“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”

“Laughing in the Face of Death: Ruysch, Dark Humor & Subversion of the Memento Mori in Anatomical Art”

Here’s an excerpt from Stefania Spano’s essay for Hektoen International: A Journal of Medical Humanities on the theme of dark humor in memento mori art: Ruysch’s artistry was matched by his commitment to the underlying science and to using the materials of the dead to teach the living. “I do this,” he explained, “to take … Read more“Laughing in the Face of Death: Ruysch, Dark Humor & Subversion of the Memento Mori in Anatomical Art”

“Beyond Memento Mori: Understanding American Religions Through Roadside Shrines”

Here is Allison Elizabeth Solso’s 2015 dissertation on the theme of “vernacular memorials”; the often-temporary shrines constructed by bereaved families and friends at the sites of often-violent deaths. An excerpt: My relationship to these spaces was always confused, even as I did my best to maintain respect and some modicum of decorum. The need to … Read more“Beyond Memento Mori: Understanding American Religions Through Roadside Shrines”

“Reinventing Death for the Twenty-First Century”

James Pallister’s 2018 article for the UK Design Council offers an overview of how modern designers are reimagining and reinventing the experience of death: We’ve had a 50-year experiment with medicalising mortality, with casting it as just another problem for us to treat like any other, and I think that experiment is failing. But we … Read more“Reinventing Death for the Twenty-First Century”