Thursday, April 23, 2009

Strange is the world

Strange is the world 
Why should men 
Receive life in this world?
Men's lives are as meaningless 
As the lives of insects 
The terrible folly 
Of such suffering 
A man lives but 
As briefly as a flower 
Destined all too soon 
To decay into the stink of flesh 
Humanity strives 
All its days 
To sear its own flesh 
In the flames of base desire 
Exposing itself To Fate's Five Calamities 
Heaping karma upon karma 
All that awaits Man 
At the end 
Of his travails 
Is the stench of rotting flesh 
That will yet blossom into flower 
Its foul odor rendered 
Into sweet perfume 
Oh, fascinating 
The life of Man 
Oh, fascinating

-The Spirit's song from Akira Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood," the truest adaptation of "Macbeth" on film.


Asat (Sanskrit) [from a not + sat being from the verbal root as to be] Not being, non-being; used in the Indian philosophies with two meanings almost diametrically opposed: firstly, as the false, the unreal, or the manifested universe, in contrast with sat, the real; secondly, in a profoundly mystical sense, as all that is beyond or higher than sat. "Sat is born from Asat, and Asat is begotten by Sat: the perpetual motion in a circle, truly; yet a circle that can be squared only at the supreme Initiation, at the threshold of Paranirvana" (SD 2:449-50). In its lower sense, asat signifies the realms of objective nature built out of and from the various prakritis, and therefore regarded as illusory in contrast to the enduring Be-ness or sat. In its higher sense asat is that boundless and eternal metaphysical essence of space out of which, in which, and from which even sat or Be-ness itself is and endures. Asat here is parabrahman-mulaprakriti in its most abstract meaning.
-From the Sanskrit Dictionary. The tree is called: ashvattha.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We Are The Lucky Ones

As a companion piece to my dark and dreary musings on the fear of the unknown, I present to you now an excerpt from Richard Dawkins' "Unweaving the Rainbow." It deals with some of the things we've covered in our fearism posts - pre-birth, birth, death, etc. - and offers a different perspective on the unknown.

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

The present moves from the past to the future, like a tiny spotlight, inching its way along a gigantic ruler of time. Everything behind the spotlight is in darkness, the darkness of the dead past. Everything ahead of the spotlight is in the darkness of the unknown future. The odds of your century being the one in the spotlight are the same as the odds that a penny, tossed down at random, will land on a particular ant crawling somewhere along the road from New York to San Francisco. In other words, it is overwhelmingly probable that you are dead.

In spite of these odds, you will notice that you are, as a matter of fact, alive. People whom the spotlight has already passed over, and people whom the spotlight has not reached, are in no position to read a book.

After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked -- as I am surprisingly often -- why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn't it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?
Excerpt from
Image by Dani Jones.

By the Void!

I’ve come to think that fear of death is nothing more than a biological mechanism that evolved to keep us alive. None of us has any recollection of the situation before birth. I have yet to meet anybody who feels traumatized by the state of affairs before they came to exist. If existence is far superior to non-existence, we should have negative reactions to non-existence regardless of whether it occurs before or after our lives.

Which brings me to a question: would you prefer to die tomorrow or never have existed?

This is from the blog Philosophy of the Void. I love the word void. This concept interested me when it was brought up in rehearsal. That there is nothing to fear of non-existence, that the time before you are born should be the same as after you are dead. It all seems a little too simple, but still interesting, and not the common way of viewing life.

Patterns, Change, and Rituals, makes the Death go away!

Every once in awhile, when writing I will focus on a character that is obsessed with one detail or one activity (a ritual). Writing this type of study helped my own mind calm down, while simultaneously building an exciting wall of endurable anxiety around myself. In the writing I could feel my mind and vision narrowing like someone has physically put blinders on me. It made the rest of the world and all my real anxieties dissipate for awhile. What if I didn’t have that release? I sometimes think I would lose my mind, and losing my mind, in my mind, goes hand-in-hand with death. I often acquaint losing my mind to the old figure of speech, “on the edge.” In my anxiety about losing control the “edge” is certain death. Here is some segments I selected from a paper on OCD I found online by Matt Shollenberger, Ph.D.

