Pleasing social technology images around us shouldn’t bind us to them

Heba Yosry
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Despite global efforts to curb the development of COVID-19, the virus so far seems unimpressed by our ability to curtail it and is still threatening lives. Multiple countries are considering lockdowns before the holiday season.

Restoring normalcy might become evasive once again.

The only certainty that one can hold on to in this moment is that we are all perishing beneath the weight of the presence of death. Death has become blatantly present among us, not as a lingering possibility that we can relegate to the realm of “not yet” because of the pervasive presence of coronavirus.

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It’s a reality that some try to ignore, some are imprisoned by, while others try to mitigate it by diligently following all the safety precautions. It is as if by sheer willpower we can overcome death.

COVID-19 didn’t merely heighten the perception that the chance of a visit from the grim reaper is more likely: the pandemic also altered our view of our body.

The ambivalent attitude towards the body didn’t start with the onset of the global pandemic that forced humanity into isolation, fracturing the already fragile social bonds that once united us. The negative perceptions of the body have roots dating back to ancient times. Philosophers such as Plato described the body as a prison and death was the escape towards eternal life of the soul.

One might believe that we have overcome these negative perceptions that were further canonized with the belief in original sin.

Manifestations of the negative attitude have become so enshrined in our collective consciousness that we have become unaware of them and exacerbated by the onset of a virus that can be transmitted as easily as from the touch of a loved one.

We spend our lives connected to the screen visiting places we’ve never been to, making friends that we’ve never met, or perhaps finding the love of our lives and getting married virtually. (AFP).
We spend our lives connected to the screen visiting places we’ve never been to, making friends that we’ve never met, or perhaps finding the love of our lives and getting married virtually. (AFP).

Today there is a belief that the body isn’t limited to being a vehicle of the soul but has morphed into the harbinger of disease and the possible deliverer of death too.

Based on Plato’s dialogues death is an occasion that frees one’s soul from the captivity and limitations of this transient world to a non-illusive eternal realm. In other words, even if the body dies the most important part of the human being will escape from its shackles and dwell among the world of ideas.

Now, we can’t claim to have the same understanding of death as emancipation that we look forward to.

Today, for many, death is viewed through the hesitant eyes of those who lost faith in a post-death narrative, or those who fear their role in this post-death narrative might not be particularly pleasing. We could say that our lives have become consumed with fear and stuck between a fear of life and a fear of death.

In this milieu of dread, humanity has decided to retreat into the illusion that by repudiating the corporeal nature of human beings we can somehow triumph over our fallibility and vulnerability which is at the core of it triumphing over death.

This aim of course is becoming more pronounced and more concrete with the advent of technology that allows human beings to dwell as avatars in their particularly designed universe, while they comfortably slouch on their sofas at home.

When faced with the limitations of our physical existence we have opted to bind ourselves to the shadows of our own minds, shadows that have become so central to our identity that we fear their dissipation.

We spend our lives connected to the screen visiting places we’ve never been to, making friends that we’ve never met, or perhaps finding the love of our lives and getting married virtually. Our captivation with a single image guarantees a controlled and aesthetically pleasing delusion that can occupy us from living.

This has trespassed the boundaries of life and is now expanding to the territories of death.

In the Quran there’s a verse that tells us that before someone dies God lifts the veil from the person’s eyes so they can see things as they are not, and not as they appear to be.

We can choose to bind ourselves to the illusion of the image in life to distract ourselves from being, but when we come face to face with our non-being, we can’t look away regardless of how many pleasing images surround us.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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