Archive for ‘Death’

November 11, 2016

Don’t Mourn, Organize!

joe hill

Don’t mourn, organize!‘ is an expression often incorrectly supposed to be the last words spoken by labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill, who was charged with murder and executed in Utah in 1915. In truth, the expression is part of a telegram sent to Bill Haywood, the founding member and leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), in which Joe wrote, ‘Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!’ It wasn’t Joe’s last telegram; he sent another in which he implored Haywood, ‘Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.’

Since the death of Hill, the phrase has been used in association with other labor leaders’ deaths. The phrase has also been used in conjunction with a severe defeat and not the death of an individual.

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November 1, 2016

Death From Laughter

chrysippus

Death from laughter is a rare form of death, usually resulting from cardiac arrest or asphyxiation, caused by a fit of laughter. Instances of death by laughter have been recorded from the times of ancient Greece to the modern day. Certain brain injuries can cause pathological, uncontrollable laughter such as infarction of the pons and medulla oblongata.

Laughter can cause atonia and collapse (‘gelastic syncope,’ a short episode of low blood pressure caused by laughter), which in turn can cause trauma. Gelastic seizures, a rare type of seizure that involves a sudden burst of energy, usually in the form of laughing or crying, can be due to focal lesions to the hypothalamus. Depending upon the size of the lesion, the emotional lability (mood swings) may be a sign of an acute condition, and not itself the cause of the fatality. Gelastic syncope has also been associated with the cerebellum.

February 1, 2016

Survivor Guilt

sophies choice

war by leif parsons

Survivor guilt is a mental condition that occurs when a person perceives themselves to have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not. It may be found among survivors of combat, natural disasters, epidemics, among the friends and family of those who have died by suicide, and in non-mortal situations such as among those whose colleagues are laid off. The experience and manifestation of survivor’s guilt will depend on an individual’s psychological profile.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines it as a significant symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Characteristic symptoms include anxiety and depression, social withdrawal, sleep disturbance and nightmares, physical complaints and mood swings with loss of drive.

January 9, 2016

Afterwardsness

retroaction

Transference

In the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud, afterwardsness is a ‘mode of belated understanding or retroactive attribution of [meaning] to earlier events… [from the German word] ‘Nachträglichkeit,’ translated as ‘deferred action, retroaction, après-coup, afterwardsness.’ As summarized by another scholar, ‘In one sense, Freud’s theory of deferred action can be simply stated: memory is reprinted, so to speak, in accordance with later experience.’

Closely related for Freud to deferred action was ‘deferred obedience’: again, ‘a deferred effect…a ‘deferred obedience’ under the influence of repression.’ Thus for instance Freud explored the different phases of a man’s infantile attitude to his father: ‘As long as his father was alive it showed itself in unmitigated rebelliousness and open discord, but immediately after his death it took the form of a neurosis based on abject submission and deferred obedience to him.’ In ‘Totem and Taboo’ he generalized the principle and ‘depicted the social contract also as based on posthumous obedience to the father’s authority’ — offset at times by its converse, occasional Carnival-like licence such as ‘the memorial festival of the totem meal, in which the restrictions of deferred obedience no longer held.’

November 23, 2015

Summer of the Shark

shark panic

Sensationalism

The Summer of the Shark refers to the coverage of shark attacks by American news media in the summer of 2001. The sensationalist coverage of shark attacks began in early July following the Fourth of July weekend shark attack on 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast, and continued almost unabated—despite no evidence for an actual increase in attacks—until the September 11 terrorist attacks shifted the media’s attention away from beaches. The ‘Summer of the Shark’ has since been remembered as an example of tabloid television perpetuating a story with no real merit beyond its ability to draw ratings.

In mid-August, many networks were showing footage captured by helicopters of hundreds of sharks coalescing off the southwest coast of Florida. Beach-goers were warned of the dangers of swimming, despite the fact that the swarm was likely part of an annual shark migration. The repeated broadcasts of the shark group has been criticized as blatant fear mongering, leading to the unwarranted belief of a so-called shark ‘epidemic.’

October 26, 2015

Stampede

five people per square meter by g keith still

A stampede is uncontrolled concerted running as an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people. Cattle are particularly prone to stampedes. Any sudden, unusual event can set one off, such as a horse shaking itself, a lightning strike, or even just a tumbleweed. Other species that stampede include elephants, walruses, wild horses, rhinoceros, and humans. Human crushes often occur during religious pilgrimages and professional sporting and music events. They also occur in times of panic (e.g. as a result of a fire or explosion) as people try to get away.

Crushes are very often referred to as stampedes but, unlike true stampedes, they can cause many deaths. They typically occur when members at the back of a large crowd continue pushing forward not knowing that those at the front are being crushed, or because of something that forces them to move. It has been suggested that crowd density rather than size is important, with a density of about four people per square meter beginning to be dangerous, even if the crowd is not very large.

August 4, 2015

Sigil

sefer raziel hamalakh

lesser key of solomon

A sigil [sij-il] is a symbol used in magic. The term has usually referred to a type of pictorial signature of a demon or other supernatural entity; in modern usage, especially in the context of chaos magic (a postmodern magical tradition which emphasizes the pragmatic use of belief systems), it refers to a symbolic representation of the magician’s desired outcome.

The term derives from the Latin ‘sigillum,’ meaning ‘seal,’ though it may also be related to the Hebrew word ‘segula’ meaning ‘word, action, or item of spiritual effect, talisman.’ The current use of the term is derived from Renaissance magic (a resurgence in hermeticism and Neo-Platonic varieties of ceremonial magic in the 15th and 16th centuries), which was in turn inspired by the magical traditions of antiquity.