1: Obsessive-compulsive disorder is actually two disorders: the obsessive part is unwanted thoughts, while the compulsive part is rituals born out of these negative thoughts.

2: Obsessions are repetitive, intrusive, negative thoughts that cannot be stopped, and are rarely controlled through will power. They tend to be uncontrolled thoughts driven by fear; fear of
contamination, fear of not doing things perfectly, fear of harming oneself or others, or fear of death.

3: People with OCD may fear that their negative thoughts may cause a person to be harmed, which causes them more fear and anxiety.

4: Other rituals may have nothing to do with the obsession plaguing the OCD mind. For example, a person may suffer from morbid thoughts and in an attempt to calm himself or herself, that person may walk three times in a circle reciting the alphabet backward. The person may be fully aware that his or her compulsive ritual has nothing to do with thoughts of death, yet he or she cannot stop.

5: Part of the treatment involves teaching the person the irrationality and uselessness of his or her rituals. Treatment in counseling may involve teaching the person more logical, effective ways of combating his or her fears and anxieties.

6: Change is not accepted in their routines, and when it is forced upon them they may become depressed, anxious, or angry. Part of therapy may involve teaching acceptance of change and understanding of the unreasonable demands OCD allows people to place on themselves and the world.

This idea of changed is now stuck in my head. I don’t yet understand how to incorporate it, but change is what our center figure may be fearing more than death itself. The unknown, as we have mentioned a few times in our rehearsals. Simple change and rituals are concepts we can easily explore. Setting patterns and breaking them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This is a small and abridged segment from Allan Feldman's "Welefare Economics and Social Choice Theory, 2nd Ed." It is somewhat disturbing to me to know that there is a clear calculus for a man's worth. This is only one of the models presented in this book.

Chapter 11


1. Introduction

…what if the population changes? For instance, what if a set of individuals {1, 2, . . . , n} is attempting to choose between alternatives x and y, but x will kill off some of the people, and y will add additional people?

In fact, this is an extremely common question that policy makers and economists face almost every day. For instance: Should a state spend $5 million replacing a highway if those repairs will likely result in 1 less traffic fatality in the next year? Should a government spend $10 billion on AIDS drugs if those drugs will prevent 1,000 deaths? Should a government prohibit a sport or leisure activity if that sport creates a 1/6 probability of death per play (e.g., Russian roulette with a 6-chamber revolver)? Should it prohibit a sport or leisure activity if that sport creates a 1/1,000,000 probability of death per day (e.g., downhill skiing)?

Is it better for a country to have a higher population or lower? If it is better to have more people, should this be done by encouraging births, or increasing life expectancy? If it is better to have fewer people, is it better to reduce birth rates or increase deaths? …

2. Economic Model

The Money Value of a Life Placing a money value on a life in legal disputes is an ancient practice. The modern Anglo-American legal treatment of accidental killing, which started in the mid 19th century, typically provides that dependents of a deceased person may recover for pecuniary losses they suffer, especially lost wages the deceased would have provided. The deceased is primarily viewed as a money making machine. The value of his life is mainly given by lifetime income or earnings, possibly net of expenses needed to maintain the machine (e.g., food, clothing, etc.), possibly discounted to present value, and possibly augmented by the value of non-paid services provided. This can be called the human capital approach: the person is valued as a (human) money making machine.

The human capital approach to valuing lives, however, ignores how much the deceased himself would value being alive.

3. A Formal Version of the Economic Model

We will now develop a relatively simple model to show how one individual “computes” the value of his life.

In this model there is just one person, so we will dispense with an identifying subscript. There are two time periods. In period 1, the planning or ex-ante period, he decides on how to allocate his spending. He can spend on consumption, on precaution, or on insurance. Between period 1 and period 2, the ex-post period, events unfold, which leave him either alive, or dead. The probability that he ends up alive in period 2 depends on how much he spends on precaution in period 1. If he is alive, he consumes the amount he chose in period 1. If he is dead, the amount he would have consumed, plus the value of any insurance policy he bought, is bequeathed to his heirs.

