A New Moon Birthday Ritual

The next time your birthday falls on a new moon (preferably on a Wednesday), try this neat trick:

In front of a mirror, surrounded by things that mean the world to you, layer sheets of paper and cloth soaked or spotted with your blood, under your shorn hair, all shredded and cut with a sharpened piece of million-year-old volcanic glass, and mix in the shards of your former lives (melted silver, raven stone shards, chunks of quartz and tigers eye, obsidian and onyx and garnets…); then sprinkle on the dust and sand from a 4575 year-old necropolis, and drip with the melted ice and snow of 34 million years ago.

Take the mixture and carefully collect it, layers intact, into a receptacle, and take gather some matches and a liquid deemed sacred to a deity of your choosing (or choosing you; wine, rum, rosewater, etc…), and move to a place where you can easily make a fire.

Read to yourself our aloud a meditation on life, impermanence, loss, death, time, change, adaptation, becoming, memory, and creation. Perhaps this http://tinyletter.com/Technoccult/letters/meditation-on-32-33 will work for you. Then pour the sacred liquid into the mixture, set the whole mix into the fire place, with the receptacle in a place to catch the ashes, and light the fire. Tend it, carefully, rendering it all to ashes.

After the fire, collect the ashes and as many offerings as you need and walk to the nearest crossroads (best if it can somehow manage to be both three AND four ways, at once). Remembering what each offering means, place all of your offerings (more rum; a trick. like a turkey sausage coated in ashes, to make it smell like Flame Cooked Meat; a contemplative day; and the whole working done under the Moon’s darkest face) in the center of crossroads. Place and pour, each on each.

Thank yourself and whatever or whomever else for whatever gets done, and exit the crossroads. Walk home, wash your hands, arrange your work, and think about what you’ve done and what you’ve become.

Happy Birthday.

Unemployment Is Killing 45,000 People Each Year

Vice reports:

The number of suicides related to unemployment remains stubbornly high despite the improving economy, according to a study published this week.

Researchers had previously registered a spike in suicides during the global economic crisis that began in 2008, suggesting that financial stress and hardship had contributed to the rise. But an analysis published on Tuesday in The Lancet Psychiatry by doctors at the University of Zurich in Switzerland estimates that about 5,000 suicides were associated with the crisis, while roughly nine times as many self-inflicted deaths are linked to unemployment each year.

Full Story: Vice: Unemployment Is Killing 45,000 People Each Year

Mindful Cyborgs: Your Digital Life After Your Death 2

The second part of our conversation with Willow Brugh of the MIT Media Lab about the Networked Mortality project and their efforts to help you figure out what to do with all your digital stuff when you die.

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Color Coding for Sex and Death PART 2

Mindful Cyborgs: Your Digital Life After Your Death

This week we talk with Willow Brugh of the MIT Media Lab about what happens to all your digital “stuff” when you die. How will your co-workers get the last of your uncompleted work? What will happen to your Facebook page? Who will delete your porn folder? Willow talks about all that and more.

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Color Coding for Sex and Death

The Largest Mass Grave Site in the U.S.: Hart Island


Gizmodo reports:

It’s a place where few living New Yorkers have ever set foot, but nearly a million dead ones reside: Hart Island, the United States’ largest mass grave, which has been closed to the public for 35 years. It is difficult to visit and off-limits to photographers. But that may be about to change, as a debate roils over the city’s treatment of the unclaimed dead. Never heard of Hart? You’re not alone—and that’s part of the problem.

Hart Island is a thin, half-mile long blip of land at the yawning mouth of Long Island Sound, just across the water from City Island in the Bronx. Depending on who you ask, it was named either for its organ-like shape or for the deer (or hart) that thrived here after trekking across the frozen sound in the 18th century. Hart is dense with history; it’s been used as a prison for Confederate soldiers, a workhouse for the poor, a women’s asylum, and a Nike missile base during the Cold War.

