Can Being Reminded of My Death Improve My Life?

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recently i went It felt like life was passing me by, so I downloaded an app that reminds me five times a day that I’m about to die. I thought it would help me accept my mortality and focus on what really matters, but it worries me. Is there something wrong with me? What’s a concern? Do you think these apps can be helpful?

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—ping to death


Dear Pinged to Death,

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I don’t think there is anything wrong with you. Or rather, you seem to be suffering from a problem that is endemic to the entire human race, a species with an almost limitless ability to live in denial of an inevitability. Even clear reminders of our passing—whether it was the death of a loved one or a phone notification—fail to inspire awe and shudder and instead fills our lives with a vague restlessness, an ambient dread. Is. “Death,” as WH Auden said, “is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.” This, incidentally, is one of the quotes featured by Vrock, the app I assume you’re using, with nuggets of literary wisdom from Kierkegaard, Pablo Neruda, Margaret Atwood, and others, along with its death reminder .

We live in an age of slo-mo crises, which manifest at a pace that makes them easy to ignore. Social Security decreases year after year. Glaciers are melting faster, but still at glacial pace. The oceans are warming at a rate that could boil the proverbial toad alive. Death is hidden behind all this. Sometimes, the gravity of our plight is made real through a natural disaster or a UN climate report, but alarm bells fade with the rhythm of the news cycle. Doomsday Clock—arguably the most deliberate attempt to keep our focus on these threats—is currently at 100 seconds to midnight, which puts us about a minute and a half into the time of existential risk from our eventual demise.

The death-reminder app is essentially a doomsday watch for the individual. In fact, some of them have actual clocks so that you can see, in real time, your remaining hours elapsed. The Death Clock, a website that has been active since 1998, predicts the day you die, although its estimates are based on a few raw data points – your age, BMI, whether you smoke. Horror film came many years ago Countdown Envisioned an app that was able to sense the time of another person’s death, with a user agreement serving as a deal with Satan. (The film’s tagline: “Death? There’s an app for that.”) The film inspired a real-life app built on the same premise—minus, obviously, supernatural knowledge, but it also temporarily left enough people to boot. thrown out for app Store.

WeCroak is not so morbid. Its inspirational quotes about mortality are meant to remind users to take stock of what they’re going through, a kind of companion to many mindfulness apps. Its co-founder came up with the idea, while a . in the neck of candy Crush The addiction, and many users commented that the app, which disrupts those hours on Twitter or TikTok, has forced them to confront how much of their lives have been wasted on social media. The product, in other words, belongs to that ever-expanding category of technology that is designed to solve the problems created by technology. If digital platforms remain our most credible deviation from the raw facts of our mortality—the argument goes—perhaps we can channel the same tools to break through those psychological buffers and provide us with more enlightened comfort with our impending demise. can do.

WeCroak, as you may already know, is partly inspired by a Bhutanese folk who claims that happiness can be achieved by contemplating death five times daily. Bhutan is often ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world, and Wekrock is trading on a casual exoticism that is not uncommon in mindfulness culture, offering Eastern traditions as an antidote that eventually Will free us from the trance of modernity. The fact that this has only increased your concern, however, is not surprising to me at all. It is not that easy to prepare yourself to face a truth that you have been conditioned to ignore. (If anything, the notion that we can reverse the entire stream of Western mortality with a free app is more a symptom of our technological pride than its tonic.) The Bhutanese practice of contemplating death is a big one. Has evolved from a cultural context that does not hold back from mortality, as evidenced by the country’s tradition of observing elaborate funeral rites and a 49-day mourning period. Bhutan’s dominant religion, Buddhism, teaches that upliftment rests not on escapism but on accepting the brutal facts of existence—that is, the fact that life itself is suffering.

In the end, death apps are less a wake-up call than another false comfort, a defense of our era’s favorite apothecary. Given that we regularly rely on apps to predict the future, provide statistics about what tomorrow’s weather will be like or whether our favorite restaurant will be busy, it may seem natural to believe that They can also prepare us for the great unknown. But the only scenario is death without an IP address, a place you can’t research, an “overlooked country” that remains absent from Google Earth. I suspect your concern stems from your awareness that the app, in itself, isn’t really addressing the heart of your fear. Surely you know on some deep level that death cannot be predicted or controlled.

This does not mean that you should remove WeCroak immediately. I eventually doubt the notion that one can live entirely without illusions, and this is doubly true for those of us conditioned to bow down to any whiff of eternal void. Most of us will turn to one crutch or another to keep that knowledge away. If you’re annoyed with relying on technology to fill in the blanks, there are many other solutions. You may consider political affiliation, dedicating your life to a cause that will continue to bear fruit even after your death. Religion is always there, the opium of the people. There is genuine opium (along with modern medicine), which has the added benefit of speeding up the journey to death, even if it reduces pain.

If you persist with the intention of struggling with your mortality, the best solution I can think of is to simply wait – if not for death itself, then for more life experience. I am not particularly surprised to note, and not particularly surprising, that most WeCroak users report being in their twenties and thirties, decades of modern adulthood when death still seems abstract and distant. I’m willing to bet, in fact, that you yourself are in that age group. Sooner—than you think—your body will start to break down. More and more of your companions will die. The milestones of the Middle Ages will prompt you to match a dark arithmetic, weighing the years spent versus the years, as you begin to understand, perhaps for the first time, the inflexible nature of time. This knowledge cannot be obtained through consumption of facts and figures; This contradicts the apparent usefulness of digital reminders. It is an existential awareness that comes only through the urgency of the lived experience. Poet Jane Hirschfield—whose words are included in the library of Weyrock Quotes—records in her poem “The Present” how it feels to finally come to terms with the fragility of life, an experience that is every bit as illuminating as it is. is disturbing. “How cool is the death trap,” she writes. “You can almost see through it.” About.

Honesty,
Cloud


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