We use the following notation:

x = consumption in period 2 (or part of bequest, if he is dead)

y = precaution expenditure

z = insurance expenditure

w = x + y + z = initial cash endowment

q(y) = probability he is alive in period 2

V = face value of any life insurance policy he buys

We assume the q(y) function is nicely behaved: 0 <>

y, q(y) increasing in y, concave, and smooth.

We assume that the cost of life insurance would reflect the actual odds that he will die, so that z = V · (1 − q(y)). That is, the price of insurance

is “actuarially fair.”

f (x) = xα if alive

g (x + V ) = (x + V )α − K if dead.

Anti-Life Equation

The Anti-Life Equation is the fictional equation for which the DC Comics villain Darkseid is searching in the Jack Kirby's Fourth World setting. It is for this reason that he sends his forces to Earth, as he believes part of the equation exists in the human subconscious. Various comics have defined the equation in different ways, but a common interpretation seems to be that the equation is a mathematical proof of the futility of living.

loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ mockery ÷ condemnation ÷ misunderstanding x guilt x shame x failure x judgment n=y where y=hope and n=folly, love=lies, life=death, self=dark side
Darkseid first became aware of the equation approximately 300 years ago when he made contact with the people of Mars. Upon learning of the Martian philosophy that free will could be defined by a "Life Equation", Darkseid postulated that there must exist a negative equivalent[1].
Jack Kirby's original comics established the Anti-Life Equation as giving the being who learns it power to dominate the will of all sentient and sapient races. It is called the Anti-Life Equation because "if someone possesses absolute control over you - you're not really alive."[2
By speaking said equation, Darkseid can insert the full formula into people's minds, giving them the mathematical certainty that life, hope and freedom are all pointless. According to Oracle, who barely escaped the "full" effects of the Equation by shutting down the entire Internet just in time, the Anti-Life Equation further states that the only point in anything is to conform to Darkseid's will[3].
the Anti-Life Equation is revealed as a living shadow-based deity that corrupts and destroys everything it touches.

First Paragraph of First Chapter of "speak, memory" by Vladimir Nabokov

"The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth. He saw a world that was practically unchanged-the same house, the same people- and then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence. He caught a glimpse of his mother waving from an upstairs window, and that unfamiliar gesture disturbed him, as if it were some mysterious farewell. But what particularly frightened him was the sight of a brand-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events, his very bones had disintegrated."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I remember when I was very young, five or six, I was troubled and could not sleep. I was overcome with a confusing sense of dread. My mother, hearing that I was up, came out bleary eyed wondering what I was doing out of bed. I remember telling her that I was afraid of life. My mother quickly told me that life is nothing to fear and it was death that I should be afraid of. I was then sent to bed.


The thought of being afraid of life lingered while I laid in bed that night. I don’t know what I meant by it. I want to say that I sensed the burden of choices that were ahead of me. Choices that seemed so important. Choices that would shape who I am and what I would become. I felt paralyzed by those choices. My eyes grew weary but my mind raced as I stared at the ceiling. I was afraid. I had no idea how I would make any decisions for myself. I was afraid that I would grow up lame and would have to own my lameness. I wanted to hit a reset button but there is no reset button. I tried to turn my mind to other things. Towards friends, a funny joke, fart sounds. I’ll be stuck with my decisions and whatever I become. In the end, death will come and finalize all of my decisions. They won’t be able to be taken back. I’ll die with them. Outside a car drove by, it’s fleeting lights washed across an otherwise dim and still room. 

He has a black bean inside him, at the base and center. Tissue floats out from it, translucent white and waving from his underwater belly. Sometimes when he is sleeping I think I could pull it out of his eye, slide my finger down his nose into the pinky flesh and scoop it out like a pellet, hard and coming out with a curl of my finger, dropping to the floor- his death that he was born with. But it is deeper down and untouchable, waiting and not spinning or jostling and not making sound. Absent sound. Absent movement. Almost confident. But mostly just nestled – a sure thing- more certain than anything. I want to pluck it out but all of his soft insides curl around it, humming.

Stage Directions for a Fearism

Three people stand on stage, each walking on pieces of bright tape that have been made into circles. A fourth, outside person, tears a piece of tape from one person’s circle and everyone stops to watch. The torn person changes direction while the others change the way/ the manner in which they are walking. This repeats for all three circles until each person is essentially walking back and forth on a disconnected circle (a line). Each time the walkers get to an end of the line they change direction and they change their manner of walking (as though if they change their manner, their circles will be made whole again) until finally, one by one, they step off their lines and are completely still.

