Thursday, 14 November 2013

Django, Drag Your Coffin

Recently I've gone on a Spaghetti Western adventure. There's something about the five o'clock shadows, the surreal camera angles, non-verbal heroes, and the blaring trumpet and jew's harp soundtracks that are so entrancing. Recently I'd come across the movie Django. I owned a copy of A Few Dollars for Django and Cjamango (billed as Django: Kreuze im blutigen Sand in my copy) already, and not having yet seen Tarantino's Django Unchained, I knew I wanted to check out the original. Django was released in 1965 following on the international success of Sergio Leonie's A Fist full of Dollars. Like it's predecessor, it was filmed in Spain and featured a mysterious stranger that wanders into town. This newcomer arrives with a seemingly secret agenda that ends with all the power brokers dead, some innocents saved and his objectives achieved. Django is a demobbed union soldier who arrives dragging a coffin. When asked who is in the coffin, he merely answers 'Django'. A man who carries his own coffin. This is a powerful image that leaves a strong impression on the viewer.

The reason I find this to be such a profound trope is that the older I get the more I realize that life is richer and more precious when we accept our mortality. Those of us in the first world live our lives in denial of our mortality. Where as our cousins in developing countries see each day of life as another victory against the ever present grave, we see death as a rude intruder that will one day wrongfully bring our life to an end. When their children survive into adulthood it is a blessing, when our children die young it is a crime against nature.  For them death is a part of life. For us death is something alien, a force that needs to be ignored until we can't escape it anymore.

Sadly, when we deny our mortality we  can tend to lose sight of what's important. We begin to live under the illusion that we have all the time in the world. We can invest our time in things that are good and get caught up in the urgent, postponing the things that are important for another day. Sadly things die and we can find ourselves living in regret when we realize it's too late.

As a minister of religion there are many times when death has been part of my job. I've prayed with the dying, sat with the family as they've grieved and held the hand of a person as they've left this life. I've performed funerals and scattered ashes. I've come to realize that death is actually our daily companion and  I've had to work out the things that are truly important. People are more important than things, family is more important that work, what you can give is better than what you can gain. I imagine that when I'm on my death bed it will be the way I've loved the people in my life that will matter not the things I've amassed.

An important fact of life is that death is our constant companion. Although we like to pretend that we are immortal, the time of our demise can come at anytime. Jesus of Nazareth said 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8: 34).' Jesus was under no illusion that the life worth living was one that embraced death. He encouraged all that would follow him and his vision to see that death was an ever present companion. In fact the way to life was to die to those things that seem to be important and invest in those things that truly are. Hanging on his own cross, I don't imagine Jesus regretted standing up for the outcasts of society and wishing he'd made more money in carpentry. He'd chosen wisely and his death and resurrection would change the course of history .

 Like Django we need to drag our coffin behind us everyday. Not a literal coffin but the constant awareness that life is short and that we need to make the most of the time we have. This means prioritising our dreams, choosing the best over the good, cherishing family and friends and enjoying the journey. Like Django, dragging our coffin behind us may be the secret to our success in life.