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talking about Deaths in December

December 21, 2011

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”?

In a rather journalistic way, this week, the news about the news of Kim Jong Il was broken.  And listeners and viewers, especially in the West, were called on to react to the reactions:  here and here.

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.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2011 3:45 pm

    L’chaim, Kurk.

    I also think that my most recent post (we were probably posting at the same time) is relevant here.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 21, 2011 4:18 pm

    I found it very powerful that on Denny Burk’s blog, he linked to 3 posts by Christopter Hitchens so that we can read Hitchens on his own passing.

    I also had not known until recently that Stephen Jay Gould lived for 20 years after a diagnosis of terminal cancer at age 40. He died of an unrelated cancer in 2002 at 60. Both men were prolific writers and have left us so much. I feel that they wrote with a lightness and expressiveness that perhaps is the product of a certain clarity of mind brought about by sober thoughts.

  3. December 22, 2011 2:10 pm

    Here is a funny take from NMA on Kim’s death:

    And here is a funny take on his birthday earlier this year:

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