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Joe's Neighborhood

Defeat death today!

3/27/2013

joes1Reading obituaries feels a little like reading the daily racing form at Prairie Meadows. You quickly scan the page to see how many of the departed are your age or younger. If that number is 50 percent or greater, you realize it may not be a good time to double down on the chance you will be enjoying a foot-long hot dog at the State Fair in August. Heck, you might as well even skip that dental appointment later today, and just go to the afternoon matinée. What’s the point of clean teeth when your generation is dropping like flies?

And then there is the disturbing habit of leaving out the cause of death in the obit. You are deprived of the comforting notion that the cause is some obscure disease only contracted between two and three in the morning on Tuesdays while eating broccoli. Instead, you’re fairly certain the cause was death by donut. Why else would that pertinent information be left out of the obituary? And here you are staring at the donut bin at Debbie’s Donut Hole. You are not a good bet.

Fortunately, there is a way to hedge your death with just the right planning. Similar to the idea of Pascal’s Wager. You remember Pascal, that crazy French philosopher and mathematician? Well, he developed a theory based on his concern that you might not believe in a Christian God. OK. He claimed, why not act as if you do believe in a Christian God, even if you don’t. If you’re wrong, no big deal. You’re dead. If you’re right? Everlasting life in heaven. Win-win, according to Pascal’s Wager.

So, the obvious hedge to your death, using Pascal’s Wager — DON’T BELIEVE IN DEATH. Period. If you don’t believe in death, and you actually die, so what? You’re dead. But if you don’t believe in death and you live? Wow, no wasted time reading obits and more time at Dairy Queen. Win-win.

joes2To scientifically critique this theory using the most stringent guidelines, I consulted with the only population that clearly does not believe in death — and, as a result, they live a wonderful life. You could almost say a dog’s life. How do I know this population doesn’t believe in death? Well, they never complain that life is too short. Ever. There is not one peep from them about the fears and concerns of illness or disease — no matter how bunged up they are. Finally, there is not even a belly-ache that all their old friends have dropped off the radar. They’ll gladly fly solo. They just flat-out don’t believe in death.

The first consultee is Lilly. She’s helping me write today. But really, she’s trying to catch the sun coming in the window and maybe entice a belly rub.

Whatever she’s doing, you can bank on this — she does not believe in death. Cat treats? Absolutely, she believes. But even agnostics believe in cat treats.

The star of the death-denial group is Mickey. He’s a thousand years old and a gambler from way back. You’ve seen his like before. He’s the guy at Prairie Meadows who arrives at seven in the morning with an oxygen tank rolling on two wheels behind him like carry-on luggage with the tubing from the oxygen tank threaded around his walker which has a handy cup-holder and a bell. And, yes, he has a perfectly balanced unlit cigarette between his lips as he leans over his beer to play the slots. Forecast to die long ago, he just keeps on playing. And Mickey? Same same. He was supposed to die three winters ago. Bad liver. But he just wags his tail and continues to eat bunny poop on his walks. How can he do this? Duh, he doesn’t believe in death.

joes3There you have it. Pascal’s Wager with a twist. Simple. Either you believe in death or you don’t. I can guarantee that whatever you choose will result in the same end. Trust me.

By the way, today only, you can now order this very program in the all-inclusive “Defeat Death Today” kit. Three easy payments. Offer available exclusively to readers of Cityview. For the rock-bottom price of a latte — a large.

WARNING: Do not operate heavy machinery while participating in this program! Preliminary studies have shown that mixing cars with people who think they will never die can reverse the effects of the Defeat-Death-Today program. APRIL FOOLS

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www.joesneighborhood.com.

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