Tag Archives | Death

Death, Redesigned

How the hell do you redesign death? Jon Mooallem on how a legendary design firm, a corporate executive, and a Buddhist-hospice director take on the end of life in a very #longread at the California Sunday Magazine:

There’s an ugliness — an inelegance — to death that Paul Bennett gradually came to find unacceptable. It seems to offend him the way a clumsy, counterintuitive kitchen tool might, or a frumpy font. At first, that disgruntlement was just “a whisper in my mind,” Bennett explains. “But it’s gone from being a whisper to a roar.” The solution, when it finally occurred to him, felt obvious. “Oh,” he told himself. “You need to redesign death.”

Death

Photo: Sameer Vasta

Bennett is 51 — 30.7 years to go, if the demographic data is reliable — a blindingly energetic British man with unruly brown hair. He works as chief creative officer at Ideo, the global design firm that’s renowned for its intuitive, wizardly touch. Over its 25-year history, as Ideo has expanded from simple product design into branding, organizational design, and management consulting, it has worked in virtually every corner of our economy: A list of recent clients includes Genentech, Bank of America, the Centers for Disease Control, JetBlue, and the Today show.

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What It’s Like to Die 36 Times in One Year

János Csongor Kerekes (CC BY-ND 2.0)

János Csongor Kerekes (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Sara Brautigam, a 21-year-old from England, suffers from a debilitating syndrome known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).

According to Wikipedia, “People with POTS have problems maintaining homeostasis when changing position, e.g. moving from one chair to another or reaching above their heads. Many also experience symptoms when stationary or even while lying down.”

For Brautigam, however, the issue is even more serious: rapid palpitations cause her heart to stop completely. At this point, “her blood pressure to plummet[s] to what doctors record as clinically dead.”

In 2012, for instance, Brautigam died and was brought back to life 36 times. When she loses consciousness, paramedics do their best to inflict pain to shock Brautigam’s heart into beating.

Brautigam told BT.com:

“When it happens paramedics try and do anything to inflict pain to try and shock me into coming back to life.

“A lot of the time I’ll wake up with big bruises.

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How human composting will change death in the city

joiseyshowaa (CC BY-SA 2.0)

joiseyshowaa (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Katie Herzog via Grist:

What we do with our dead can seem bizarre to outsiders. In a Tibetan tradition called sky burial, the deceased are cut into small pieces by a man known as therogyapa, or “breaker of bodies,” and laid atop mountains to be picked apart by vultures. Later, the bones are collected and pulverized with flour and yak butter and fed to crows and hawks. Feeding your loved ones to the same birds who eat roadkill may seem morbid to those of us in the West, but in Tibet, it’s both sacrosanct (these birds are sacred in Buddhism) and practical (ever tried to dig a grave in frozen ground?).

Tibet isn’t the only place with seemingly odd customs: In Madagascar, the bodies of the deceased are exhumed and sprayed with wine and perfume every few years. In Ghana, people are buried in coffins that represent their lives, so a fisherman might spend eternity in a box shaped like a carp and a farmer may spend it in a six-foot cob of corn.

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“A Death” By Stephen King

wazimu0 (CC BY 2.0)

wazimu0 (CC BY 2.0)

Stephen King’s short story, “A Death” (originally titled “The Man in the Black Suit”) is released in this month’s edition of the The New Yorker:

Jim Trusdale had a shack on the west side of his father’s gone-to-seed ranch, and that was where he was when Sheriff Barclay and half a dozen deputized townsmen found him, sitting in the one chair by the cold stove, wearing a dirty barn coat and reading an old issue of the Black Hills Pioneer by lantern light. Looking at it, anyway.

Sheriff Barclay stood in the doorway, almost filling it up. He was holding his own lantern. “Come out of there, Jim, and do it with your hands up. I ain’t drawn my pistol and don’t want to.”

Trusdale came out. He still had the newspaper in one of his raised hands. He stood there looking at the sheriff with his flat gray eyes.