April 23, 2015

War Before Civilization

noble savage

War Before Civilization: the Myth of the Peaceful Savage’ is a 1996 book by Lawrence H. Keeley, an archeology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who specializes in prehistoric Europe. The book deals with warfare conducted throughout human history by societies with little technology. In the book, Keeley aims to stop the apparent trend in seeing civilization as bad. According to Keeley, modern western societies are not more violent or war-prone than (historical) tribes. He conducted an investigation of the archaeological evidence for prehistoric violence, including murder and massacre as well as war. He also looked at nonstate societies of more recent times. It has long been known, for example, that many tribes of South America’s tropical forest engage in frequent and horrific warfare, but some scholars had attributed their addiction to violence to baneful Western influences.

He makes three conclusions which the ‘New York Times’ wrote were unexpected: ‘The most important part of any society, even the most war-like ones, are the peaceful aspects such as art; neither frequency nor intensity of war is correlated with population density; and societies frequently trading with one another fight more wars with one another.’ The Times said that ‘the book’s most dramatic payoff is its concluding explanation for the recent ‘pacification of the past’ by scholars,’ that ‘…revulsion with the excesses of World War II has led to a loss of faith in progress and Western civilization…’

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February 9, 2015

Reincarnation in Judaism

The Floating Clouds

Reincarnation is one of the thirteen Principles of Faith of Judaism. It states: ‘I believe with a perfect faith that the Holy One… in the future will bring the dead back to life…’ It is also a core element in the tale of the ‘Ten Martyrs’ in the Yom Kippur liturgy, who were killed by Romans to atone for the souls of the ten brothers of Joseph. Jewish mystical texts (the ‘Kabbalah’), from their classic Medieval canon onwards, teach a belief in ‘Gilgul Neshamot’ (lit. ‘soul cycle’).

It is a common belief in contemporary Hasidic Judaism, which regards the Kabbalah as sacred and authoritative, though unstressed in favor of a more innate psychological mysticism. Kabbalah also teaches that ‘The soul of Moses is reincarnated in every generation.’ Other, Non-Hasidic, Orthodox Jewish groups while not placing a heavy emphasis on reincarnation, do acknowledge it as a valid teaching.

December 3, 2014

Takako Konishi

kumiko

Takako Konishi (1973 – 2001) was an office worker from Tokyo who was found dead in a field outside Detroit Lakes, Minnesota on November 15, 2001. Konishi had originally arrived in Minneapolis earlier that month, traveled to Bismarck, then to Fargo, and finally to Detroit Lakes, where she died. Her death was ruled a suicide, but it was insinuated by the media that she had died trying to locate the missing money hidden by Steve Buscemi’s character, Carl Showalter, in the 1996 film ‘Fargo,’ under the impression that the film was based on a true story. Investigations by American film writer/director Paul Berczeller discovered the entire ‘Fargo’ story had come about as the result of a misunderstanding between Konishi and one of the Bismarck police officers with whom she had been talking.

The story was then inflated by the media, leading to an urban legend. Instead, it was discovered, Konishi had been very depressed after losing her job at a Tokyo travel agency, and had come to Minneapolis because it was a place she had previously visited with her lover, a married American businessman. Depressed and lonely, Konishi had been wandering Detroit Lakes when she decided to commit suicide with an overdose of alcohol and sedatives. Her story was detailed in the 2003 documentary film ‘This Is a True Story,’ directed by Berczeller. In addition, the urban legend surrounding her death is the basis for the 2014 film ‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter.’

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November 3, 2014

Near-death Experience

heaven help us by Alex Eben Meyer

Near-death experiences (NDE) are associated with several common phenomena such as feelings of detachment from the body, levitation, serenity, security, warmth, dissolution, and bright light. These sensations are usually reported after an individual has been pronounced clinically dead or has been very close to death. With recent developments in cardiac resuscitation techniques, the number of reported NDEs has increased. According to a 1992 Gallup poll, approximately eight million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience. Popular interest in the topic was initially sparked by psychiatrist Raymond Moody’s 1975 book ‘Life After Life,’ in which he interviewed 150 people who had undergone NDEs.

In 1981, the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) was founded and the following year began publishing the ‘Journal of Near-Death Studies,’ the only peer-reviewed journal in the field. Research from neuroscience considers the NDE to be a hallucination resulting from one or more of several conditions including cerebral anoxia (insufficient oxygen to the brain), hypercarbia (elevated carbon dioxide in the blood), or damage to the temporal lobes (which are responsible for giving meaning to events). Spiritual thinkers and an parapsychologists have long pointed to NDEs as evidence for an afterlife and mind-body dualism.

July 29, 2014

Psychopomp

Nosoi

chiron

A psychopomp [sahy-koh-pomp] (from the Greek word ‘psuchopompos,’ literally meaning the ‘guide of souls’) are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage. Frequently depicted on funerary art, psychopomps have been associated at different times and in different cultures with horses, deer (harts) dogs, and several birds, such as whip-poor-wills, ravens, crows, owls, sparrows, cuckoos.

In Jungian psychology, which stresses the importance of the symbolic in human life, the psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams as a wise man or woman, or sometimes as a helpful animal. In many cultures, the shaman (medicine man) also fulfills the role of the psychopomp. This may include not only accompanying the soul of the dead, but also vice versa: to help at birth, to introduce the newborn child’s soul to the world. This also accounts for the contemporary title of ‘midwife to the dying,’ or ‘End of Life Doula’ which is another form of psychopomp work.