Its most important role has been to serve as what’s known as a potter’s field, a common gravesite for the city’s unknown dead. Some 900,000 New Yorkers (or adopted New Yorkers) are buried here; hauntingly, the majority are interred by prisoners from Riker’s Island who earn 50 cents an hour digging gravesites and stacking simple wooden boxes in groups of 150 adults and 1,000 infants. These inmates—most of them very young, serving out short sentences—are responsible for building the only memorials on Hart Island: Handmade crosses made of twigs and small offerings of fruit and candy left behind when a grave is finished.

Full Story: Gizmodo: What We Found at Hart Island, The Largest Mass Grave Site In the U.S.hart-island

(Thanks Jillian!)

Eco-Friendly Burials: Human Composting

About 2.5 million people die every year in the U.S. alone. Disposing of human remains creates a serious ecological challenge. Traditional burials involve treating a body with formaldehyde and other chemicals then burying it in a wooden casket where it takes years to decompose. Cremation burns a lot of fossil fuel.

One possible alternative: a process is called promession, invented Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak.

Mother Nature Network explains:

The breakthrough process takes only about six to 12 months to transform a dead body into high-nutrient compost. Here’s how it works: A corpse is first frozen to -18°C (0°F) and then submerged in liquid nitrogen. Then the frozen, brittle corpse is gently bombarded with sound waves, which break it down into a fine white powder. That powder is then sent through a vacuum chamber that evaporates all the water.

Since water makes up about 70 percent of an adult human body, the mass of the powdery corpse becomes greatly decreased. Also, if the powder is kept dry, it will not decompose. This erases the need for a speedy burial or funeral service, and it preserves the corpse without the need for any unnatural chemicals like embalming fluids.

When it does come time for a burial, the powder can then be placed in a box of biodegradable material like corn starch and buried in a shallow grave. The mixture will create nutritious, fertile soil, perfect for planting a tree, bush or garden, depending on the desires of the next of kin.

Full Story: Mother Nature Network: Green burial: How to turn a human body into compost

The Local has more on the company, and of course you can check out the official site.

(Thanks Beef!)

Top 5 Most Common Regrets of the Dying

Bonnie Ware spent many years working in palliative care, nursing patients in the final weeks of their lives. She shares what she says were the five most common regrets of the dying.

Dying by Alex Grey

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. (“This came from every male patient that I nursed,” Ware wrote).

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Bonnie Ware: Regrets of the Dying

Mac Tonnies and Other Digital Ghosts in The New York Times

cyberspace after death

Rob Walker wrote a long piece on “digital ghosts” – the online remnants of people who have died. He talks quite a bit about Mac Tonnies:

I spoke to a half dozen people Mac Tonnies met online and in some cases never encountered in the physical world. Each expressed a genuine sense of loss; a few sounded grief-stricken even more than a year later. Mark Plattner, who lives in St. Louis and met Tonnies a dozen years ago through the comments section of another blog, decided that Posthuman Blues needed to survive. He used software called Sitesucker to put a backup of the entire thing — pictures, videos, links included — on a hard drive. In all, Plattner has about 10 gigabytes of material, offering a sense of Tonnies’s “personality and who he was,” Plattner says. “That’s what we want to remember.” He intends to store this material through his own hosting account, just as soon as he finds time to organize it all.

Plattner was one of several online friends who got involved in memorializing Tonnies and his work. Dia Sobin, an artist who lives in Connecticut, met Tonnies online around 2006; they communicated often by e-mail and phone, but never met in person. She created art for Tonnies’s site and for the cover of what turned out to be his final book. Less than two weeks after he died, she started a blog called Post-Mac Blues. For more than a year, she filled it with posts highlighting passages of his writing, reminiscences, links to interviews he gave to podcasters and bloggers, even his Blip.fm profile (which dutifully records that he listened to a song from “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today,” by David Byrne and Brian Eno, at 4:16 p.m. on the last day he lived). Her site is “a map to Mac Tonnies,” Sobin says. “And a memorial.”

