CHALLENGING BOOKS AND CURRENT INTERNET POSTS ON DEATH: ELISABETH KUBLER-ROSS, M.D.: DEATH: THE FINAL STAGE OF GROWTH” – ERNEST BECKER, PULITZ PRIZE WINNER, “”THE DENIAL OF DEATH

There has recently been a widespread interest in several internet posts:  one about a suicide death in Oregan where a woman voluntarily chose to end her life on November 3, 2014 after non-remedial death diagnosis and die peacefully in the presence of her husband, family, and friends, and (1) another case, Lori, who chose to “fight death to the end.”  … The immediate reason for my leaving Los Angeles, Californiia where I was a graduate student working on a Masters degree in Political Science was the possibility of my divorced since I was 7 or 8 years old mother dying and without transportation then and the existing salary, that if I hadn’t returned that I would be unable to get home for her funeral if she had died.  When the opportunity presented itself – my being struck by a speeding car while crossing an on campus street crossing and from the court settlement funds purchasing my first car, I returned to Ohio where I eventually earned my masters degree  at Ohio Ohio State University.  When Mom eventually died after I began teaching,  it took a period of time before the healing and recovery from the loss took place.

For those who have suffered the loss of a loved one or those anticipating a loss, he following books are highly recommended.

At the beginning of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, “Death:The Final Stage of Growth, prior to the Introduction, she quoted the following:

“Prayer for Healers”:  “Lord, Make me an instrument of your health where there is sickness,

Let me bring cure ere there is injury, and where there is suffering ease,

Where there is sadness, comfort, where there is despair hope

Where there is death, acceptance and peace

GRANT that I may not:

So much seek to be justified, as to console;

To be obeyed, as to understand:

To be hoored, as to love … for it is in giving ourselves that we heal,

it is in listening that we comfortand in dying that we are born to eternal life.”  —  Prayer of St Francis (modified by Charles G Wise)

In the Foreward, prior to the Preface entitled:  “A journey into the Realm of Death and Growth,” and chapter titles such as:  “”Why Is It So Hard to Die?” “Death Through Some Other Window” subtitle essays:  “Dying among Alaskan Indians: A Matter of Choice” “The Jewish View of Death:  Guidelines for Dying”;”Dying Is Easy, But Living Is Hard”: subtitle:  “Funerals:  A Time for Grief and Growth”;  “Death a Growth:  Unlikely Partners”: subtitle:  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, “Death As Part of My Own Personal Life” “Letter to Elisabeth:  Dedicated to Carol”; and the last chapter:  “Death:  The Final Stage of Growth” it was indicated:

“Death is a subject that is evaded ignored, and denied by our youth-worshiping, progress oriented society.  It is almost as if we have taken on death as just another disease to be conquered.  But the fact is that death is inevitable.  We will all die, it is only a matter of time.  Death is as much a part of human existence, of human growth and development, as being born.  It is one of the few things in life we can count on, that we can be assured will occur.  Death is not an enemy to be conqueredor a prison to be escaped.  It is an integral part of our lives that gives meaning to human existence.  It sets a limit on our time in this life, urging us on to do something productive with that time as long as it is ours to use.  … “

Another highly recommended book is Pulitzer Prise Winner, General Nonfiction, Ernest Becker, “The Denial of Death.”  Described as:  CHALLENGING – POWERFUL – MAGNIFICENT … “one of the most challenging books of the decade.  – Anatole Broyard, The New York Times

In the dedication, he stated:  “To the memory of my beloved parents who unwittingly gave me—among many other things—the most paradoxical gift of all: a confusion about heroism.”

