Across South Korea, entrepreneurs are holding controversial forums aimed at teaching clients how to better appreciate life by simulating death. They use mortality as a personal motivator.
Reporting from Daejeon, South Korea – For Jung Joon, the moment of truth arrives for his clients as they slip into the casket and he pounds the lid in place with a wooden hammer.
Insights arise, he says, as they are confronted with total, claustrophobic darkness, left alone to weigh their regrets and ponder eternity.
Jung, a slight 39-year-old with an undertaker’s blue suit and a preacher’s demeanor, is a resolute counselor on the ever-after who welcomes clients with the invitation, “OK, today let’s get close to death.”
Jung runs a seminar called the Coffin Academy, where, for $25 each, South Koreans can get a glimpse into the abyss. Over four hours, groups of a dozen or more tearfully write their letters of goodbye and tombstone epitaphs. Finally, they attend their own funerals and try the coffin on for size. […]
Many firms here see the sessions as an inventive way to stimulate productivity. The Kyobo insurance company, for example, has required all 4,000 of its employees to attend fake funerals like those offered by Jung.
Danger is a biological necessity for humans, just like sleep and dreams. If you face death, for that time you are immortal. For the Western middle classes, danger is a rarity and erupts only with a sudden, random shock. And yet we are in danger at all times, since our death exists. Is there a technique for confronting death without immediate physical danger? (quoted from Hashisheen: The End of Law)
But this is at least partially incorrect. Western middle classes, at least those of us in the United States, typically face physical danger multiple times per day. Driving is amongst the most dangerous activities in modern society – 114 people die in car crashes per day. Cars accidents deaths per year are more than double the number of murders per year. The average American spends 101 minutes driving each day. We confront death every day, and we barely even notice.
The dangers involved in driving are commonplace, boring. New dangers though – new dangers are exciting. Perhaps Michael Skinner was more correct when he said:
Geezerz need excitement
If their lives don’t provide them this they incite violence
Common sense simple common sense
Electrical readings from seven patients who died in hospital suggest that the brain undergoes a surge of activity at the moment of death, according to a study just published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. […]
This is not the first time these have been noticed, but previous reports were single cases and the electrical surges were explained away as due to electrical interference from other sources. In these new cases, the doctors could be pretty confident that previously suggested sources of interference weren’t present.
Instead, they suggest that the surge was due to ‘anoxic depolarisation’ – a process where the lack of oxygen destabilises the electrical balance of the neurons leading to one last cascade of activity.
“Since being exposed to the idea of extreme life extension, which admittedly was only several months ago, I’ve found myself reacting in a more skeptical and reactionary manner than I often do when confronted with other radical new futuristic ideas and technologies. When I read about possibilities of faster than light travel, I get excited. Predictions of nano-assemblers make me hopeful. I find designs for colonies on the Moon and Mars fascinating. But when I read about trends in regenerative medicine and nanotechnology that some experts believe will conquer death, I am not enthusiastic. Instead I become very skeptical, nervous and even angry. On one level, I am surprised that I could be anything other than overjoyed that ending death could be a possibility, I very much enjoy life and, as a living organism, I have a strong instinct to stay alive. Yet I find it extremely difficult to wrap my head around the idea of life without death.
So why does extreme life extension make me uncomfortable? I’m not, nor have I ever been a religious person, though I have respect for those who are. I was raised by two atheists with PhDs in science and I haven’t ever held out hope for an afterlife. It’s not that I don’t value human life – I value it very much. As a humanist, I believe very strongly that each human life is sacred and unique and believe it is within our power, and is indeed our responsibility, to work towards giving every person as good a life as possible. I also don’t believe I am a Luddite. I am increasingly excited about technology in general, I love my cellphone and the new snazzier one I will someday get. I love my computer and wonders of the Internet. I’m fascinated by the promise of the Semantic Web. I also embrace any technology that could cure diseases or repair injuries. But when it comes to anything that may fundamentally change the way I am or the way people are in general, I am very hesitant.
I thought it would be interesting to explore some of the reactions, thoughts and feelings I have when pondering extreme life extension, as I think they probably overlap with those of the people who have been or will be exposed to these ideas.”
Having spent most of my developing years taking care of sick family members, I feel very strongly about people having a choice in their death. There is nothing more humbling than watching those you love, once vital, productive members of society, deteriorate before your eyes. Those with a terminal illness, who have tried everything and have lost any possibility of maintaining their quality of life, ought to have a right to end their suffering. If we can have compassion for suffering animals and put them out of their misery, why can’t a human being who has lived their life through choice, have that option available to them?