Clif knows a third person who is afraid:

Fear of bad newspaper headlines, Mayan numbers, climate change, loss of polar magnetism, and/or large objects hurtling from space at mindbending speeds:

is the fear of
global catastrophe
is the fear of
that which is beyond control
is the fear of
the loss of control
is the fear of
being defenseless
is the fear of
not being able to prevent the end of this existence
is the fear of
there not being another existence
is the fear of
is the fear of
It’s 1993 on the T.V. and he has wrapped himself up in 1994,
v-necked and allowing for deep breathing and openness and interconnectedness, but he recalls:
driving in 2001, listening to 96x; hearing the friend of a classmate on the radio telling him an
asteroid has a date with the planet some night in 2017 and in
2009 he sits and starts to shake and thinks of
armageddon commercials,
reports of rising waters,
the pot-smoking engineer playing
Dr. Mario and warning him that the poles are losing their ability to point a compass north and
he just shivers and
runs in circles, but not away from the
global catastrophe that awaits.
Running in circles, not cutting through the floor, not stirring anything but the air in the sitting room, exerting control over nothing he fears, in the air or space, because the
air and space are quite beyond his control, he quite involuntarily becomes nauseous and falls, quite lacking the self-control to prevent himself from vomiting on the hardwood, violently, eyes tearing,
on all fours, insensible, he thrashes about, searching for something upon which to steady himself, he finds the T.V. stand to be wheeled when he tries to lift himself up, it slides, the T.V.
he is
unable to prevent flashing/singing 1993 from crashing down upon him in high definition.
There is a fire now.
1993 is broken and so is his shoulder.  He has also received quite a blow to the spine.  He cannot move, other than to quake and tremble with a b + c - d=y (let a represent the thing you won’t tell anyone, b=smashing force, c=the dark, d=dignity, y=you), as he watches the flames lick up the walls, but he does not scream out because all of his energy has run up into his mind to consider this:
did not exist before birth and he was unable to prevent being born, thus he will be unable to prevent what is shaping up to look a lot like impending death, thus he is as unable to prevent the end of his existence as he was to prevent its start,
and unless you have been in a slightly prolonged death experience you cannot challenge the fact that he could, or would, have been thinking such things Mr. or Ms. Reality-Cop, which, you of all people should know, is impossible because you are dead and probably unable to read internet bloggings,
burning alive is probably no good, there is a shard of glass he could bleed himself out with, but he is clinging to every second,
not remembering the time before he was born, he worries
will be no existence to follow, and
so he must savor the exquisite pain of what remains.
1994 is turning to ash around his body, v-neck not having much to do with breathing anymore and there is nothing to sweater because his skin will no longer let moisture pass through its blackening pores.
His thoughts are all that is left, but they seem to rattle around, trying to shake the idea that he will cease to be. 
They solidify on an image of what is not even the color white nor the absence of light nor bright nor black.
The 90’s and all other decades become irrelevant as the neighbors dog runs out of the buildings front door.  He is cold because they cut off all of his hair and his head looks much larger than his body.

Fearism Story: Fear of others

The Fear of others is the fear of judgment is the fear of rejection is the fear of loss is the fear of being alone is the fear of having nothing is the fear of being nothing is the fear of death

Janet is so scared all the time. People people everywhere, she hates people. She doesn't want anything to do with them. Why do they talk to her, why do the look at her, why do they, why do they? No peace for Janet, always people, but never peace. A person will talk to her and look at her, and she knows, is absolutely certain. She is clearly not good enough for people. People are much better than Janet, they are much more firm and smell so nice, look so fine, taste so ripe and sound so clear. People hate what Janet lacks. They say, "she isn't like me at all."

Janet has a secret. She tried once. To be with others, but people rejected her. People wanted nothing to do with Janet. People gave Janet loss. She greeted loss, and loss stuck with Janet. Never left Janet's side. Loss became a close friend to Janet, holding onto her ribs. Janet carried loss around and it would climb up her ribs and into her ear and speak the only word it could say. Alone. Alone Alone Alone Alone. Janet was alone. There was just Janet. Just Janet. Alone. There was nothing else in the world. Janet had nothing but Janet.

