Shane Warne and our death-haunted culture

Simon Smart on the collective shock after Shane Warne's death, and how the human reaction to loss inclines towards hopefulness.

We all felt like we knew him.

The death of Shane Warne felt so personal it was as if, for a few days, the nation was in a state of collective shock. The tsunami of commentary included those who described it as their “Lady Di moment.”

Sudden and unexpected death at such a young age is always shocking. But when it’s someone so vibrant and ever-present, it’s especially perplexing.   

Whatever your feelings towards Warnie (and he certainly divided opinion) he just always seemed to be around. The astonishing feats on the cricket field, the incisive commentary on the game, the ubiquitous social media presence, the scandals. He was even the subject of a musical!

And then, he was gone. We are all shaking our heads in disbelief.

We are a death-haunted culture, very good at distracting ourselves from the mystery and melancholy of our mortality. But I can’t help noticing that the deeply human reaction to such loss nearly always inclines towards hopefulness.

This week former England Captain Michael Vaughan tweeted, “I am absolutely gutted to have lost a great friend … one thing is for sure. Heaven will be a lively place now the King has arrived.”

“Wherever you may be, we are quite certain you will light up that stage as well,” said commentator Mark Nicholas.

Most of us doggedly cling to the idea that we are part of a story that somehow continues. And that those we love are part of that story too.

As C.S. Lewis suggests, our longing for something beyond this world is highly suggestive that such a thing exists. He urges readers to keep alive that desire and hope for what he believed is our “true country.” In Lewis’s conception of the world death becomes not the end, but instead the pathway home.  

CWC launch with Shane Warne” by Visit Victoria is licensed under CC BY 2.0.