From the moment of our conception we race towards our final heartbeat with a crushing sense of certainty that we pretend not to notice, normally with the help of reproduction, or vodka. Lapse out of your strict regime of disavowal for just a second and this certainty seems to threaten your internal organs as though somewhere deep in your stomach hides a slightly lazy black hole, slowly
unravelling your life-force like a ball of wool. We can deny it all we like, but we are obsessed with death and our fear of dying.
I may have just compared death to a kitten with an enormous gravitational field – a sure sign that I am not dealing particularly well with my mortality – but at
least I am attempting to cope with comedy rather than thoughtless hedonism.
There is nothing worse than mixing medicines because ‘you only live once’ and
accidentally mixing clichés, straying into ‘live fast, die young’. Choking on
vomit was not cool for Hendrix so will definitely not be cool for you.
If we cannot slip away in our sleep when we have accomplished all that we wish for (like Hazel in Watership Down, being quietly led off by El-ahrairah – yes I am a loser) all we can hope is that it will be quick, relatively painless and not too humiliating. My heart may not go on but my ego probably will. If I really have to die then I would like to be wearing matching underwear and full makeup. I would not like to be greeted at the pearly gates by Stephen Milligan, an invitation to the ‘embarrassing way out’ club in his hand and an orange segment in his mouth. Although I think I would pick autoerotic asphyxiation whilst wearing nothing but suspenders over the supposed fate of Lupe Vélez. Planning a beautiful suicide scene only to trip in the bathroom, knock yourself unconscious on the toilet seat and drown in toilet water is really, really not cool. Humour somehow eliminates the possibility of empathy.
But it is not just comedic exits that ruin your chance of being remembered for your life. Any kind of memorable death will kill that possibility.
Which leads on, finally, to the point of this morbid ramble: the tragic death of
Horatio Chapple is even more tragic because, like Milligan and Vélez, it will
define him. The people who knew him will be tortured by imagining his last
moments and the people who know his name from the news will see him only as a boy who was killed by a polar bear. As if the events on Svalbard last week were
not awful enough. A seventeen year old boy will never become a man because a starving polar bear was suffering from the side effects of climate change. And unlike the politician and the film star, the schoolboy and the bear were trying to
To conclude my rant, there is nothing funny about global warming. Perhaps we
should dedicate a little less time to worrying about our own deaths and a little more to worrying about the death of the planet. And yes, I know what I am
talking about. I read the first 26 pages of Revenge of Gaia.