Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene (2013)

A sobering New York Times essay by Roy Scranton: The human psyche naturally rebels against the idea of its end. Likewise, civilizations have throughout history marched blindly toward disaster, because humans are wired to believe that tomorrow will be much like today — it is unnatural for us to think that this way of life, … Read moreLearning How to Die in the Anthropocene (2013)

“Dancing with the Dead: Two Techniques for Spiritual Rejuvenation”

Humanist poet, speaker, organizer and ritualist Daniel Lev Shkolnik writes for Patheos on a self-devised memento mori/carpe diem rite: When I pass into a cemetery alone, a calm settles over me. I watch the hawks hunt from the pines. The hares dash through among the stones and the bones of slower hares. The puffball mushrooms … Read more“Dancing with the Dead: Two Techniques for Spiritual Rejuvenation”

“Lessons of Immortality and Mortality From My Father, Carl Sagan”

Click here to read Sasha Sagan’s 2014 essay for The Cut: My parents taught me that even though it’s not forever — because it’s not forever — being alive is a profoundly beautiful thing for which each of us should feel deeply grateful. If we lived forever it would not be so amazing. In this video, Sasha … Read more“Lessons of Immortality and Mortality From My Father, Carl Sagan”

The New Monuments That America Needs

Hua Su’s recent article for The New Yorker surveys the controversy surrounding public memorial statuary in the USA: That a monument seems to, in Farber’s words, “stop time,” helps explain why so many are eager to defend them from overzealous protesters. We’ve seen pictures of police flanking the Wall Street bull and armed civilians standing guard in front … Read moreThe New Monuments That America Needs

An App to Remind You You’re Going to Die? On Death Positivity

In her essay for lithub.com, Ara A. Francis contemplates the prescience of Lyn Loflin’s 1978 book The Craft of Dying, which catalogs the then-nascent “Happy Death Movement”: Lyn’s analysis of death activism read as though it could have been written yesterday, and I wondered how that could be. In light of the happy death movement’s ostensible … Read moreAn App to Remind You You’re Going to Die? On Death Positivity

“The Changing Face of Death: A Countercultural Perspective”

My new essay is now available via the Morbid Anatomy Online Journal. The essay explores how and why the personification of Death has been re-imagined in recent decades, and how that reflects deep cultural shifts regarding the concept of mortality: At a cultural moment when the traditional imagery of the Grim Reaper had largely given … Read more“The Changing Face of Death: A Countercultural Perspective”

“What Will Survive of Us”

Here’s author/photographer Geoff Dyer’s meditation on the ghost bike street memorial phenomenon: As well as being part of a web of activist organizations, the ghost bikes can be seen in the context of the ad hoc accumulation of street art generally, from loutish graffiti litter to Banksy’s ironic—now ironically iconic and commodified—stencils, to community-based murals. … Read more“What Will Survive of Us”

“How a Cheerful Monk Became a Doctor of Death”

Alizah Salario’s essay explores the life and work of Dr. Kunchok Gyaltsen, the only practicing Tibetan Buddhist monk to have completed a doctorate in Public Health from an American university. Dr. Kunchok presented two sessions at the 2015 Art of Dying conference in New York City, addressing the challenges and rewards of preparing for a … Read more“How a Cheerful Monk Became a Doctor of Death”

“Have a child, plant a tree, write a book.”

I’ve recently been attempting to trace the provenance of this proverb and its many variants. So far, I’ve found it (them) attributed to the Cuban poet José Martí, to the Talmud and to “Arabia”, to Ernest Hemingway, Jonathan Swift, Jeremy Belknap, to Taoism, to Laurence Sterne and to “the religion of the Magi” (Zoroastrianism); I’m … Read more“Have a child, plant a tree, write a book.”