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How can we create a new relationship with death?

Our culture has a predominantly negative attitude towards death. We talk about "saving" lives (as if lives can be saved, rather than merely extended briefly). We talk about unnecessary loss of life. We talk about surviving illnesses as the only positive outcome and how we can avoid aging. And yet our planet can barely tolerate the population it has. We don't have enough food, fuel, or collective common decency to make eternal life a viable outcome. We need to change the conversation to one in which death is respected and appreciated -- but how do we do that without being DISrespectful to the living?


Closing Statement from Kaila Colbin

Hi everyone,

Firstly, thank you so much for your comments and concern following the recent earthquake in Christchurch. We have been very lucky; my family and loved ones are all safe, though we mourn for the more than 200 lives lost.

And thank you also for your willingness to explore this difficult topic, for which I certainly don't have the answers. At TED this week, we heard from many people doing fantastic things in medicine: exoskeletons that allow paralyzed people to walk, 3D printers that can print a kidney in 7 hours, even intentional gene manipulation for controlled evolution. My hope in starting this debate was to question the fundamental assumption underlying these marvelous inventions: namely, that death should always be avoided where possible and that any extension of life is always a good thing.

Many of us have found beauty in death. When my father passed away four years ago, I was heartbroken; I still grieve for him. But he was 83, he had had a stroke 6 years earlier, and it was time for him to go. There was nothing unfair in it. Death is not always a tragedy.

The theme of the upcoming TEDGlobal is The Stuff of Life, and apparently that will include discussions on our relationship to death. I hope we can continue to explore this topic: the one topic that is common to us all.

Warmest regards,

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    Feb 26 2011: I believe this topic is related to religions and philosophies of life.

    some may believe death is a transit way to other life, while some may not . personally and as my religion (Islam) taught me and as logic and life process suggests, I believe that we are not created randomly and for nothing. there must be punishments and awards, which are in the other life of course, cuz we see that it's impossible to apply the perfect fair judgement here in this life, and many people live without offering the world anything good, but at the contrary, they only cause of crimes and wars. and those people may die with no punishment. So there MUST be sometime they get punished in for what they have done; in which what is called "the judgment day".

    therefore, if someone does good deeds, offers good opportunities for a better life, helps other human kinds. I don't think this person may fear of death cuz he knows he will be awarded for what he has done.

    however, and as I said, some people may not believe in other life or judgment day . so I think there must be some fear here, at least from the unknown waiting for them after death.

    thanks for bringing this topic up.

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