I watched an episode of “Dark Tourist” on Netflix last night in which the host(?) of the show went to Mexico to talk to and observe practitioners of a religion called Santa Muerte. What he witnessed, or at least showed onscreen, was not the sinister death-worshipping cult of the kind that the Catholic Church condemns, but a bunch of people smoking weed, having a good time, eating delicious-looking food and not fearing death.
It’s a very cursory, superficial glance at what appears to be a deeply-rooted movement, one I admittedly know zilch about, but I felt inspired by the idea that death is not something we should fear to the point that we miss out on what life has to offer.
Fear of death is a staple of many religions; it’s their bread and butter. Death is scary and you’re going to hell unless you do as we say, many of them tell us.
We make a monster out of death. We do this because no matter how far we’ve advanced, no matter how “enlightened” we feel we’ve become as a species, death is still the ultimate mystery. No one knows for sure what exactly happens at the moment we check out. But we all do check out, eventually. I personally find the idea terrifying, and I think that’s why I’m drawn to movies and music and literature with morbid overtones. Those things demystify death for me; assuage my fears of it.
It’s a cathartic coping mechanism. So yeah, I get it. It’s taking something we all fear and taming it. Accepting it. Molding it into something we can fool ourselves into believing we exercise some kind of control over. Embracing it.
Now, I personally eschew the idea of “cults” and group thinking in general, but the Catholic Church should perhaps put as much effort as they apparently do warning people about Santa Muerte into not being a pedophile factory. The Catholic Church fully endorses the fucking of children by its leadership. Bold statement, I know, but if you routinely, as an institution, facilitate and cover up pedophilia, that to me is an endorsement of that kind of sick behavior. So pump your brakes, Catholic Church. Work on removing the beam from your own eye before focusing on the mote in someone else’s.
One can learn some fundamental truth or take something useful away from any religion, when viewing it objectively, and Santa Muerte is no different. What’s wrong with not fearing death? It’s coming for us all, but why live in fear of it? I, for one, want to enjoy life without fear. That appeals to me. That’s what I took away from what I saw on “Dark Tourist.” It’s possible to shed one’s fear of death and I find that comforting.