“A French woman, Chantal Sebire with a disfiguring and painful terminal illness recently failed in her appeal for medical assistance to help her to die. Before her death Chantal Sebire was quoted as saying ‘We wouldn’t let an animal go through what I have had to endure’. Euthanasia for animals is commonplace, and is widely accepted as a morally acceptable response to animals whose suffering is unable to be relieved. But, with the exception of a few places such as the Netherlands, Belgium and the US state of Oregon, euthanasia for humans is legally prohibited.
But is it speciesist to make a distinction between animal and human euthanasia? In the case of terminally ill humans who request medical assistance in dying we may have more reasons to permit euthanasia than in the case of animals. If the arguments against euthanasia are so forceful that it should not be permitted even in tragic cases like that of Chantal Sebire should animal euthanasia be prohibited?”
I really didn’t think about this until I came upon this article. It’s something all of us in this high tech age are going to need to think about eventually.
“No one likes to think about it, but death is inevitable. After it happens, you won’t have to care about paying the electricity bill anymore, but what’ll happen to your blog, e-mail, online profiles? The fact that you’re, well, dead, is no excuse for slouching online; therefore we bring you over 20 tools that will take care of your online stuff after you’re gone.
With everyone having so many accounts and data out on the web now, you have to consider what will happen with it when you are no longer amongst the living. These are some checklists and ideas of how to keep things going, or giving a trusted individual access so they can take care of things for you after you’ve gone.”
Free Inquiry’s latest issue has a special section on death and dying from the secular humanist perspective:
You’d think dying would be harder for the nonreligious. For us, death is the end, as final as turning off the television-and throwing it in the lake. However falsely, believers can look forward to eternal bliss or, if not bliss, at least justice; resolution, all the same. Picturing a deity’s hand upon the cosmic helm, believers can hope for all accounts to be settled and each injustice compensated, with every life set firmly into meaning’s great template.
How strange, then, that, despite the comfort and support their beliefs are said to bring, most religious people appear to fear dying and dread death no less fiercely than any secular humanist. Maybe it’s the animal in each of us, snarling at the dying of the light, no matter what mind and heart believe about eternity. Or maybe, when it comes to the capital E End, some believers feel less certain of what lies beyond the grave than they had hoped they would.
For those who view life as a prelude and those who view it as all there is, dying and death constitute the ultimate crucible. In so many ways, we reshape ourselves in our responses to the dyings and the deaths of those we love. Soon enough, each of us will face a dying, a death all our own. For some, the dying process will be transformative, the summation of a life well authored. Others will be denied that opportunity but spared also the suffering that may come with it.
For years, a mysterious man in black visited the gravesite of legendary author and poet Edgar Allan Poe, leaving three roses and a bottle of cognac at the headstone. The regular visitor became a local phenomenon, and Life Magazine even published a picture of the mystery mourner in a 1990 issue. Now, a 92-year-old man who spent years fighting to preserve the historic site of the author’s final resting place has come forward with an answer.
I recently saw The Fountain, which I’d been looking forward to for a long time. I’m not even going to attempt any deep thought on it until I’ve seen it at least one more time. However, in it Aronofsky weaves elements of Mayan myth – particularly with the Mayan realm of Xibalba.
I am not up to par on my Mayan history or myth, but after doing some light perusing on Wikipedia, some elements here really struck a chord with me.
In Maya mythology Xibalba (pronounced Shi-BAHL-bah) is the name of the underworld, ruled by the Mayan deities of death. The name roughly translates to “Place of Fear” or “Place of Phantoms”. The entrance to Xibalba was traditionally held to be a cave in the vicinity of Cob?n, Guatemala. To some of the Quich? descendants of the Maya people still living in the vicinity, the area is still associated with death. In the heavens, the Road to Xibalba was represented by the dark rift visible in the Milky Way.
Xibalba was described in the Popol Vuh to be a city or a realm that existed below the surface of the Earth. It is unclear if the inhabitants of Xibalba, referred to simply as Xibalbans, are the souls of the deceased or a separate race of people worshipping death, but they are often depicted as being human-like in form. The place Xibalba was often associated with death and it was ruled by 12 gods or powerful rulers known as the Lords of Xibalba. The first among the Lords of Xibalba were One Death and Seven Death. The remaining 10 Lords are often referred to as demons and are given commission and domain over various forms of human suffering: to cause sickness, starvation, fear, destitution, pain, and ultimately death. The remaining residents of Xibalba are thought to have fallen under the dominion of one of these Lords, going about the face of the Earth to carry out their listed duties.
The Popol Vuh (Quich? for “Council Book” or “Book of the Community”; Popol Wuj in modern spelling) is the book of scripture of the Quich?, a kingdom of the post classic Maya civilization in highland Guatemala. The K’iche’ (or Quich? in Spanish spelling), are a Native American people, one of the Maya ethnic groups. Their indigenous language, the K’iche’ language, is a Mesoamerican language of the Mayan language family. The highland K’iche’ states in the pre-Columbian era are associated with the ancient Maya civilization.
