Modern death ‘reverberates like a handclap in an empty auditorium.’

Charles 1 Comment

There’s a good death piece over at the New York Times that you might like. It’s by Bess Lovejoy, author of the about-to-be-published Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses. Here are some taster extracts: 

Over the last century, as Europeans and North Americans began sequestering the dying and dead away from everyday life, our society has been pushing death to the margins … The result, as Michael Lesy wrote in his 1987 book “The Forbidden Zone,” is that when death does occur, “it reverberates like a handclap in an empty auditorium.”

The erasure of death also allows us to imagine that our mortal trivialities and anxieties are permanent, while a consistent awareness of death — for those who can stomach it — can help us live in the here and now, and teach us to treasure what we already have. In fact, a study by University of Missouri researchers released this spring found that contemplating mortality can encourage altruism and helpfulness, among other positive traits.

Though there’s no deserved namecheck in what follows for Jon Underwood, Ms Lovejoy observes:

“Death cafes,” in which people come together over tea and cake to discuss mortality, have begun in Britain and are spreading to the United States, alongside other death-themed conferences and festivals (yes, festivals). 

Whoops, Ms Lovejoy omits to namecheck, also, this festival and this festival. You begin to suspect that Britain is at the forefront of something here.  

Ms Lovejoy concludes: 

It’s never easy to confront mortality, but perhaps this year, while distributing the candy and admiring the costumes of the neighborhood kids, it’s worth returning to some of the origins of Halloween by sparing a thought for those who have gone before. As our ancestors knew, it’s possible that being reminded of their deaths will add meaning to our lives.

Find the complete article here



  1. Charles

    Thanks for this Charles…and yes I agree with your conclusion. My Last Song gets several emails a week from people and organisations in the US, and Canada, supporting its aims – A Good Life Deserves A Good Ending – and supporting people to plan their exit strategies. Several of the fave five farewell track playlists have also come from North America.
    And well done Jon Underwood for the success of Death Cafes and all those who are, as you say, at the forefront of something, and that something is the recognition that death is a part of life to be accepted and planned for so that, where possible, we can have good deaths. There’s no second attempt.

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