feared death would they continue to eat all the things which may eventually kill them? Would they ride head first into human nets because the food looks so delicious? Would they keep diving into the deep knowing it could kill them due to the pressure differences or cold? While they are animals and may not have the same senses we as humans do, they accept a certian level of risk of death knowing that there are still needs which must be met.

In the case of humans we need to ask ourselves – what do we fear? Is death among those things? For many, death is a top fear. They are afraid of the many things which can destroy our frail, human bodies. And let’s be clear – there are a lot of things that can kill us. From falling down a flight of stairs, to a car accident, to a piano falling on your head. Death is all around us as it is with the mola mola, but like the fish we also accept a certain level of risk in life knowing we too have needs which must be met. But, unlike the fish, the fear still can become controlling. It can prevent us from applying to certain jobs. It can prevent us from going on adventures with friends. It can also prevent us from reaching out in faith for missions.

The unknown can be scary, but it’s everywhere. If we lived in bubbles ignoring the unknown forever to avoid death – we’d live as they did in the Dark Ages in Europe. There was no advancement of technology, only spread of disease, pestilence, ignorance, and sorrow.

As a Christian, I should not fear death? Why? Let’s ask the Apostle Paul tell you. In Philippians 1:21-26, Paul tells us about two choices – continuing to live or to die. The choice was not one based out of fear, in Paul’s mind. Dying, to him, was better than living. Why? When we die, we are with Christ. But, he prefers to live now as he can do good work here on Earth spreading the Gospel of Christ. There was no need for him to fear death as he knew his salvation in Christ Jesus was secured. Therefore, what did he have to fear? This knowledge allowed him to live boldly, not fearing death despite its inevitability.

For the Christian, death isn’t so much a thing to fear – but a chance to return home. A chance to be with our maker. The mola mola does not have such hope, but still lives boldly. We should learn to do the same.

Yes, death is around every corner potentially ending this life that we know. Yet, as a Christian I find hope in the faith that this is not the end for me; my story continues in death in Christ.

12 thoughts on “Newman’s Nook: Death is Imminent, Don’t Fear It”

  1. Good article, but I must, as you probably expected, point out the oddness of criticizing the people of the Dark or Early Middle Ages (476 – 800 AD, I presume?) in this context. They knew how ever present the threat of death was precisely because conditions were so violent and medical technology not so advanced. It is rather moderns who try to isolate themselves to the fact of death precisely because there is so little violence and plenty of advanced medical technology. Thomas Merton related in his biography that his family assiduously tried to prevent him from learning about death, even–if I remember rightly–when it came to the death of his own mother.

    And, what do you mean by the spread of ignorance in the Early Middle Ages? Usually, atheists say this in reference to the spread of Christianity in Europe resulting from the work of many important Christian missionaries. Instead, I would say that much Classical knowledge was preserved by monks for later times (even as early as the Carolingian Renaissance beginning at the end of the eigth century) and pagans were rendered less ignorant and less violent by the acceptance of the Faith.

    Still, these medievals indeed endured many more sorrows than we do now, but they were likely happier than most moderns, especially if we consider that suicide was virtually unknown during the Early Middle Ages and is a virtual epidemic now. But, this is precisely because those men hoped for eternal life, while many moderns hope for a steady stream of comfort and pleasure and look for nothing further. But, that very attitude makes it important for articles like yours to be read.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that knowledge, I didn’t know all that about the Middle Ages. I also enjoy learning about ancient history, as it fascinates me that so much has happened (obviously) before I was born. It’s almost like reading a fantasy book to be honest, as the more I learn the more I think “this actually happened?!?!” I too, trust in my eternal life with Christ and when I get stuck on focusing on this life in the here and now, may Christ point me to His glory so I remember why I am here. For more souls to know Christ and His salvation.

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      1. The medieval period is very fascinating for me. In particular, it’s funny to see how much popular history of the Middle Ages is just plain wrong. Speaking of history sounding like fantasy, you might like Thomas Madden’s concise history of the Crusades, which I’ve been reading lately. Just finished the First Crusade, and I find myself shocked by how mismanaged the whole enterprise was, how much the Crusaders did on faith, and that it still worked!

