The Thinker in the Dark - A5

“Much of American culture in the 20th century has been engagement in death avoidance,” said Albert Hamscher, the university’s Kenneth S. Davis professor of history. “Bucket lists signify a willingness at least to discuss death again. But note how it is purely secular in its contours. It focuses on the here and now rather than the hereafter, which has been how people typically frame death.”

Death avoidance is a relatively new phenomenon in Western society, according to Hamscher. Philippe Aries, a 20th-century French historian, referred to the attitude as “the forbidden death” in his book, “Western Attitudes Toward Death from the Middle Ages to Present.” Instead of being exposed to it, which commonly happened in Europe until recent generations, people have been shielded from death. This avoidance became more popular with medical advances and increased secularization.

“Religion has always given death a frame of reference,” Hamscher said. “Absent that, death becomes a frightening topic. Death can appear frightening in that context because it has no larger explanation. It’s an existential black hole.” –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write the internal monologue for a character who is engaging in death avoidance.

Journaling Prompt: How do you feel about death, not just yours but the death of people you love?

Art Prompt: Death

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about death avoidance in our culture.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney on Flickr

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