As Janet drifted in her void, she looked around the nothing and a thought came to life in her head. "If everything is nothing, how could I possibly be something?" Panicked, she scrambled to define herself, her role in the void. Something that had purpose, meaning, texture, but it was useless, there was nothing. All Janet could do was become nothing. All Janet could do was turn to death.

Hi Death, I'm Janet

Hi Janet I'm Death



Yes Death

Would you like to become me? Would you like to be Death?

Gee Death, I would be honored.

Luke's fearism as silent film in one act

Fear of the unknown/unidentified
is the fear of lack of knowledge
is the fear of powerlessness

is the fear of inefficacy

is the fear of being forgotten
is the fear of temporality
is the fear of death

interior, victorian parlor.

everything is lace and candles. in the center of the room is a circular table, draped in white. on the table sits a box. a black box. it absorbs the light around it. one might even say it exudes darkness. in a high-backed chair in the corner of the room sits a man. there is one door in the room. it is closed.

the man rises from the chair with precision. he strides towards the table with purpose. he stops short. stares at the box. he is making a decision. he continues towards the table, moving more slowly. he cannot make himself move closer. he does not know why.

the man moves around the room. he collects burning candles from various surfaces and places them around the edge of the table. the box remains unchanged. it does not move. it does not brighten. it remains.

the man begins to panic. his eyes, shifting, focus on the door. he runs to it. his hand pauses on the knob. he could open it. but they will not let him out. they will not let him out until he opens the box. the man returns to his chair.

he stares at the box. the candles are going out. no one is coming. he cannot see. slowly, the man dies.

Friday, April 10, 2009

John's Fearism as Third Person Narrative

The Fear of Stepping on the Cracks in the sidewalk Is the Fear of breaking a pattern Is the Fear of disorder Is the Fear of losing control Is the Fear of the non-existence of meaning in a random universe Is the Fear of having no purpose Is the fear of being nothing in a world of nothing and a non-thing is as if dead.

After many years of fearing the cracks he chose to step on the third one on the way to the corner store.

A fraction of a moment later he regretted his decision and continued to walk in between the cracks. But his gate, his way of walking altered slightly, it was unfamiliar to him. He was going to turn around and begin again to make it better, but that didn’t seem to make sense.

He looked back towards his destination. Looking into the distance he couldn’t distinguish the difference between the shape of the minimart and the shape of the planned parenthood building. The letters on the signs no longer seemed to hold together as words, they were just lines and squiggles. He could no longer keep his eyes focused so they wandered uncontrollably.

Had he turned around accidentally or was he facing his home? How many times had he turned around? Now there seemed to be no difference between where he was and where he was going. He began to run in random directions, sometimes jumping sometimes veering sometimes turning completely around again.

He tried to say to himself that this was progress, whether forward or back, but he assumed he was just tricking himself. Was he always tricking himself? There is no home, there is no direction that leads anywhere, no history.

So he stopped. Was he standing or sitting, or was he even there anymore. Was that light coming towards him, away, was it always there? He felt the steal against his leg and then he felt nothing.

Naming the Dead

They call them "Tent Girl", "Johnny Dupage", and "Homestead". These are among the substitute names given to the unidentified dead, bodies that have yet to be connected to a history, family, or life. There are thousands of them which are known. There are thousands more that have not been reported, or put in the appropriate databases and lists. Determining the true identities of these Does is difficult and time-consuming - most police and medical examiners don't have the time or resources to devote. Enter the Doe Network.

The Doe Network is a product of the Internet age - a collection of individual citizens brought together across great distances for a common cause. They share resources, communicate about cases, and work with law enforcement in the hope that they can find names for the unidentified dead. The first article I read about the Network is archived here. I still cry when I read it. It follows one of the original members, Todd Matthews, in his search for the identity of "Tent Girl", so named for the piece of canvas she was wrapped in when discovered. There is a similar article with more information here.

