The Struggle Against The End Of The Tunnel

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Lewis Lapham takes stock of shifting attitudes toward death:

About the presence of death and dying I don’t remember the society in the 1950s being so skittish as it has since become. People still died at home, among relatives and friends, often in the care of a family physician. Death was still to be seen sitting in the parlor, hanging in a butcher shop, sometimes lying in the street. By the generations antecedent to my own, survivors of the Great Depression or one of the nation’s foreign wars, it seemed to be more or less well understood, as it had been by Montaigne that one’s own death “was a part of the order of the universe … a part of the life of the world.”

For the last 60 or 70 years, the consensus of decent American opinion (cultural, political, and existential) has begged to differ, making no such outlandish concession. … The wonders of medical science raked from the ashes of the war gave notice of the likelihood that soon, maybe next month but probably no later than next year, death would be reclassified as a preventable disease. That article of faith sustained the bright hopes and fond expectations of both the 1960s countercultural revolution (incited by a generation that didn’t wish to grow up) and the Republican Risorgimento of the 1980s (sponsored by a generation that didn’t choose to grow old). Joint signatories to the manifesto of Peter Pan, both generations shifted the question from “Why do I have to die?” to the more upbeat “Why can’t I live forever?”

Recent Dish here on Google’s new company aiming to extend life indefinitely.