David Thompson
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September 14, 2016

Comments

Jen

I thought that was going to be really depressing but it wasn't.

David

I thought that was going to be really depressing but it wasn’t.

I wouldn’t want to depress you with a post about death. That’s what the posts about politics and academia are for.

Ian

There's quite a lot on this subject out there. I'd recommend The Art of Dying by Peter Fenwick. In the above post, the repeated emphasis on the term "dreams", including to describe waking events, is somewhat misleading.

Ten

Science is just beginning to understand the experience of life’s end.

Ah, Science. Because other experience is somehow lacking.

David

Ah, Science. Because other experience is somehow lacking.

I’m puzzled by the tone. Do you regard scientific enquiry in this area, however rudimentary, as some kind of… infringement?

Ten

It's a nice piece, David, just with a somewhat misled heading. I mean only to find contemporary virtual deification of science odd, and the proper use of it, as if Science were conscious, even odder.

Science is just beginning to understand the experience of life’s end.

See? Obviously, "science" understands nothing.

Science is what we all understand it to be, hopefully, which is neither a replacement for uncataloged experience nor the proper, replacement method way to observe things. Science is, after all, a largely sensory apparatus.

It's useful when we don't ascribe it special properties. All the more so when it's revealed just how shot through with error and even fraud it's been of late.

David

neither a replacement for uncatalogued experience nor the proper, replacement method way to observe things.

Ah. I suppose that if a quantified and structural view were the only available option, the only respectable approach, that would be a little… unsatisfying, and not at all how people generally are, or have been, when faced with mortality and its significance. It seems to me that some understanding of the, as it were, shutdown procedure is complimentary knowledge, not a total usurpation. I, for one, didn’t know that “the last senses to go are usually hearing and touch.”

sH2

Science is just beginning to understand the experience of life’s end.

Still no cure then?

David

Still no cure then?

It appears not.

Ten

Proper with the capital P, David, not in the sense that it's improper as used. The great entity Science understands nothing, as I said. We do. Or could. Or should.

Ten

It seems to me that some understanding of the, as it were, shutdown procedure is complimentary knowledge, not a total usurpation.

No disagreement there, David. To me the hazard is our culture's ubiquitous scientism, or in the case of death, the intellectually cloistered notion that the white light and the sense of love and the spiritual ascendency upon death are mechanical manifestations of dying brain cells and blah blah that as such nullify traditional acceptance over thousands of years that the mind is simply transitioning. It's almost as if we feel a need to revise the human experience, as if it were ignorant, misled, or out-dated.

Funny, because this is the same scientific culture that says we're inside a computerized Matrix universe or that origin came about by way of a great, spontaneous creation miracle, or even some times, that Utopia is forever just around the corner if we only erect a great apparatus in man's stead for him to pipe his substance into, that being the smart, intellectual, expert view of our secular betters.

I, for one, didn’t know that “the last senses to go are usually hearing and touch.”

That's kinda cool, but I don't know why. As if the mind is already looking elsewhere, softly letting go the hands and whispers of our family and friends...

Theophrastus

"the last senses to go are usually hearing and touch.”

In 1983, my father was in a hospice. Death was inevitable, and I had visited him almost daily over the last few weeks. When I received the call to say he was sinking, I drove rapidly to his bedside, only to find he was unconscious and was making the ghastly death-rattle. 'I fear you're too late to talk to him', said the kindly nurse. I said a few words to him, but there was no response at all. Then I remembered that he could always wiggle his ears - it was his party trick, if you like -- so I asked him to wiggle his ears if he could hear me. To my amazement, he wiggled his ears - while ashen, emaciated, emitting the death rattle and apparently unconscious! As a result, we managed to communicate tenderly at the very end of his life. He died within three hours of my arrival.

David

That’s kinda cool, but I don’t know why.

Well, that was sort of my reaction to the piece in general. I was oddly pleased by the author’s mother “putting things away,” in her mind, and the reported dreams and hallucinations about “getting ready to travel somewhere.” I’ve no religious subscription and I don’t assign metaphysical weight to these things. It’s just faintly pleasing, aesthetically, that these were the kinds of things experienced by the people concerned, and apparently more generally.

Franklin

In what turned out to be the last of her eighteen years of life, my cat started to dream in an active way that she never had before. Twitching, pawing, even going through the motions of running while asleep. Interesting to learn that the same seems to happen to humans.

Jonathan

Sorry to harsh your feels, but could it be a side effect of medication? I was hospitalised recently and given morphine for pain relief. After a couple of days I found I had trouble telling what was real and what was a dream - so much so, I had to tell them I didn't want the morphine anymore. That brought me back to reality.

dearieme

I died once (diagnosis: hospital registrar), and I have nothing to report. No St Peter, no Satan. But it was probably only for a very short time. Maybe those old boys are slow on their pins.

Ten

I’ve no religious subscription and I don’t assign metaphysical weight to these things.

Me neither, but tangentially related, for the last few years I've been looking into the electric universe, an alternate cosmological view getting a lot of technical validation lately. Virtually every new cosmological find supports the EU model at the expense of the 100 year old standard model. Comets are in fact not balls of ice, stars don't really act much like nuclear furnaces after all, and there's ample evidence on earth and the planets that the steady, gravitational big bang and solar system model isn't all that plausible.