“I only ever knew him over Twitter,” Sarah Cashmore , a graduate student in Toronto, told me. She shared his enthusiasm for design and technology and learned of his death from Twitter contacts. “I was actually devastated,” she says. A few months later, she teamed up with several other members of Tonnies’s Twitter circle to start a second Tonnies-focused blog, Mac-Bots.

This outpouring of digital grief, memorial-making, documentation and self-expression is unusual, maybe unique, for now, because of the kind of person Tonnies was and the kinds of friends he made online. But maybe, his friend Rita King suggests, his story is also a kind of early signal of one way that digital afterlives might play out. And she doesn’t just mean this in an abstract, scholarly way. “I find solace,” she told me, “in going to Mac’s Twitter feed.”

New York Times: Cyberspace When You’re Dead

(Thanks Chris Arkenberg)

Walker also covers various services for dealing with one’s digital life posthumously and transhumanist notions of immortality.

See also: Technoccult interview with Sarah and Mark on MacBots.

Does Atheism Offer As Much Comfort in Death As Religion?

Ever since I became an atheist, I’ve been struck by the fact that, even when people believe that death is no more than a temporary separation, they still grieve deeply and desperately for the people they love, as if they were never going to see those people again. Belief in an afterlife doesn’t keep people from mourning in terrible anguish when their loved ones die. It doesn’t keep people from missing the loved ones they’ve lost, for years, for the rest of their lives. And it doesn’t keep people from fearing their own death, and putting it off as long as they can. (And for the record: No, I don’t think this makes them hypocrites. I think it makes them human.) The comfort of religion doesn’t eradicate grief, any more than the comfort of atheism does. It simply alleviates it to some extent.

But does an atheist philosophy of death offer less comfort than a religious one? Honestly — I think that depends. For one thing, I think it depends on the atheist philosophy. A philosophy of (for instance) “Yes, I’m going to die, but my ideas and the effect I had on the world will live on for a while ” will probably be more comforting than a philosophy of, “Yeah, death totally sucks, but that’s reality, reality bites, whaddya gonna do.”

Plus, obviously, it depends on the religion as well. Many true believers in a blissful afterlife aren’t actually very comforted by this belief. It’s common for believers to be tormented by the thought that, even if they’re going to Heaven, the apostates in their family are going to burn in Hell… and how can Heaven be Heaven if their loved ones are burning in Hell? And many religious beliefs about death fill their believers, not with comfort, but with terror and guilt… and many atheists who once held those beliefs say that letting go of them was a profound relief. They would much rather believe in no afterlife at all than an afterlife determined by the vengeful, nitpicky, capricious, psychopathically sadistic god they were brought up to believe in.

Alternet: Does Atheism Offer As Much Comfort in Death As Religion?

(via Disinfo)

South Koreans experience what it’s like to die — and live again

coffin academy

Across South Korea, entrepreneurs are holding controversial forums aimed at teaching clients how to better appreciate life by simulating death. They use mortality as a personal motivator.

Reporting from Daejeon, South Korea – For Jung Joon, the moment of truth arrives for his clients as they slip into the casket and he pounds the lid in place with a wooden hammer.

Insights arise, he says, as they are confronted with total, claustrophobic darkness, left alone to weigh their regrets and ponder eternity.

Jung, a slight 39-year-old with an undertaker’s blue suit and a preacher’s demeanor, is a resolute counselor on the ever-after who welcomes clients with the invitation, “OK, today let’s get close to death.”

Jung runs a seminar called the Coffin Academy, where, for $25 each, South Koreans can get a glimpse into the abyss. Over four hours, groups of a dozen or more tearfully write their letters of goodbye and tombstone epitaphs. Finally, they attend their own funerals and try the coffin on for size. […]

Many firms here see the sessions as an inventive way to stimulate productivity. The Kyobo insurance company, for example, has required all 4,000 of its employees to attend fake funerals like those offered by Jung.

LA Times: South Koreans experience what it’s like to die — and live again

(via Dangerous Minds)

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