In the Popol Vuh is the account of the Mayan creation myth:
This is a very general summary; divisions depend on text version:
Gods create world.
Gods create first “wood” humans, they are imperfect and emotionless.
Gods destroy first humans in a “resin” flood; they become monkeys.
Twin diviners Hunahpu & Xbalanque destroy arrogant Vucub-Caquix; then Zipacna & Cabracan.
The first 4 “real” people are made: Jaguar Quiche, Jaguar Night, Naught, & Wind Jaguar.
Tribes descend; they speak the same language and travel to TulanZuiva.
The tribes language becomes confused; and they disperse.
Tohil is recognized as a god and demands life sacrifices; later he must be hidden.
Tohil affects Earth Lords through priests; but his dominion destroys the Quiche.
Priests tried to abduct tribes for sacrifices; the tribes tried to resist this.
Quiche found Gumarcah where Gucumatz (the feathered serpent lord) raises them to power.
Gucumatz instituted elaborate rituals.
Genealogies of the tribes.
There seem to be a lot of parallels, from my limited knowledge of the world history of myth and theology, but the “wood humans” are just as AD-AM from ancient myth, the first man or race of man.
Adam (“Earth” or “man”, Standard Hebrew ?????, Adam; “Soil” or “Light Brown”, Arabic ???, Adam) was the first man created by Elohim (Allah) according to the Abrahamic religious tradition. He is considered a prophet by the Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Mandaean and Bah?’? faiths.
While I don’t believe it to be takenliterally, that he was one man, the Semitic prophet of the yahoos, I’ve read before that AD-AM was an old Babylonian word that meant the new man, or new race, or something like that. The first term for the species was along the lines of AD-AD or AD-AT or something, the reborn race of man was then called AD-AM.
Part 3 of the Popol Vuh. we see the creation of the four Towers of Jerusalem, or the four elements or what we now know was the four suits in tarot, et al. The tribes suffer the same fate as the Biblical account of Babel. According to Genesis 11:1-9, mankind, after the deluge (which can be seen in Part 1), travelled from the mountain where the ark had rested, and settled in “a plain in the land of Shinar” (or Senaar).
I also wonder if Tohil is akin to the Demiurge, Ialdabaoth? Tohil is the Quich? name for Huracan and was their patron deity. Huracan (“one legged”) was a wind, storm and fire god and one of the creator deities who participated in all three attempts at creating humanity. He also caused the Great Flood after the first humans angered the gods. He supposedly lived in the windy mists above the floodwaters and repeated “earth” until land came up from the seas.
I also have more thoughts on the whole Babel concept, which I am more and more seeing in the works of modern linguists and philosophers. It has nothing to do with building a fucking tower to Heaven, it has to do with Wisdom. (The two may be synonymous in my world, but not to the Christian Army, it seems).
In the early to mid 1960s, Noam Chomsky developed the idea that each sentence in a language has two levels of representation – a deep structure and a surface structure. The deep structure represented the semantic relations of a sentence, and was mapped on to the surface structure (which followed the phonological form of the sentence very closely) via transformations. Chomsky believed that there would be considerable similarities between languages’ deep structures, and that these structures would reveal properties, common to all languages, which were concealed by their surface structures.
By definition, tacit knowledge is not easily shared. One of Polanyi’s famous aphorisms is: “We know more than we can tell.” Tacit knowledge consists often of habits and culture that we do not recognize in ourselves. In the field of knowledge management the concept of tacit knowledge refers to a knowledge which is only known to you and hard to share with someone else, which is the opposite from the concept of explicit knowledge. The tacit aspects of knowledge are those that cannot be codified, but can only be transmitted via training or gained through personal experience. Tacit knowledge has been described as ‘know-how’ (as opposed to ‘know-what’ [facts] and ‘know-why’ [science]) . It involves learning and skill but not in a way that can be written down.
The word occult comes from the Latin occultus (clandestine, hidden, secret), referring to the ‘knowledge of the secret’ or ‘knowledge of the hidden’ and often popularly meaning ‘knowledge of the supernatural’, as opposed to ‘knowledge of the visible’ or ‘knowledge of the measurable’, usually referred to as science. The term is sometimes popularly taken to mean ‘knowledge meant only for certain people’ or ‘knowledge that must be kept hidden’, but for most practicing occultists it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual “reality” that extends beyond pure reason and the physical sciences.
The Tower of Babel, that which was being built to Heaven, I believe, was an effort by man to work back to that deeper, tacit knowledge. I wonder why there’s such a dire need for the gods to keep us here…