This interest derives partly from the ancient "squatterman" petroglyphs found all around the earth in ancient cave art. It seems back then man globally witnessed a manifestation of enormous plasma interaction between worlds, worlds in a different alignment than today. Such a phenomenon would naturally be recorded for posterity, which becomes a robust, reliable, historical indicator dated well before the scientific age.

Today, the theory goes, this gigantic plasma event between charged planets was powerful enough to strip Mars into the dry wreck it is today, with a huge scar on one side and a northern hemisphere hundreds of feet lower in elevation than the southern. This is simple electrical discharge machining, or "EDM" as industry uses it today as a technical tool. Pieces of Mars on Earth? The asteroid belt? Possible EDM. What of, for example, Pluto's completely bizarre antics; what are the mathematical odds of each of its many moons having been knocked into its peculiar orbit by a whole series of perfectly placed cometary caroms? It's more plausible something else happened. Our usual pat explanations are falling, and they're falling to an unusual combination of modern science consistent with ancient belief.

If such an event was visible, are eyewitness accounts of it reliable? Could they have informed ancient man's obsession with marking place in the sky, or with gods, or with figurative battles and moralities and traditions that still influence culture today? And right there prior experience and the lore that flowed from initiates modern science.

In this there's a substantial resonance between the legendary and if taken "archeologically" and openly, the scientific, much of which is in its infancy. See: the Rosetta mission, the Jupiter and Saturn probes, those findings about Pluto, and far more. A surprising amount of what was thought to be fanciful, superstitious, primitive lore turns out to have been either startlingly prescient or more likely, eyewitness evidence. The consistency and thoroughness are too much to dismiss.

There's probably no direct tie in between that and the death experience except that its experience too predates and is not voided by a subsequent science. Science has to go looking at or for a prior sensory or mental phenomenon. Religion must also draw on a sea of prior knowledge to exist, and even if it then gets it wrong, does not erase the prior impulse or account that created it - religion is wrong about Jesus by nature, but according to the evidence of mass experience, Jesus lived and lived exceptionally enough to create a huge wake.

And those accounts, as whatever metaphysical form we give them, open up a whole discussion about intent, meaning, and substance. What were we experiencing, and why did we pass it on like we did.

I'm not religious either, having had to recover from an ostensible version of it. But man's long experience indicates a reality than the sciences only later partly compliment. The true nature of that reality - if true is even a valid abstract, which I don't think it is - can be no more "scientific" than sensory, spiritual, and observational, meaning consciously human. After all, science also says that if it's not observed, then it didn't even happen, or thereabouts.

Henry

Can you precis that for me?

Henry

Anyway, anyone who enjoys a bit of Great British Piss-taking should check out the #AskJuncker hashtag currently trending in Twitter...

wtp

I may have related this here before...or not...so I won't go into the details of how I know this for certain as he never directly told me, but my father stopped dreaming during the war. He fought on the front lines in the US infantry in the Pacific against the Japanese and saw some heavy fighting, including receiving a Purple Heart. In his final years, when he was 83-84 he developed a brain tumor and was slowly dying. I spent much time with him, visiting him every day IIRC. He was always lucid, aware, and himself even retaining his sense of humor until the very last two days or so but his ability to communicate was gradually slowing down. At one point in the last couple weeks he turned to me and said, while slowly circling his hand around his temple, "Do you dream?" He asked this as if it was something unusual to do. I'm guessing that over the many years he even forgot that he had had dreams in his youth or had even forgotten when he had lost the ability (my knowledge of these details come partly from letters he wrote home during the war). I said that I did and he nodded his head as if he was in some way comforted that dreaming wasn't something unusual.

Farnsworth M. Muldoon

Anyway, anyone who enjoys a bit of Great British Piss-taking...

Deja vu, indeed.

Ten

Can you precis that for me?

Because you're special?

Henry

We're all special. Some of us are especially prolix

Geezer

Because you're special?

No, because tl;dr

Ten

And others elatus, Hank.

And that's not how to find your host's articles, Geezer. I found it quite interesting.

Geezer

Confucius say: You can write whatever you want, but nobody has to read it.

Jeff Guinn

And now for something completely different.

Well done, David. Very well done.

David

And now for something completely different.

I felt like posting something that didn’t have an obvious political aspect. Detox, as it were. It was this or cat gifs.

Ten

I'm enthusiastically brushing up on my internet lingo instead now Geezer.

Dom

I agree with Jeff. This was refreshing. The usual clown-quarter stuff is getting too easy.

dicentra

And now for something completely different.

Well done, David. Very well done.

And also done in, on account of I can't locate that comment at all.

Hal

It was this or cat gifs.

What?

JuliaM

Anyone of my mother's generation will nod sagely at the idea that the 'plucking fingers' motion described presages death. This is the first time I've ever heard anyone questioned the soon-to-be-deceased about it.

Interesting answer.

And a very interesting post.

