Friday, September 08, 2006

Die Doing What You Love

Two Australian icons have died within a week of each other. Steve Irwin and Peter Brock. Both deaths have come as a shock; a shock enhanced because of the close proximity in time as well as the fact that these two men were so well-known, generally liked and, as I have said, iconic.

Both men died doing what they love. Steve in the ocean; Peter in a race car. Some have said that the fact that Steve died doing what he was so passionate about in life made the death, in some ways, less tragic. It seems that people are already saying the same about Peter.

But does it really matter "how you go"? Is a death less painful to those to whom the death actually matters (while most of us are in the deliciously round-eyed 'isn't it tragic?' stage, there are some people who are genuinely mourning these two men) if the person "dies doing what they loved"? It certainly makes for sensationalism (now even more-so, since there are two of them) and better news headlines. It makes for great quotes beneath pictures of mourning relatives.

What if they hadn't been famous? What if Steve had been your average-Joe who loved diving? When a uni student was attacked by a shark off the coast of SA (last year, I think it was) while on a research trip for uni, I don't recall anyone saying he died doing what he loved, even though he did have a passion for the ocean (although, now that I think about, maybe they did. It's certainly not said of the average shark attack, though.) Perhaps it's the nature of the death. A shark attack, being somewhat more violent and gruesome than a 1 in a million chance of getting it in the heart from a stingray you are swimming with, is hardly what anyone loves/loved to do. Would this phrase "died doing what he loved" still be said of Steve if he had been mauled by a crocodile in a prolonged and vicious attack?

What if Brock had been your average Australian petrol-head who loved to thrash? (And yes, I know that word, 'thrash', will evoke a reaction with certain readers.) I doubt it would have made world news, to begin with. But would people close to that person find comfort in the fact they "died doing what they loved"?

It reminds me a little of the movie Point Break with Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves; Swayze's character most certainly (and classically) "died doing what he loved."

Does it matter how you die? Would someone ever say "she died doing what she really liked?" Do you have to be passionate about something on the verge of it being an obsessive love affair before someone would say "she died doing what she loved"? Being morbid, for a moment, I don't think there is anything I'm THAT passionate about. Sure, I can think of ways that I wouldn't like to die; anything that lasts for more that a few seconds would probably make the list.

What about you? Is there something about which you would say "That's how I'd like to go"?

Captain Ponderer, blogging, as usual, during the break before her last class for the week.


Anonymous said...

Terry Pratchett had a character die this way in Thief of Time, and it sounds good to me.

A giant vat of Chocolate. Me, with a spoon, on a diving board, above said vat of chocolate.

Aubrey said...

Great post, Ang. Our reactions and comments to death, particularly tragic deaths of persons we recognize but do not actually know, tend toward pathetic platitudes that help no one. Death, in nearly any form, shocks us. Deep within, it awakens our own mortality and vulnerability, whether it was a violent cutting of a young life or the slow aging of a dear family member.
That being said, I prefer long life over a short one, using every day in what I love over merely existing. And as your friend Emma said, a vat of chocolate wouldn't be the worst way to go.

Liz said...

ok, here i go again. let's see if it works this time....

this is a very thought-provoking post, ang. i've always told my family that if i die while traveling, then they should take comfort in the fact that i died doing what i love. i don't know what that means, or if it will actually comfort them in any way, shape, or form if the unthinkable should occur; but for some reason it makes me feel better. and on that very morbid note, let me just say: great post.