Speaker unabashedly addresses death in numb culture


Photo by: Sabrina Ariss

How does culture play a role in society’s ability to react to and express suffering, evil and death? Students and faculty gathered in the Gentile Gallery on March 22 for the 3 p.m. lecture to hear the answer to this question in a deep discussion on the current state of society.

The talk, “Sickness unto Death: Suffering, Evil and Death in Philosophy and Contemporary Culture,” was presented by Thomas Hibbs, who holds a doctorate in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame and was recently selected to serve as president of the University of Dallas.

Hibbs boldly addressed suffering, evil and death and explained that, more than anything, culture has impoverished the vocabulary for these important topics. Society is often entertained by violence in video games or movies, and this results in a corruption of humanity’s real motivations, he said.

Culture has created more graphic images that provoke society to become immersed in film, technology, social media, etc., and Hibbs emphasized the importance of balance.

The evening was highly informative and intellectually engaging. Joseph Tweed, a senior majoring in philosophy, appreciated the eloquent presentation, saying, “Tom Hibbs is a well-versed philosopher, and his views on evil were also very insightful.”

Hibbs went on to present some short clips from the very few movies which he said succeeded in presenting appropriate and rich vocabulary by which death, suffering and evil could be expressed. The short clips were from the movies “Batman Begins,” “Gravity,” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

Hibbs concluded his lecture by explaining the pivotal understanding of death and suffering that leads to a successful embrace of both. He said that “we are willing to accept death because of the hope that remains, the future of new life.” He said that if people ‘make friends with death,’ they will no longer see it as an enemy.

Julianne Elonadih, a first-year masters student majoring in theology and catechetics, said, “What really stood out to me is how Hibbs expressed that it is not about avoiding suffering and evil but about going through it to reach happiness. When I apply this to my own life, I can see, to an extent, how true it is. God uses those circumstances for good.”

After the lecture, Hibbs stayed for a Q&A session and discussed further concerns regarding the influence technology has had in the present day and how individuals can participate in creating a culture where they are no longer disconnected from reality but rekindle “traditions that have rich expressions for dealing with death.”

This academic lecture was sponsored by the university’s philosophy department.