death

Things to Do

I was thinking about what I wanted to do one weekend and searching for interesting ideas when I realized I've sampled a ton of different activities. 

Things I've done/tried:

1. Flying trapeze

2. Surfing

3. House of Air/Trampoline jumping

4. Kayaking

5. White water rafting

6. Camping in Joshua Tree

7. Hiked lots of places including Yellowstone, Yosemite, Colorado Rockies, and Patagonia

8. Learned to fly fish

9. Taken improv classes

10. Taken an acting class

11. Taken a comedy writing class

12. Taken all manner of exercise classes

13. Gone to a psychic

14. Gone to a movie alone

15. Gone to dinner alone

16. Done Karaoke

17. Sang in a band

18. Taken several different kinds of cooking classes

19. Learned to bowl

20. Introduced myself to my neighbors

21. Taken swimming lessons

22. Run a marathon, a couple different half marathons, and a triathlon.

23. Started my own business

24. Made Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

25. Taken a drawing class

26. Done yoga, Jujitsu (have a belt), and Tai Chi

27. Taken salsa and tango classes

28. Attended the opera

29. Taken opera singing lessons

30. Taken guitar lessons

31. Written a memoir

32. Learned to play poker and blackjack

33. Completed a scavenger hunt in San Francisco

34. Ate at French Laundry and a ton of fancy restaurants

35. Gone horse back riding

36. Taken a sailing lesson

37. Got certified in scuba diving

38. Written my will and advanced health directive

39. Toured the White House

40. Done a helicopter tour of Maui

41. Participated in a protest

42. Flown first class and private

43. Driven a motorcycle and got my license

44. Shaken hands with a President of the U.S.

45. Attended a Cirque du Soleil show

46. Visited Disneyland and Disney World

47. Been on a sleigh ride in Colorado

48. Trekked on the Perito Moreno Glacier

49. Gave a public talk to more than 100 people

50. Taken a photography class

51. Taken Photoshop and Illustrator classes

52. Taken programming classes

53. Volunteered at Glide

54. Volunteered for the San Francisco Public Education Fund

55. Paid for a stranger's dinner

56. Tried to water ski

57. Gone skinny dipping

58. Slept in a hammock

59. Learned to shoot a gun and a shotgun

60. Gone skeet shooting

61. Ran Bay to Breakers

62. Seen sunsets and sunrises

63. Gone on a blind date - okay, a lot of them

64. Hiked a volcano

65. Gone to snowboarding camp in Whistler

66. Taken a master level pastry course

I'm sure there's more "stuff" I've done. Here's some of what is left on my list of things I want to do (not in any particular order):

1. Sky dive

2. Take a pottery/sculpting class

3. Take a painting class

4. Take a stand-up comedy class

5. Sing a solo gig

6. Do a guitar recital

7. Take a song-writing class

8. Learn how to make cheese

9. Write and direct a movie

10. Travel more: Alaska, Turkey, Denmark, Singapore, New Orleans, Graceland, Africa, Australia on NYE, Bavaria, Egypt, India, Naples, China, Japan, Bora Bora, Maldives, Brazil, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Petra, Russia, Prague, Easter Island, The Galapagos, and Niagara Falls

11. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

12. Stand in the crown of the Statue of Liberty (can you still do that?)

13. Swim with dolphins

14. Be a movie extra

15. Go to bar tending school

16. Get a PhD

17. Attend the Grand Ole Opry

18. Go on a 10 day meditation retreat

19. Go on a hot air balloon ride

Any other suggestions? What's on your list?

When Death is Not the End

Is there an afterlife? Two psychologists, Jesse Bering and David Bjorkland, put on a puppet show to find out. In the show a baby mouse is eaten by an alligator. The researchers then asked children what the (now dead) mouse might need.

Children below the age of ten understood the mouse was dead but believed the mouse still had emotions, like missing his mom. Children over the age of ten were more apt to believe the mouse no longer had emotions after death.

From the article:

"Bering and Bjorklund interpret these results: they think the sense that we 'continue on' is something that's with us from a very young age -- it’s how we "naturally" understand death before we're taught otherwise. Their idea is that to get to a place where you don’t believe in an afterlife, it actually takes UNLEARNING a basic belief."

 

And where did we get that belief? Object permanence. What babies learn - that when their mother leaves the room, she still continues to exist. We are not born with it, though. We learn object permanence and to learn it requires a leap of faith.

 

 

How to Live: Visualize Dying

Researchers from Eastern Washington University and Hofstra University in the Journal of Positive Psychology discovered that "people who simply wrote about death in a more abstract way didn’t feel any more grateful afterward; the people who just imagined a day in their life seemed very slightly less grateful. But the gratitude scores of people who actually visualized their own deaths skyrocketed. These people seemed deeply affected by confronting their own mortality 'in a vivid and specific way.'"

But this isn't advice that you should think about your death all the time. The researchers found that even just imagining something you value being taken away from you heightens your appreciation for that thing. In essence, you can get the same benefits by thinking of things for which you are grateful or said another way - keep a gratitude journal.

Required Reading

An important essay on dying by Atul Gawande: "The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn’t, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end."

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