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
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.