The second article contains this quote from Matthews:
"The one real fear in life is not death -- the greatest monster of all is the unknown. Particularly when the location of a loved one is the unknown. I see folks with missing loved ones literally writhing in pain."
This gives a little insight into the reasons why so many Network volunteers spend their free time hunched over their computers, scouring medical records and message boards for the smallest clue that might lead to an identification.

The fearism I posted started with "fear of the unknown/unidentified". The Doe Network and what I learned about missing persons was my inspiration for that. My fears about the unknown are largely related to becoming unknown myself - going through life without making a difference, or affecting other people in a significant way. To die without a name is one of the worst things I can imagine. I suspect many of the volunteers feel the same way - or they empathize with those left behind, and feel an obligation to bring closure to long-forgotten cases.

Their obsession with the dead is a help to families, medical personnel, and law enforcement in a very real way. Hopefully our obsession will be a help in its own strange way.

Photo courtesy of Kim Fowles.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Remember Me

Building on Dina's Death-related radio listening, last week's This American Life also touched on the topic:

283: Remember Me

Stories about people who are remembered very differently than they'd wished. The ghost of a kindly, distinguished philanthropist supposedly plays pranks on guests at a Ramada hotel in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. A dying mother makes a tape for her developmentally disabled daughter, hoping she'll watch it someday, knowing she might not.


Host Ira Glass talks to Laura Mayer, editor of the New Trier Township High School yearbook, about the renegade student who jumps into as many club photos as he can. And contributing editor Jack Hitt explains how this impulse—to be remembered as someone you're not—can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin. It turns out even the man who invented bifocals padded his resume for history. The key on the kite story, for instance? Probably not true. (9 minutes)

Act One. Thinking Inside the Box.

David Wilcox tells the story of how his mother, who was dying of lung cancer, made a short videotape for his sister, who is severely developmentally disabled. She hoped the tape would become a daily part of her daughter's life, like the other music and movies she liked to play, that she would watch it and remember her mother. But she also knew her daughter might never even see it. (9 minutes)

And we hear two stories from people who recorded their own memories in a booth in Grand Central Station in New York, as part of the StoryCorps project. The first is Don "Moses" Lerman, a champion eater who's thought a lot about what he'll be remembered for. The second is Ronald Ruiz, a bus driver, who's never forgotten one of his passengers. StoryCorps funders include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute. (3 minutes)

Act Two. Where's Walter?

Starlee Kine rents a room at a Ramada hotel in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where a ghost supposedly plays pranks on the guests and staff. The ghost's name is Walter, for Walter Schroeder, the guy who originally built the hotel in the 1920s. It turns out Walter was a successful businessman and a kindly philanthropist who threw great dinner parties. So why would he bother haunting a Ramada? Starlee originally wrote and read a version of this story for The Little Gray Books Lecture Series. (14 minutes)

And...two more stories about remembering, from StoryCorps. The first is a conversation between Ralph Tremonte and and Donald Weiss, who were in mental institutions together as kids, and are reunited after 40 years. The second is Brad Skow talking to his mother, Mary Lou Maher, who gave him up for adoption when she was 17. (4 minutes)

Act Three. Giving Up the Ghosts.

Writer Shalom Auslander reads his short story about how he decided to start forgetting the dead, even though his job required him to remember. Shalom's book of short stories is called Beware of God. (15 minutes)

Song: "Live and Let Die," Guns N' Roses

Listen here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Death Show

Saturday afternoon I listened to a beautiful episode of Third Coast International's Re:Sound entitled The Death Show:

April 4, 2009 (#89)- The Death Show
Originally aired on April 12, 2008

Little Black Train
Nora Harrington - Independent Producer, USA

A year and a half after Nora Harrington's father died, at the age of 53, she was still trying to sort through her feelings about mortality. So she did something that most of us avoid: she confronted the topic head-on. She had a series of frank, intimate conversations about the end of life with a few elderly friends, her grandfather, and her mother. What results is a story that's sometimes profound, sometimes poignant, and sometimes surprisingly funny.

The Dead Can't Do You Nothin'
Katie Mingle - Independent Producer, USA

While in New Orleans, Katie Mingle poked around a pauper's graveyard -- even spent a night there -- hoping to encounter a ghost. Instead she befriended some gravediggers and learned a few truths about life and death in the Big Easy.

