Death, Redesigned
March 23, 2015 4:05 AM   Subscribe

Thanks for reminding me to prepare myself for a couple of decades of Boomers explaining how unique is their experience of old age and death!
posted by thelonius at 4:36 AM on March 23, 2015 [13 favorites]

This article is interesting and I appreciate it being posted here. Palliative care has been on my mind a lot lately. When the Boomers start dying it's going to affect all of us tremendously; I appreciate those trying to get out in front of it, even while cringing a bit at the designer's seemingly clinical approach to making the experience more meaningful.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:48 AM on March 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Garius' Mum Memorial Trophy (one of MetaFilter's all-time greatest comments).
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:01 AM on March 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

I really did try to read this article, because death is a fascinating subject to me, and love hearing peoples' ideas, thoughts and experiences on it. But, I just couldn't make it down the silly, narrow, long column of text. Yay, responsive design!

I'll keep plugging away at it, I guess.


Thanks for reminding me to prepare myself for a couple of decades of Boomers explaining how unique is their experience of old age and death!

And then the millenials will come along and artisinal embalming will be a thing. Because "authentic".
posted by Thorzdad at 5:41 AM on March 23, 2015

It's worth it for the part where the Buddhist hospice director gently points out that the whole thing is ridiculous.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:54 AM on March 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

And then the millenials will come along and artisinal embalming will be a thing. Because "authentic".

I'm Gen X. Just sew me up in a burlap sack, or whatever. It's all bullshit anyway.
posted by thelonius at 6:02 AM on March 23, 2015 [13 favorites]

artisinal embalming

Please. That was so 2050s. The preferred method will be exposure for the birds*.

* Actually cunningly designed drones; all the birds will be dead by then.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:47 AM on March 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

What a life to live where some people complain that the main problem with death is that it's just too somber an affair.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 7:04 AM on March 23, 2015

I think the man was just trying to process his father's death the only way he knew how.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:10 AM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

And then the millenials will come along and artisinal embalming will be a thing. Because "authentic".

This has been a thing for awhile now, actually.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:27 AM on March 23, 2015

Moar articles about what Ideo is doing
posted by stevil at 7:34 AM on March 23, 2015

I think the man was just trying to process his father's death the only way he knew how.

Yeah, I agree in a sense, but it more seems like him frantically looking for coping/avoiding strategies to get around the reality of death and try to control things that you can't necessarily control, rather than really processing it. A lot of the stuff in the article, especially early on, made me cringe. “You need to redesign death.”: I get it but ugh, not the approach that appeals to me (and I'm a boomer).

I did appreciate the article for highlighting the work of BJ Miller and the Zen Hospice, and will repeat this quote from the article for truth. I have actually sat at the bedside of two dying people in the last few years, including being there at the end for one of them, and this rang the truist to me of the wall of words and "ideas" in that article:

Miller had seen firsthand that, because we spend our entire lives avoiding thinking about death, when it finally comes into view, there’s a thicket of panic, denial, or disbelief to cut through before people can focus, more mindfully, on the experience and begin to make decisions to improve their last days. Then, of course, you still have to reconcile those hopes with the exigencies of the health care system, which can be torturously inflexible. When you sit with a dying person, Miller says, “Time is always in the room. … At best, you’re able to salvage some peace or comfort for a moment.”

My thinking is also informed by my sister's recent experience of my father's death, which was as the result of a car accident. He was in his 90s, so survival was chancy at best. He was at the hospital and they were working on him. My sister was there, could actually see him as they were beginning to work on him, but they would not let her in even for a moment to be with him, not until after he had died. This kind of thing is what we need to change, and I don't see them addressing that directly, except with something like this which is almost a throwaway comment in the article, and is a practical thing I would like to see more of: One example he likes to cite involved attaching mirrors to the gurneys at a Minnesota hospital so that patients could actually make eye contact with the doctors and nurses wheeling them around.
posted by gudrun at 7:55 AM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the SF Zen Hospice is terrific, and I'm glad they're getting some exposure out of all this.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:56 AM on March 23, 2015

Did they walk into a bar?

There is some big opportunity in Death. I had some Death Yurt the other day. Still popping up vurps.

“Gradually, we get distracted; we drift away from what we suspect might really matter.”

Also? People aren't wearing enough hats.

“he might be able to refract some of the horror and hopelessness of death into more transcendent feelings of awe and wonder and beauty.”

… yeah, that’s much better. We could tell people in Hell they’re there for their own good too. Maybe put some curtains up. Potted plants. Some stucco.

Right now we’re focused on the end of life, as a culture, and the body, not death. Lots of money in prolonging life, making a pretense to youth, all that.
So we need a change.

Building out the “brand” on a Zen hospice, though? Maybe not so Zen. (C’mere Benkei! Yah Monk! Yah! *ropes, pulls, brands SSSS!!!* Head ‘em up! Roll ‘em out! *hits Monk with keisaku* H-yah! Stop sleeping there! What’s the problem, Kosho? The Vaishnava do it. H-yah!)

The whole question of where “you” go when you die assumes there’s a “you” in the first place. That you’re not a set piece of assumptions and cobbled together thoughts, a product of your environment and social landscapes where even your most divergent thoughts and principles are still products of the methods developed by mankind to think.

That clarity can’t be attained until you drop the tools you use to develop it. No matter how fabulous those tools are.
They’re just building another set of things to have your life be attached to.
More stuff that feeds the ego as much as burning a paper Cadillac, except it’s a style of thing instead of a symbol of a thing. No matter how successful the design rich way, everything is build from sand in the first place. Any apprehension of death is caused by this ego, not the "you" that "exists." There's no "you" that "dies" other than a cessation of bodily function which was a point in a wave of cross spectral interferance pattern between successive ambiguous thought forms brought into coherence by guided self-observation which will reiterate endlessly, changing form but never truly fading into nothingness as long as consciousness exists.

Just sayin'

“and was too introspective, and too humble, to crave any celebrity.”
Check me out, I’m the humblest motherfucker up in here!
posted by Smedleyman at 12:23 PM on March 23, 2015

This article was fascinating for the contrast between thoughtful and crass. For instance, I love the idea of a farewell letter and organizational packet. My sister-in-law is on a "get the family organized for death" kick, and I have been sticking my fingers in my ears and singing "Lalalala I can't hear you!" The idea of bundling the insurance and passwords with a letter actually does make it feel much more approachable. The idea of sending texts years after I'm gone? Totally creepy. The idea of computer generated texts? So far beyond creepy that I just can't even imagine it. Building out hospice care? Much neglected. Yay for them. Death yurts? What?!?

I think what I learned from this article is that Ideo is really good at prompting people to think outside the box for their own ideas. But that any ideas that they come up with themselves should be taken out back and shot.
posted by instamatic at 5:49 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

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