a christian perspective on the world today

How Not to Die

There are many things we want to avoid in this life. Taxes and people with stories about a gastrointestinal illness are two that spring to mind. People also want to avoid death. Some people will argue this point and say, “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to miss the next season of Downton Abbey.” 

Whatever your reasons, you might be interested in the comments of an emergency room physician named Doug McGuff. He has made a list of the best ways for you to avoid death or injury, based on his experiences with people who have failed to do so. 

First, he says, buy a big car. Apparently, if you’re going to be in an accident, the bigger your car, the better your chance for survival. So, fellas, if you’re trying to convince the missus that you need a big, shiny ute complete with bullbars, remind her that it’s only out of tender concern for her safety. Never mind that she needs a stepladder to get up to the passenger door.

Speaking of stepladders, McGuff looks upon them with grave disapproval. He has seen many people who have clambered up ladders with good DIY intentions, only to tumble to the ground with the unwinged grace of a sack of yams. McGuff advises paying someone else to hang those Christmas lights (presumably someone who has less to live for).

The good doctor also recommends that you leave the piloting of aeroplanes to professionals. Of course, that does not fit well with the male ego which figures it can do anything another guy can do, even if the other guy is in a movie and wears a red cape. 

I know a chap who bought a plane and literally taught himself to fly by taxiing down the runway at high speed. It did not end well. One day he called his wife from his mobile and said, “Can you drive down to Cooper Road and honk the horn?” He had crashed in the bush. He didn’t have a scratch, but he couldn’t find his way out of the trees.

Next, the doctor has noticed a large number of retirees coming into his emergency room while building their retirement dream house. People don’t realise that building a home is one of the more stressful things you can do without joining a commando regiment. A conversation that starts with a gentle, “Honey, what colour countertops do you want in the kitchen?” can end two hours later with the woman yelling, “Maybe you’ll be lucky and find that your next wife shares your horrid taste in kitchen surfaces.” 

The startling effect of McGuff’s warnings is that many things you never thought of as dangerous now become scary. Of course, this happens all the time to humans. Cars didn’t even come with seatbelts until someone discovered that it would be better in an accident if you didn’t pop through the windshield like a toasted bagel. 

It is also true that humans often accepted as normal the very same behaviours that later generations admit to be troubling. This was true of slavery and the practice of placing widows on their husband’s funeral pyre. This is why we need a higher standard than that agreed on by the people sitting around us on the bus. We need God to calibrate for us what is good and true and just. Because if we create our own stairway to morality, we are climbing a rickety ladder indeed. 

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