Live? Die? Kill?
Karen Michel - Independent Producer, USA

When someone dies, when someone is born, it's a little like the world stops turning for the people who are most closely affected. You can't help but think about the big questions: who are we, what is life about, why are we here... These things were on the mind of Karen Michel when she moved to Pleasant Valley, NY right after September 11th. She wanted to find out what was really important to people at this critical time. So she devised three very short, very big questions that got the heart of people's central beliefs and she started asking them.

You can listen to the episode here.

Sketching Death
I worked in a gallery in Providence, RI and I was looking for artists who had work to show...William Schaff invited me to his apartment to take a look at his stuff. At the time (2005?) his front room had a bunch of pleasant sketches of his dog up on the wall. But in the second room, the main living room, there were a lot of scratchboards of piles of dead bodies and politicians vomitting skeletons. When he saw how much we liked his work he took us into another room in which he had many sketches and scratchboards of holocaust victims. It's true that the images were...gruesome...? But there was something about them that made me feel like Wil wanted to look at death as directly as possible - in a way that was far more courageous than the rest of us. What I would most like to post here is a link to his Flickr account, in which you can see the sketches he did of his dying father. The scratchboard work seems appropriate for some of his other images of death - carving images out of the dark.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sarah's Fearism Storyyyy

There is a war going on. A war between the red team and the blue team. People are being slaughtered like cow.

The blue and read teams are such great enemies. Such enemies that if a blue as seen on red land they could be shot immediately. The same tragic sentence is also true to any red seen on blue land. A hatered so great
that the two teams constantly stay on gaurd, waiting for the other team to prevoke a feud.

. . .

My family and I are on the red team. The red team is known for its extreme scientists. Mad scienctists, recognized for their ingenious knowledge of equations and logic.
My father has the knowledge to move the stars around and realine the entire solar system. My mother can genetically alter anything from a cactus to a dinosour. My brother and sister died in the womb. My parents say my brother killed my sister during a fight over the chromosome that held the answer to some very epic scientific mystery.

Me, well I have the ablilty to solve any equation. My ability to disect and arrange information in my head is so sharp, I can solve problems before they even occur.

As far as my parents know I am at the Jorba College of Extreme Intellect. It's a red team college filled with genious from all forms of science and mathematics. I can alreay solve every equation, there is nothing to learn for me there. There I am stuck with no chance of growth.

Where I really am is the School of Profound Language, deep within the hills of the blue side. The blue team is known for their exquisit linguistics and wit. The blue team is full of people who can speak, write, and communicate with serious eloquence.

I lead a duel life, scared of associating myself to one team. I am afraid to live a life of settlement and stability on the red side, but I am also afraid for my physical life if anyone were to find out that I am a red on the blue side.

I am expecting a child with one on the blue team.

. . .

My parents got a call from the Jorba College of Extreme Intellect today. A government offical followed by a few squat cars arrived at the school today looking for me. "Number 7627. where is number 7627?" a large man in a gray suite questioned the school's executives.

A number! a number in an equation. They knew that I was missing from the equation.

When they could not find me at the institution they went straight to my parent's home. They took my parents into custody, and threathened them with death if I was not found and turned in.

I have two options. One, return home and be arrested and killed. Shame my parents and their fortune. Once the blue side finds out they would kill my child on the way.

Two, stay on the blue side where I have created life, and let my parents die. If either of these options occur I will have created risk for the fate of both teams. I could start an uproar between the two teams putting everyone in serious danger of each other.

Affliation with either group will cause death.

I have created an equation where the only answer is death. Whether it is the deaths of my parents, my child and the one associated, or of many other team members; I have control of the variables. What I choose to be will decide whose fate is on the other side of the equal sign.

. . .



Now I am dead, unidentified/unaffiliated with either team.

I created the equation, so I solved. To solve the equation one must die, and in some cases when the cost is too great on either side, you must give your own life to solve it.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sarah's fearism

Fear of Affiliation
Fear of being juged
Fear of being understood
Fear of no more growth
Fear of the definitive
Fear of being stuck
Fear of and END...or death