The Death Positive Movement was started by Caitlin Doughty to build a culture of positivity around the prospect of human mortality. The 8 Tenets of the Death Positive Movement are outlined as follows:

  1. I believe that by hiding death and dying behind closed doors we do more harm than good to our society.
  2. I believe that the culture of silence around death should be broken through discussion, gatherings, art, innovation, and scholarship.
  3. I believe that talking about and engaging with my inevitable death is not morbid, but displays a natural curiosity about the human condition.
  4. I believe that the dead body is not dangerous, and that everyone should be empowered (should they wish to be) to be involved in care for their own dead.
  5. I believe that the laws that govern death, dying and end-of-life care should ensure that a person’s wishes are honored, regardless of sexual, gender, racial or religious identity.
  6. I believe that my death should be handled in a way that does not do great harm to the environment.
  7. I believe that my family and friends should know my end-of-life wishes, and that I should have the necessary paperwork to back-up those wishes.
  8. I believe that my open, honest advocacy around death can make a difference, and can change culture.

I was familiar with the DPM through several friends long before I was aware of rationality. Getting involved with rationality and LessWrong has put me in contact with many people who hope to live forever (or a very very long time), who believe that death is unequivocally bad, and who have devoted their lives in one way or another to combating death and reducing it wherever possible. 

On the face of it, these seem very contradictory. The Death Positive Movement is all about coming to terms with the inevitability of death, not trying to fight it. And yet there isn't anything in the 8 Tenets that seem to stick out as being at odds with a desire for a long/never-ending/indefinite lifespan. (Unless you disagree about death being inevitable, in which case I'm especially interesting in hearing your thoughts.)

I have always had some degree of thanatophobia (death anxiety) throughout my life, ranging from dull dread to daily panic attacks. The DPM has always appealed to me as a way of combating this death anxiety: If I could conceptualize death as less of a boogeyman, maybe it wouldn't seem so scary. If I could talk about death openly, maybe I could make contingency plans that would help soothe me. If everyone was more open about their personal fears regarding death, maybe I wouldn't feel as cowardly.

But the prospect of ubiquitous indefinite lifespans would also soothe my anxiety. I could avoid the fear of anyone dying (though the end of cancer might not mean the end of car crashes) because the possibility wouldn't be there in the first place.

I'm still working through my own relationship with mortality of both myself and my loved ones, and I'm curious to hear anyone's thoughts. 

Have you heard of the Death Positive Movement? To what degree does it seem compatible with the desire for indefinite lifespans? Could one be part of the Death Positive Movement and still have a personal desire to live forever? Is a cultural attitude of death positivity compatible with a cultural desire to disarm death?


New Comment