I know, you were expecting some thoughtful end-of-the-year blog celebrating all that was good about 2013 and looking forward to the promise of 2014. Sorry to disappoint you; I discovered this morning that I'll be dead someday so I'm feeling a little down about this whole life thing.
According to The Death Clock website I'll be cashing in my chips on July 7, 2032. So in less than nineteen years I'll bid you all a final adieu...unless one or more of a variety of totally unknown things should occur in the meantime.
I guess I just need to watch out for falling pianos...
I didn't wake up this morning pondering my own demise. Everything was going along pretty much like normal. I was in my car, driving to the office and listening to NPR and this segment came on about a new product available in April 2014 called Tikker, The Happiness Watch. According to the Tikker website, "We’re building a watch that counts down your life, in order to make the world a better place!"
Tikker comes in snappy, happy white and, um, black...
Fredrik Colting, Tikker's inventor, is a 37-year-old former gravedigger from Sweden. Let the irony of that sink in for just a minute...
The thought behind Tikker is to remind us to savor life while we still can. In fact, the NPR piece noted studies from 2009 and 2011 that found thinking about death makes people more generous and more likely to donate blood. Not to go all Fox News on you but, in all fairness, Lulu Miller also interviewed Sheldon Solomon, one of the grandfathers of an idea in social psychology called Terror Management Theory.
Listening to Ms. Miller interview Mr. Solomon, I was not encouraged to run out and buy a Tikker. Psychology Today notes that: The terror referred to in terror management theory (TMT) is that which is brought on by the awareness of the inevitable death of the self. According to TMT, the anxiety caused by mortality is a major motivator behind many human behaviors and cognitions, including self-esteem, ethno/religio-centrism, and even love.
Dr. Solomon (Skidmore College) and his colleagues found in their studies that rather than making us more compassionate, knowledge of our own mortality tended to make us more xenophobic, among other things. One example cited during the NPR segment was how a group of Christians began to dislike Jews more when subjected to conditions which highlighted their own mortality. Solomon's research - in collaboration with fellow psychologists Jeff Greenberg (University of Arizona) and Tom Pyszczynski (University of Colorado) - showed that we defend our cultural worldviews more strongly when subjected to death reminders.
Alas poor Yorick...loser!
I'm still trying to get my head around the idea that if I was in the hospital for a risky surgery, according to TMT, I might be getting all bowed up about Jewish folks. In fact, as a Christian, I believe that the Jews were (and are and will be) a pivotal part of Jesus' mission on earth. While I can somewhat understand why some ancient Christians might have looked down on the Jews - after all, it was the Pharisees that begged Pilate for crucifixion - everything proceeded according to God's plan so why dog pile the Jews about it?
In the end (no pun intended), I do tend to side with Colting that my natural inclination if faced with my own mortality would be to get the most out of life in some altruistic way. Still, it's impossible to say just how I would react in those dire circumstances. It's easy for me to look at my own little Death Clock, with nineteen or so years to go, and be relaxed about it. Hopefully, as those numbers dwindle, I will be more apt to have a positive outlook and do my best to help others rather than morph into some sort of xenophobic serial killer.
With that in mind, I could rush out and order my own Tikker for the pre-release price of $59 (the regular price is $79 which illustrates the axiom time is money) but I think I'll pass. Psalm 139:16 says: Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.
It wouldn't matter one bit if I bought a watch that uses some man-made algorithms to determine the date of my passing. God is already keeping an eye on that for me and I just need to treat each of the days I'm given as precious. I don't need any death reminders to do that.
What do you think?