talking about Deaths in December
This December, in our blogging so far, we have mentioned several who have passed away. We are “remembering” Francesca Woodman, “who ‘committed suicide’ at age 22.” We said “goodbye” to George Whitman. We started reading the obituaries for Christopher Hitchens just after he “died.” And we noted that Vaclav Havel “died.” I believe we missed mentioning that “Paula E. Hyman, a social historian who pioneered the study of women in Jewish life and became an influential advocate for women’s equality in Jewish religious practice, including their ordination as rabbis, died on Thursday [December 15, 2011] at her home in New Haven”; and we say now that she will be missed.
At the end of a year, it seems, there’s often talk of death. People die. We talk. How we express ourselves is something that I’d also like to talk about.
In a rather academic way, this week, Victor Mair gets right into whether those in the East (particularly those who write and who speak Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) talk about death in a less direct way than we do in the West. Actually, Mair is not really so self-reflective or as comparative as I’m making him sound. Rather, he’s asked: “Kim Jong Il: did he “die” or “pass away”?“
Death is a somber subject to talk about. My main observation about all of that is that we’d rather be the observer, wouldn’t we? However we talk about passing away, we much prefer still to be doing the talking and the remembering.