In this hour, we tend not to talk about death much in North America. Maybe we just don’t have the words to contain something so visceral, so fraught, so absolute. Maybe images are a better way to explore or express our mortality, and our feelings about it. Photographer Sarah Sudhoff has made art out of disease, hospitals, funeral homes, and her own battle with cervical cancer. In a recent body of work she takes a close look at death. An extreme close-up, in fact.
Next, although it can be uncomfortable to look death in the face, contemplatives and philosophers have been doing that for millennia. When philosopher William Irvine went looking for a philosophy of life, he stumbled upon the Stoics. Irvine says Stoicism teaches that minding our mortality can help us live a more joyful life.
Then, after years of treating people with brain injuries and illnesses, neurosurgeon Eben Alexander fell into a coma in 2008. He was unconsious for a week and says his near death experience gave him an entirely new perspective on life, consciousness and death.
After that, although people have long been curious about the experience of death, the science of the question is still young. Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel is one of the leading researchers in the field. He says encountering death has had significant impacts for most of the people he's interviewed in his study of near death experiences. Van Lommel tells Steve Paulson that so much time spent talking death has removed his fear of the end of his life.
Every spring in Japan, people crowd under blooming cherry trees. They're signs of spring, but they're also remembrances of life's transience. Master gardener Sadafumi Uchiyama says the blossoms are the quintessential representation of the Japanese principle of mono no aware... beauty in the intertwining of life and death.
And finally, Christian Wiman is a poet and editor of Poetry Magazine. In his latest book of poems, Every Riven Thing, he explores life, death, love and faith. He and Jim Fleming wander the same territory wonderful interview. [Broadcast Date: May 23, 2012]
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