We continue our meditations on death with a reading from poet and writer, Mark Doty. This is an excerpt from Doty's 1996 memoir Heaven's Coast.
I'm fairly sure the music at the end was solo work by Zoe Keating, but I'm not sure which album it's from!
I am so moved by this piece, the writing, the reading, the moments described. Thank you so much. Whether on the scientific or imaginative side of the spectrum, I am grateful for you, Jad and Robert. Your show makes me laugh and cry and shout in surprise and generally get excited about the world around me. And, it makes me want to toss fistfuls of money at public radio.
No, seriously. What is the music at the end? The story was touching, but I can't stop trying to sort out what that music was.
You guys are really bumming me out with all of these depressing shows.
WAY too many podcasts on death now. . .
I made the mistake of listening to this short while I was out jogging. I had to lean against a tree and pretend to be stretching because I couldn't keep from crying. Mark Doty is so profound and so simple in both his love and his grief. Thank you, Mr. Doty and RadioLab, for sharing.
wow, a particularly beautiful podcast. thanks for putting this out there.
What's the song used in the show's conclusion? Any suggestions?
Over the last two years or so Radiolab has been a disgustingly large part of my life. I listen over and over again. It provides great insight and creaks open doors for still more. Around the time I discovered this program I also discovered the love of my life.
And now, as you devote this week to ruminations on death, we await words on hers impending. And that's the first I've spelled or spoken it. We don't yet know the when, and nothing is certain. But it looms there.
I am a young man. She's younger still. Her experience with death is intimate and fleshy. I'm callow. I've mulled death over more than most in the time alloted to me, even though I am and have long been a strident atheist. Death as a question, I believe is not just one without an answer, but not even a question. It is the illusion of a question in our minds.
But it's an illusion I cannot shake from feeding. As a thing, death was once somewhere over the horizon and contemplated with detached, rational forceps. At some point past that it began looming out on the periphery. A nebulous shadow cast amid more shadows. That seemed as terrifying as it would get; wisps of the unknown--perhaps with hands set to grab out without warning.
But I am passing into a third vision of death. One lacking in ambivalence. A firm, geometric, precise thing with observable features. And it is more terrifying than the unknown by half. The more I can map death out the more its startling capriciousness comes into full-view. That there is nothing in death to leap out. Its fall is random and careless and ignorant.
It provides nothing at which to focus your anger. An impossible enemy; against which there is no fight and from which you receive no guile. Death has no zeal.
The questions of death are unanswerable. The questions of death we've earned no ground to ask. But they surround all the deep questions that as people we must seek to root out. They confront us with the absurd dilemmas Kierkegaard and Camus saw so baldly: what meaning can their be? What motivation can be found? What goal sought?
I, then, am glad Jad and Robert have taken on this beast of a topic. Not in the hopes that the question might have an answer, but in that the asking is the crucial thing. I hope in so many ways that we find my love a new liver. I can't take the thought of losing her. I can't stand for her to have to go. I wonder how it is I'd be able to miss her.
But somewhere on that list of fears is that on this one thing--this one thing alone--I'd rather have abstract conjecture than fact.
This was a very accurate description of the moments of a passing. This kind of description is the foundation of science. The interpretation is that... interpretation - and to be able to describe these moments so eloquently is art. That is why literature and the humanities are among the most elegant of the sciences... thank you for this gift. My father passed recently, and it had this intensity
Thank you for this. I am very afraid of a situation like the described and felt very comforted after listening to this. For me it sounds strange that some listeners think this podcasts is not scientific enough. Why let not come poetry and science together. I hope you can understand my English, which is bad, I am German.
In his memoir, Point to Point Navigation, Gore Vidal describes the death of his long-time partner. "The eyes were open and very clear" even though the heart and lungs had stopped. He continues, "...they were bright and attentive and he was watching me, consciously...the optic nerves were still sending messages to a brain which, those who should know tell us, does not immediately shut down. So we stared at each at the end....Although there was no breath for speech, he now had a sort of wry wiseguy from the Bronx expression on his face which said clearly to me who knew all his expressions,'so this is big f'g deal everyone goes on about.'
Robert, thanks so much for sharing this, and your heartfelt reading. I worked as an end-of-life care nurse for eight years, and still struggle to figure out why I felt, paradoxically, more alive when doing this work. Doty captures it perfectly. In the presence of a peaceful death, "I am face-to-face with the deepest movement in the world, the point of ... deepest reality."
These extra shorts are like gifts. Thanks for them, and thanks for Radiolab - always incredible.
Anyone can write something beautiful of a sunset, but to speak of the death of a loved one and make it beautiful only in what it is, without stealing its sting-that is something truly special-Thank you for sharing this
The show has not gone far enough to the non scientific side to me -- on this topic. In death, there can't be any scientific evidence?? that we go on. If the topic is fully explored, it cant be strictly science - but it can be investigated by scientific minds like those of RadioLab. My hunch is that Robert had a hand in show 13 - being gentler on Faith - I don't know, but my father recently died of Leukemia. We didnt see it coming. I saw AfterLife as the topic on my favorite podcast and was warmed. I only wanted more of the Faith. Thats all there is after death as far as science has to offer. I do remember however this.... Didnt Harry Houdini give his wife a secret word that only they 2 would share, and if he could reach her from beyond, the word would get to her. I heard it did get to her by way of a third party -- medium?? It could have been setup by the couple?? Dunno. I just was hoping for more of the Faith side. But, you guys, as always, do a great gig here. And thanks.
A-a-a-a-a-men to the past two comments.
Agree with amanda.
Now, I'll respond in the same manner these guys should be observed:
"Honey, there are some TROLLS on my comments!"
Sam & Tom: Did you not read the description in which they state that these podcasts are "meditations" on death and the afterlife? They're podcasts, not a treatise on the subject. All shows, and their creative teams, deserve to be able to experiment with their subject matter and format. If you want more Lab, why don't you write your own Lab show?
losing a loved one makes a person start to wonder about death and dying. no one living seems to have the answers except by faith. my mind feeds on the scientific part of this show and my heart feels for the life you bring into it. thank you.
What's going on? Maybe it's time to remove the 'lab' part of the show's name.
what's with all the bullshit spiritualism recently? Has the radiolab I used to love disappeared? I can go anywhere to hear speculative musing about death. I love Radiolab because it is an oasis of informative and fun exploration of science in a media that is a desert of the mind. I'M GETTING THIRSTY!
Thank you Mark Doty and Radio Lab for sharing.
I was reading comments on #12, and then I went back to the homepage and this was there! Hooray!
Another great addition to the After Life show.
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What a fascinating story! I found it interesting as some aspects of it reminded me of the conflict in Gaza ...
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