Get the dead where they’re going and the living where they need to be.

Confronting Death
My grandfather was diagnosed with colon cancer. It had been years since I had last seen him — then he was a husky, strong man with big arms — now he was emaciated and his hair was thinning. He spoke with a weakness in his voice. I knew I was losing him. It was then I began to think of death more broadly: how it related to me, my parents, friends, strangers.

My Approach

Phase 1) Philosophical Understanding
    ︎I headed to the philisophy section of the local library that focused on death. There I found How To Stop Living and Start Worrying by Simon Critchley, which fueled my hypothesis. I visited the death & dying section frequently to answer questions that arose during my research.
    ︎ Once I felt prepared to discuss death & dying, I compiled the takeaways from my reading.

Phase 2) Qualitative Research
    ︎I formed the hypothesis that life is only worth living if it’s worth dying for and created questions to test it.
    ︎I set out to learn people’s point of view on death and dying by pitting it against their values of freedom, satisfaction of life, and motivation to continue living.

Phase 1) Philosophical Learnings


Phase 2) Qualitative Learnings


I wanted to know if life was worth it if we knew we were going to die. Why live if eventually you won’t? So, I first started with Simon Critchley’s “How to Stop Living and Start Worrying.”

    ︎Why? Critchley explains that our conscious awareness of living is the catalyst for the metaphorical chains we believe life has on us.


  ︎To prime people for the following questions, I wanted to first understand their POV on life.
    ︎ Q1: Is living worth the risk of dying?

  ︎I wanted to understand the boundaries that shaped their POV.
    ︎ Q2: Are you free?

  ︎By now offering them complete creative control of the narrative, I wanted to understand how their POV and boundaries held up in a situation.
    ︎ Q3: You’re sitting in a row boat. All you have are oars and a small supply of fresh water. Can you describe the ocean for me?

  ︎I wanted to understand how they sustain their POV.
    ︎ Q4: What is your motivation to live?

  ︎Finally, I wanted to understand what outside of their freedoms defined a successful life.
    ︎ Q5: If you were to die tomorrow, would you be satisfied?


︎Death is satisfied by recognition. Participants expressed that they’d be satisfied with their death if the memory of them was sustained through the people they interacted with. They want the validation of living.

    ︎”If I were to disappear tomorrow and people were still able to remember me in a very fond light, I think I’d be ok with that.”

︎Death is justified by your freedoms. Participants felt that capitalism restricted their ability to be free — that in order to be “free” you must hustle to earn the right for freedom. Ultimately, no one is free.

    ︎”I don’t think anyone is free in a capitalist society. If I want to live, I have to work and I have to constantly be doing something, and in this system we have right now, and I know that as long I have to do that I’ll never truly be free.”

Below are videos cut to showcase the points above.


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