Flight From Death: The Quest for Immortality

This acclaimed 2003 documentary was inspired by the also-acclaimed 1973 book The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. Positing that humans’ awareness (and denial) of their own mortality has been the driving force behind civilization, Becker won the Pulitzer Prize for literature and influenced generations of social anthropologists, philosophers and psychologists.

Flower Skull Marottes

By Tony Wolf Since the late 1990s I’ve been sporadically developing a philosophically rational, ecologically sound and communally festive approach to mortality, inspired by the motto memento mori ergo carpe diem – “remember death and therefore seize the day”. My interpretation of carpe diem encompasses Epicureanism as well as the perspective that a meaningful life … Read moreFlower Skull Marottes

“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.”

“What it Really Means to ‘Seize the Day’” (2017)

Fiona Macdonald’s essay for the BBC was inspired by social philosopher Roman Krznaric’s book Carpe Diem Regained: The Vanishing Art of Seizing the Day. The essay and book both touch on numerous sources including the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the artistic tradition of vanitas painting, the memento mori exercises of Stoic philosophy and so-on, while … Read more“What it Really Means to ‘Seize the Day’” (2017)

Thanatopositive Classic Rock: Inside Blue Öyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”

Between the Renaissance Faire Danse Macabre, the Self Help Graphics art center’s influence on the Dia de Muertos and the Grateful Dead, there seems to have been a wind blowing darkly colorful leaves through the countercultural zeitgeist of the 1970s. Here’s the BOC live in 1977: … and in this short video essay, the Polyphonic … Read moreThanatopositive Classic Rock: Inside Blue Öyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”

The Temple: a Sacred Space for Letting Go at Burning Man

Since the year 2000, artists – notably including Temple originator David Best – have created intricate, elaborate and secularly sacred temple art installations as part of the Burning Man festival. Each year’s design is inspired by a different theme, such as the Temple of the Mind (2000), the Temple of Flux (2010) and the massive … Read moreThe Temple: a Sacred Space for Letting Go at Burning Man

The Renaissance Faire Danse Macabre

I have a soft spot for the tradition of Danse Macabre enactments as part of the Renaissance Faire circuit’s grassroots, DIY amusement park vibe. Rather like the modern, American take on the Day of the Dead, that tradition stretches back to the counterculture of 1970s California. The original “Bones Band” was founded by an artist/musician … Read moreThe Renaissance Faire Danse Macabre