David

I agree with Jeff. This was refreshing.

Next week: Alien Autopsies and Does God Like Cheese?

WTP

Or this? Such stuff as dreams are made of. Really, really bad dreams. Via Ace...

David

I’m not familiar with the kind of thing I’m seeing.

Surreptitious Evil

"Electric Universe is a psychedelic trance project from Germany formed by Boris Blenn and Michael Dressler in 1991."

And makes a hell of a lot more sense than the woo espoused by the pseudo-scientists.

R. Sherman

Great! Thanks to the David's link, I now know that when I'm getting ready to cash in my existential chips and my life is passing before my eyes, those last tranquil moments will include recalling WTP's photo above.

"Mom, what's dad doing with his hands?"

"Oh, he's just trying to swat away something he saw on the internet in 2016."

WTP

Hey, I'm just one man. I'm doing all that I can.

Captain Nemo

I think it says something about the regular content linked to via this blog that a post about people dying is one of the less depressing things I've read on here in ages. I personally found it quite moving and beautiful. Certainly a welcome change from Little Miss Anti-Patriarchy railing about opressive, sexist cupcakes.

David

I think it says something about the regular content linked to via this blog that a post about people dying is one of the less depressing things I’ve read on here in ages.

I should put that in the brochure.

David

Certainly a welcome change from Little Miss Anti-Patriarchy railing about oppressive, sexist cupcakes.

It does, I think, provide a little... perspective.

R. Sherman

@WTP

Yeah? Well I raise you one 1970s Raquel Welch:

Captain Nemo

"I should put that in the brochure".

You may put it in your brochure. In return, all I'd like is one of those Guild of Evil™ amulets I keep hearing so much about...

WTP

Dude, if you're gonna go Rachel Welch, you gotta go full Space-Girl Dance...

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pgqTS3XcAuI

In fact, I think I discovered that here, many years ago...

R. Sherman

Dude!?!

You never go "full Space-Girl Dance."

Sheesh.

David

In fact, I think I discovered that here, many years ago...

See also Ms Brigitte Bardot’s switched-on gyrations.

WTP

OK, don't watch that, watch this...one step beyond...OK, more than one...
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kTvdjlJUO8A

Jen

See also Ms Brigitte Bardot’s switched-on gyrations.

LOL She isn't moving, David.

David

She isn’t moving, David.

She’s gyrating internally.

R. Sherman

I think the phrase "off the rails" describes where we are now.

David

I think the phrase “off the rails” describes where we are now.

Oh, it’s a warm, sunny afternoon here. Almost tea time. The fact that the thread has veered into a ditch and is currently on fire bothers me not one whit.

Ooh, there’s ice cream in the freezer.

Joan

I think our host is in a good mood. :-)

Ten

And makes a hell of a lot more sense than the woo espoused by the pseudo-scientists.

None of which its detractors have typically looked into or if they had, only to see if it aligned with approved cultural barriers. That's the thing about scientism, isn't it? Its popularized myth is rarely strictly scientific but it makes splendid goggles out in the public as it meanders through its various pop eras, where it does so until a substantial period of contrary evidence rewrites and finally overwhelms the conventional view, where it's eventually revealed that various academies were already well into the replacement view decades before the man on the street.

Ten

Incidentally, forget the new theory, just reconcile the string of failures of the old one.

Geezer

I suspect that our Visiting Troll (I hope it doesn't plan to take up residence) thinks it has submitted a winning entry in David's world-renowned, ongoing gobbledygook competition. But its submission can't keep up with the professionals. Sabrina McCormick has this:

Findings demonstrate that conceptualizations of vulnerability are affected by intellectual frameworks that tend to orient around infrastructure and human health; that retrospective and prospective thinking are inter-related and affect one another; and that institutionalized forms and biases are critical. These factors shape the way that vulnerability is conceived differently than traditional expert frameworks.

Killer Marmot
The “patients’ pre-death dreams were frequently so intense that the dream carried into wakefulness and the dying often experienced them as waking reality

This describes precisely my impression of my father in his last few months of life; difficulty differentiating between reality and his own dreams.

Heather

It is beautiful here too! The tea olives outside my office window are blooming and smell fantastic. My secretary (and general minder - she has that "Mom" look) is leaving town tomorrow to go to Italy for a whole week. Life is great!

Ten

But yours still somehow reminds one of familiar pseudo-rightist graffiti, Geheezer. And yet, here you are in polite society. Like a boss.

Never let ghetto signalling between broheims be corrupted by a clean white surface, eh? We don't need no facts. Appearances like yours aren't going to keep themselves up, after all.

Geezer

I never refer to the Troll by name, but someone seems to want to claim the mantle. Because of my suggestion that it might be a finalist in David's world-renowned, ongoing gobbledygook competition?

don frese

I am a volunteer at a hospice keeping vigil or company with patients who have no family, or whose family is geographically distant. This morning I sat with a man who has an inoperable brain tumor who was reaching for imaginary objects in an agitated fashion. I helped him calm himself by playing along, asking him to give them to me to put away. At one point he chuckled and made a comment that made me think he understood he was hallucinating.

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