In the Preface, prior to chapter 1 entitled:  “Introduction:  Human Nature and the Heroic,” he indicated:

“The prospect of death, Dr Johnson said, wonderfully concentrates the mind.  The main thesis of this book is that it does much more than that:  the idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else, it is a mainspring of human activity—activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man.  The noted anthropologist A. M. Hocart once argued that primitives were not bothered by the fear of death; that a sagacious sampling of anthropological evidence would show that death was, more often than not, accompanied by rejoicing and festivities, that death seemed to be an occasion for celebration rather than fear—much like the traditional Irish wake (my note: or African Americans’ Louisiana funeral observances!)   Hocart wanted to dispel the notion that (compared to modern man) primitives were childish and frightened by reality:  anthropologists have now largely accomplished this rehabilitation of the primitive.  But this argument leaves untouched the fact that the fear of death is indeed a universal in the human condition.  To be sure, primitives often celebrated death –as Hocart and others have shown—because they believe that death is the ultimate promotion, the final ritual elevation to a higher form of life, to the enjoyment of eternity in some form.  Most modern Westerners have trouble believing this any more, which is what makes the fear of death so prominent a part of our psychological makeup.  In these pages, I try to show that the fear of death is a universal that unites data from several disciplines of the human sciences and makes wonderfully clear and intelligible human actions that we have buried under mountains of facts and obscured with endless back and forth arguments about the “true” human motives.  The man of knowledge in our time is bowed down under a burden he never imagined he would ever have:  the overproduction of truth that cannot be consumed.

For centuries man lived in the belief that truth was slim and elusiveand that once he found it the troubles of mankind would be over.  And we are in the closing decades of the 20th century, choking on truth.  There has been so much brilliant writing, so many genial discoveries, so vast an extension and elaboration of these discoveries—yet the mind is silent as the world spins on its age old demonic career.  I remember teaching how at the famous St Louis World Exposition in 1994, the speaker at the prestigious science meeting was having trouble speaking against the noise of the new weapons that were being demonstrated nearby.  He said something condescending and tolerant about this needlessly disruptive play as though the future belonged to science and not to militarism.  World War I showed everyone the priority of things on this planet, which party was playing idle games and which wasn’t.  This year (book pshed 1973) the order of priority was again graphically  shown by a world arms budget of 204 billion dollars, at a time when human living conditions on the planet were worse than ever.

Why then, the reader may ask, add still another weighy tome to a useless overproduction?  Well, there are personal reasons of course:  habit, drivenness, doggedhopefulness.  And there is Eros, the urge to the unification of experience, to form to greater meaningfulness.  One of the reasons, I believe that knowledge is in a state of useless overproduction is that it is strewn all over the place, spoken in a thousand competitive voices.  Its insignificent fragments are magnified all out of proportion, while its major and world historical insights lie around begging the attention.

There is no throbbing vital cener.  Norman O Brown observed that the great world needs more Eros and less strife, and the intellectual world needs it just as much.  There has to be revealed the harmony that unites many different positions so that the ‘sterile and ignorant polemics’ can be abated. …

… “Paul Roazen, writing about “The Legend of Freud” aptly observed that ‘any writer whose mistakes have taken this long to correct I … quite a figure in intellectual history”  Yet the whole matter is very curious, because Adler, Jung, and Bank very early corrected most of Freud’s basic mistakes.  The question for the historian is, rather what there was in the nature of the psychoanalytic movement, the ideas themselves, the public and the scholarly mind that kept these corrections so ignored or so separated from the main movementof cumulative scientific thought.

Even a book of broad scope has to be very selective of the truths it picks out of the mountain of truth that is stifling us.  Many thinkers of importance are mentioned only in passing … “

At the beginning of the Preface, Becker included this quotation:  “… for the time being I gave up writing—there is already too much truth in the world—an overproduction which apparently cannot be consumed.”  — Orro Bank

One of those who commented on Becker’s book was Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., author of “On Death and Dying,” who stated:  “a brilliant and desperately needed synthesis of the most important disciplines in man’s life.  It puts together what others have torn I pieces and rendered useless.  It is one of those rare masterpieces that will stimulate your thoughts, your intellectual curiosity, and last,but not least, your soul.”

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About Harold L Carter

Bachelor of Science, Columbia University Masters degree, Ohio State University Undergraduate National Officer, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Eastern Asst Vice President, when a student at Columbia University Profile Photograph: Mom & Me, when I was a graduate student
This entry was posted in LIFE AS "STAGES OF GROWTH AND DENIAL OF DEATH. Bookmark the permalink.

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