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Take Me to the Death Cafe

hans van den berg (CC BY 2.0)

hans van den berg (CC BY 2.0)

Sophie Elmhirst writing at Prospect Magazine:

In the middle of the graveyard in Vissoie, a small town in the Swiss mountain valley of Anniviers, stands a grey stone cross. For years, the cross was the focus of a local competition among the town’s teenagers. The brief was simple: turn up at midnight, sit by the cross, and whoever lasts the longest wins. By day, the task doesn’t seem too onerous. The graveyard is absurdly picturesque, perched on the side of a hill next to the church, the valley dropping away to a river, mountains on the far side rising up against a faultless blue sky. Even the graves are palatable: there’s no ornate Victoriana here, no ghoulishness or mawkish angels, no sentimental inscriptions; just a few rows of simple wooden crosses planted in the ground. (A rule was declared in the town that the dead should all be commemorated identically, to prevent wealth-displaying one-upmanship.)

Not long ago, Bernard Crettaz, an eminent Swiss sociologist who was born and raised in Vissoie, sat on a stone wall by the shared grave of his parents—Pierre and Genevieve—and recalled his year of competition.

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The Oddly Reassuring Quality of Surrealistic Art

Giorgio de Chirico's 'The Red Tower,' 1913. (Photo: Public Domain)

Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘The Red Tower,’ 1913. (Photo: Public Domain)

Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard:

A person’s taste in art is generally thought to be unchanging. A lover of Renaissance frescoes, for instance, isn’t likely to suddenly become entranced by the abstract paintings of Jackson Pollock.

But recently published research suggests one specific, uncomfortable circumstance can inspire us to appreciate a wider range of work. It finds people are more likely to forge a positive emotional connection with surrealistic art if they have just been reminded of their own mortality.

It has long been argued that, in the face of existential threats, art can evoke a comforting aura of collective meaning and transcendence. That’s a fairly obvious dynamic with sacred works, but it can also be true of secular images that serve as poignant reminders of the beliefs that give one’s life meaning.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, a research team led by psychologist Verena Graupmann of DePaul University reports surrealistic art can serve this same purpose.

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Man Roasts to Death in Sauna

Who wants bacon? Kjetil Ree (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Who wants bacon? Kjetil Ree (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This sounds like the beginning of a horror movie.

via The New York Daily News:

A Florida family is now scarred with the image of a loved one’s body charred and without chunks of skin after he died while sitting for hours in a malfunctioning sauna Sunday.

The family of 68-year-old Dennis Antiporek said the North Miami Beach resident left a note at his home that said he was headed to the sauna at his Eden Isles Condominiums. After a few hours his daughter Lara Antiporek went to the spa to look for him.

She opened the door and said she saw a man whose skin was a dark color. She didn’t realize it was actually her light-skinned father of Polish and Russian descent until she noticed his clothing hanging up nearby, according to CBS Miami.

A Florida family is now scarred with the image of a loved one’s body charred and without chunks of skin after he died while sitting for hours in a malfunctioning sauna Sunday.

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Joe Cocker, impassioned voice of ’60s rock and blues, dead at 70

via Mashable:

Joe Cocker, the British singer whose impassioned, gravel-voiced covers of popular rock and blues songs were an indelible sound of 1960s counterculture, has died at age 70 after a battle with lung cancer.

Cocker died Monday at his home in Colorado, first reported by U.K. websites The Yorkshire Post and ITV News, and later confirmed by the BBC.

Cocker lent his voice to the songs of many fellow rock artists, but perhaps none more memorably than The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” which, despite being released on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band just the year before, was his breakthrough, hitting No. 1 in the U.K. in 1968.

Twenty years later it would become the theme song to The Wonder Years, though nothing will top Cocker’s performance at Woodstock in ’69:

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Death Should be Optional

Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot in “The Seventh Seal”

Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot in “The Seventh Seal”

via H+ Magazine:

Now more than ever, the topic of death is marked by no shortage of diverging opinions.

On the one hand, there are serious thinkers — Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Michio Kaku, Marshall Brain, Aubrey de Grey and others — who foresee that technology may enable humans to defeat death. There are also dissenters who argue that this is exceedingly unlikely. And there are those like Bill Joy who think that such technologies are technologically feasible but morally reprehensible.

As a non-scientist I am not qualified to evaluate scientific claims about what science can and cannot do. What I can say is that plausible scenarios for overcoming death have now appeared. This leads to the following questions: If individuals could choose immortality, should they? Should societies fund and promote research to defeat death?

The question regarding individuals has a straightforward answer: We should respect the right of autonomous individuals to choose for themselves.

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