Thu, 24 June 2010
Connie Barlow reflects on her visit to Pioneer Cemetery in Canandaigua NY, where her paternal ancestors six generations back are buried. (Photo right is of her brother Bill and nephew Myles Barlow pondering the stone memorials of Abner and Mary Barlow.) This podcast topic was also stimulated by a memoir in the 6/20/10 issue of New York Times Magazine: "What Broke My Father's Heart". Barlow notes that the essay well depicted the modern-day obstacles that make achieving a natural and good death for the elderly exceedingly difficult in our highly medicalized culture, but that it was sorely lacking in addressing the equal need for the elderly themselves to make decisions in light of "intergenerational equity." To this, Michael Dowd added, "It is more than just intergenerational equity we are calling for; it is intergenerational generosity." The duo explore the role that a deep-time perspective can play in naturalizing our understanding of death and thereby calling forth voluntary and joyful expressions of intergenerational generosity. Recommended background reading on the current imbalance in intergenerational equity is the 2/1/10 Op-Ed column by David Brooks, "The Geezer's Crusade". Also, you can access online Connie's brief memoir on her mother's death, a bold proposal for re-incentivizing end-of-life medical choices, and an annotated list of other resources for evolving our cultural approach to death.