“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.”

“The Art of Dying Well: A Jungian Perspective on Death and Dying”

This essay from the Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences offers a useful precis of, and excerpts from the renowned psychoanalyst’s writing on the subject of death: …death is an important interest, especially to an aging person. A categorical question is being put to him, and he is under an obligation to answer it. To … Read more“The Art of Dying Well: A Jungian Perspective on Death and Dying”

“Let’s Stop Talking about Battling Cancer” (and Death)

In her opinion piece for the Scientific American, Dr. Shika Jain makes the valuable point that the binary rhetoric of “combat” is often not useful, and may be actively harmful, to cancer patients and their families: Unfortunately, cancer is not an opponent that can stomped out by sheer will, determination or persistence. A study published in 2015 … Read more“Let’s Stop Talking about Battling Cancer” (and Death)

William Archer on the Ethics and Future of Suicide (1893)

During August of 1893, the recent publication of a suicide note by a young Englishman named Ernest Clark sparked an impassioned letters-to-the-editor debate upon the philosophy and ethics of “self-effacement”. A missive by the prominent Scottish writer and theatre critic William Archer outraged those of less bohemian sensibilities – including G. K. Chesterton – by … Read moreWilliam Archer on the Ethics and Future of Suicide (1893)

“Facing Death Without Religion”

An excerpt from Christel Manning’s excellent essay for the Harvard Divinity Bulletin on how nontheists/atheists, freethinkers et al face their own mortality: We often think of science as cold and hard and value neutral. Max Weber famously wrote of how the ascendancy of science over religion in the modern world has led to “disenchantment.” Yet … Read more“Facing Death Without Religion”