        It is incredibly easy to get sidetracked from the ultimate end of life: to know, love, and serve God in this life and the next. Pray that I stay focused, and I’ll pray for you. 🙂

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        1. Thanks so much. Will be sure to pray for you, and that book sounds interesting. Been actually wanting to read about the Crusades to see what the big deal is. Atheists are always quick to point that out when bashing God and how terrible Christians are, yet they know nothing about it….

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        2. Yes sir, will keep you in prayer. I actually want to learn about the Crusades since it can be a subject that comes up with Atheists sometimes. They just throw that out there with no knowledge of it, but I honestly don’t know anything about it either.

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    2. Thanks for the followup. I must admit my ignorance toward the Dark or Early Middle Ages. I go by what I recall from growing up about the lack of travel and general lack of overall advancement of technology from the era, which was about the bulk of what I learned on the topic growing up. And, that said, I am quite a few years removed from that portion of my education.

      Your point on their understanding of death is fascinating and very true. Death was everywhere, much like it is for the Mola mola. Thanks for the information!

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      1. You’re welcome. The Early Middle Ages were mostly stagnant technologically with a few advances made in warfare, but little else until toward the end of the Viking Age when political order was more firmly established. From there, Europe achieved rapid advances in technology, which occurred partially because of their Christian outlook. Rodney Stark offers compelling evidence for this theory in his book The Victory of Reason, which I highly recommend.

        Yes, medievals were the human equivalent of the mola mola. 🙂 I once had a professor who described the Middle Ages as consisting of “God, death, and dirty jokes.” A fascinating time!

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  2. Death is an interesting topic because, in a sense, I’ve never really been given much cause to fear the cessation of my existence. As Medieval Otaku addressed, we live in an age of relatively little violence and great comfort. Sometimes I come face to face with the fear of my own mortality, but it’s a relatively rare phenomenon. Anesthesia is a chemical that mimics physical death (It creates the nearly complete cessation of consciousness deeper than even sleep) and what going under makes you realize is that atheists have much less to fear from death than religious people do. I went under once and it was like the span of time between taking the drug and waking up simply….didn’t happen. Blink one, blink two and it’s been an hour. It’s only scary if you think about the implications of the event, not necessarily the effect.

    I’m more scared, I think, of either dying without my life having meant anything, or dying in a brutal and unpleasant way. Or dying of Alzheimer’s, my mother’s curse come to claim me. I suppose I get by because I know that if there is an afterlife, I’ll get to meet someone I’ve been waiting to see for twenty-one years. I don’t really care if the outcome is positive or negative so long as that truth remains. If there’s no afterlife, in a sense I might still exist, and “I” will still be with Him. In the minds of others, and in the ideals and fragments of The Great Story that I have spent my life attempting to represent. Those things, I think, will go on until no humans are left, and I am within them, as much a part of them as are the boys who long to be heroes.

    It’s a weird outlook, and not a Christian outlook, but I think how you handle your inevitable death says something about why you choose to stay alive.

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    1. This is way-off in a different line of thought, but….thinking about death makes me have these kinds of thoughts as well. Even if Jesus was not your friend, would it not be the fulfillment of every dream just to meet Him? To see Him. To worship Him in your Heart and glorify Him with your breath. Every atom of you expressing your desire and love. God is not only beautiful because He loves us, because there is Hope. He’s beautiful because He is Beauty, and that is enough, enough for everything that happened. Knowing that it’s real, that it all mattered.

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    2. I’ll be honest, I think we all have fears of dying in an unpleasant way. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s combined took my Grandmother and watching her literally lose her mind, was a sad and frightening thing to see. And we all want to feel meaning, feel purpose. A lot of what Solomon talks about in Ecclesiastes is how purposeless some of our life feels. And he’s right. Much of what we do is pointless, purposeless. But, the one who I find gives me that purpose is the Lord.

      I’m not convinced an atheist would have less to fear than the religious. Imagine true non-existence. Truly ceasing to exist. There is no waking up like anesthesia after time, there is merely nothing. It all just ends. To me, that’s far more hopeless and depressing than the idea of a cosmic deity who will be judging me from on high.

      I think you’re right about how we handle the inevitability of death does say something about why you choose to stay alive and I think that’s a great point which goes right back to what Paul said in Philippians 🙂

      Thanks for the dialogue, Luminas.

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      1. Fun stuff, yeah. 🙂 I could go on for like….hours….about death and religion, but best to see what else we get. ;D

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