Death School: what it is and what it isn’t

Telling people about Death School has been helping me to better understand what I’d like Death School to be. It has also shown me how difficult it is to get past the limits of our ideas and vocabulary for death. Some people hear about Death School and think it must be about grief and coping with loss; others think it is an extension of hospice; others think of art therapy. Some people hear about it and try not to give it a second thought.

While Death School is interested in all of these, I’ll call them modalities, for understanding death, Death School is not about any one in particular. Instead, I think of Death School as a place where we can collect and understand all of the ways people in our culture and in other cultures have come up with for understanding death, AND Death School can be a place where people come up with new ways, their own ways, for understanding death.

I deliberately want to leave some ambiguity in Death School’s first event, which I’m currently writing. I’d like there to be a conversation about how our tools and resources for understanding death are limited by the time and place (the context) in which we are living. I’d like to talk about how people go about creating new contexts – for understanding death and also just in general. How do we create a new time, a new place, for new understanding to happen?

That, for now, is what Death School is about.

Hello! (and what the heck is Death School?)

Welcome to Death School! I’m talking to you, whomever you may be, wherever you may be, but mostly, for now, I’m talking to myself — although I’m here to update its website and generally facilitate Death School, I’m also its first student.

I’m in the process of making Death School because I want to learn about death and dying. I also want to learn about life and living, and how to live fully, honestly, and healthily recognizing that my life will end, that it is ending.

I don’t think this recognition has to be morbid. What I intend to do here, in this blog and through Death School, is to open conversations about death. I’ll share links to work others are doing and post bits from the news about death, dying, and living that I’ve found interesting. I’ll sometimes share my own thoughts and challenges as I try to come to my own understandings about what I’m doing here (here at Death School and here at all).

Because Death School is not yet a school that convenes actual classes every day, and because we are all living and dying every day, I’ll use this space to post “reading material” for “students” of Death School.

Whether anyone (besides me) considers themself a student of Death School, I think we can all be students of death. We can learn a lot from the ways things naturally end, and then begin again. We can learn what our own most pressing wishes are; we can learn what isn’t so important to us after all. Maybe keeping death in our sight is a way to radically accept our life. We can learn to move through the world with clearer purpose and more love for all the other students of death we encounter.

(Something I’ve challenged myself to do is to see every living thing as capable of teaching me something about death — not necessarily my death, but death, and not necessarily some deep, profound thing. Death isn’t, after all, so special or personal — although it manifests to different individuals, living in different bodies, in different ways, death is a natural process that is an integral part of life. It’s ubiquitous, it’s ordinary, and like life, it’s a mystery.)

I hope that Death School will be a place where people of all sorts — young, old, round, long, medium, short, tall, of every religion, with skin of all shades, with all kinds of experience around death — will feel welcome and comfortable. To that end, I welcome all feedback and comments. (To get a word to me, either comment on a specific post or use this site’s contact form.)

Over the next month (January), the website around this blog will be spruced up with a logo and images and more stuff to click on. I hope you’ll check in regularly!