Talking about Dying: memoirs and essays
AbeBooks Seller Since December 4, 2007Quantity Available: 1
AbeBooks Seller Since December 4, 2007Quantity Available: 1
About this Item
Title: Talking about Dying: memoirs and essays
About this title
Everyone knows that the death rate on earth is 100 percent. If one were to concentrate obsessively on that fact, it could become an obstacle to living. But fleeing from all talk about death can also be unhealthy. Death is omnipresent in today's media. But the portrayal of death in the movies, television and video games can be a way of distancing oneself from the reality of one's own death. This book provides language for personally grappling with issues that eventually concern every individual. The author brings an historical perspective to practices that have undergone a change in public perception. Euthanasia and suicide were until recently judged to be sickness or sin. These practices are now sometimes thought to be acceptable but language is needed for a better discussion of them. The book is particularly concerned with education, not just courses in school but the teachable moments in the lives of both children and adults. A child's encounter with the death of a family member or even the death of a pet are important moments for integrating into one's life a healthy attitude to death. The idea that there are stages of dying was made popular by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. This book critically examines what truth there may be to the idea and its practical relevance. In a sense, everyone is dying from the moment of birth. A diagosis that one has a few weeks or months to live simply makes one aware of the process. Dr. Johnson's famous comment that "getting hanged in a fortnight wonderfully concerntrates the mind" applies more broadly to every reminder of one's mortality. Every adult eventually has the experience of mourning a loved one. In most societies there is a careful ritual for mourning. This book discusses the absence of support for mourning in many people's lives. In recent years public tragedies bring forth makeshift memorials. That can be a help but it is not a substitute for expressions of personal grief which are best helped by the support of a few friends and family members. The last two chapters of this book concern the place of religion in relation to dying. Death functions as a helpful point of reference for an ecumenical conversation among the major religions. The beliefs of Christianity are examined to help Christians find support in their religion when they are dying. The many philosophical issues discussed in this book are dramatized in the two memoirs that begin the book. Memoir is a strange literary genre which assumes a reader's interest in the private details of an individual's life. The popular appeal of memoirs confirms the meaning of "human uniqueness" that the author has frequently written about. A person's uniqueness is not based on having nothing in common with others; instead, human uniqueness is based on openness to all others. Sherwin Nuland begins his great book, "How We Die," by saying that "the uniqueness of each of us extends even to the way we die." Yet he can write a helpful book on his experiences with the dying because a person's unique death can teach every other unique person about how to die. The first memoir in "Talking About Dying" describes in detail the author's caring for his wife as she suffered from dementia during the last four years of her life. There are millions of people confronted with this problem; they often feel alone. The reader might learn from the author's attempt to cope with dementia, including mistakes that he made. The second memoir is a reflection by the author on his own experience of dealing with colon cancer. Dying takes on a vivid reality when one comes up against a disease that can soon end one's life. Whatever one had previously thought about dying is suddenly challenged when the death is one's own. In both memoirs the author recounts the kindnesses of friends and the skill and dedication of medical professionals. Ultimately we die alone but the support of others is invaluable in every moment up to the very last.About the Author:
Gabriel Moran is Professor Emeritus of Educational Philosophy at New York University where he has taught for 33 years. He currently teaches a course on international ethics in the program of international education. He has also taught courses at about two dozen other universities in the United States, Canada, England and Australia. He has published 24 books and dozens of essays. Gabriel Moran collaborated in writing and teaching with his wife, Maria Harris, who was well known for her work in areas of education, spirituality and feminism. In the book, "Talking About Dying," the author includes a narrative about the last years of Maria Harris' life when she was afflicted with dementia until her death in 2005. Much of Gabriel Moran's writing concerns the relation between religion and education. He has been credited with helping to reshape religious education in the United States and several other countries. He has been especially concerned with Jewish-Christian-Muslim conversations, and the place of religion in the history of the United States. Some of the author's books are on ethical issues, including the nature of responsibility. Most recently he has written on the practical possibility of living nonviolently. Among the courses that Professor Moran taught at New York University was a course called The Meaning of Death. It attracted several thousand students during the twenty-five years that the course was offered. His present book, "Talking About Dying," stems in part from the experience of teaching that course. Two chapters of "Talking About Dying" relate religion to the experience of dying. The author draws upon his long involvement in trying to bring an educational dimension to religion. The two chapters try to show some convergence of what religions believe about dying, and in addition what Christian beliefs are concerning death and afterlife. Gabriel Moran is currently working on a book entitled "America in the United States and the United States in America: A Philosophical Essay."
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