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Death Widget – what the world needs now?


A couple of years ago I read an amazing book. It was thrilling and terrifying and made me look at life in a new way. It is The Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker.

Ernest Becker believed that people are massively affected by their fear of their own death:

“The knowledge of death is reflective and conceptual, and animals are spared it. They live and they disappear with the same thoughtlessness: a few minutes of fear, a few seconds of anguish, and it is over. But to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting one’s dreams and even the most sun-filled days- that’s something else.”

I think it’s very interesting that animals don’t know that they’re going to die, while we do. It’s quite odd to understand that I will, at some point, expire. That’s a weird fact to live with.

Becker believed that this difficult knowledge troubled us more than we acknowledge. And the effort of suppressing our fear of death leads to other problems. Becker believed that everything from depression to schizophrenia was connected to our denial of death, and the way we cope with the knowledge of our mortality.

The Denial of Death is a fascinating book and I recommend you read it. Buy it here, now. Or don’t; its really your choice. But you might want to buy it soon in case you die.

Memento Mori – Carpe Diem

All this death talk reminds me of memento mori – Victorian objects and art designed to remind people of their own mortality. Memento mori were not morbid knick-knacks; they were reminders to live! For tomorrow we may die. I always find it funny when people in disaster films scream “we’re all going to die” because we’re all going to die and it’s not a very remarkable statement.

I sometimes think this Victorian tradition should be revived. Let’s remember our mortality and remember to make the most of this and every day. The clock is ticking. Tomorrow you may be dead. If you knew you had two years to live, would you act differently?

The Death Widget

I would like to have a Death Widget on my blog to remind me and all of my readers to hurry up and do whatever you want to do. My partner once remarked that an acquaintance of ours seemed to be living life in slow-motion, ambling through life at a sleepy pace – although in reality that person lives by the same quickly-ticking biological clock as the rest of us. Life is fleeting, ridiculous, beautiful and precious. And we don’t know when it will end.

So if you’re a developer and fancy creating a Death Widget, let me know. I’m thinking the widget could estimate the age that you’ll die, then the widget counts down your remaining time. It might make a few people stop and think “why I am wasting my time when I could be dead tomorrow?”.

I’ve realised that there is rather a lot of death on this blog. Maybe I should see if is available… So sorry about all the death. Next post will be about smiling giraffes or something. Promise.

(Picture courtesy of Chris Fleming)

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