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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

At the end of the day

"How's your Tikker?"

A 37-year-old Swede named Fredrik Colting has invented a watch, aptly named "Tikker," that counts down the remaining years, months, hours, minutes and seconds of your life.  Well, not exactly of course, but with as much precision as can be created with actuarial tables and an algorithm which includes your age, gender, smoking habits and stress level.

Dubbed by its creator "The Happiness Watch," this instrument does for the millennial what a human skull on an otherwise bare desk did for medieval monks - which is to focus our attention on what's important by reminding us that life is fleeting.  For some, and sometimes, confronting mortality is liberating and refreshing and makes the world look brighter, and living more precious.   For others, it seems, the opposite occurs.  Terror of death provokes xenophobia, irritability and depression.  At least this has been the finding across many psychological studies looking at the effects of death consciousness on our minds. 

This makes me wonder: how does the constant confrontation with death affect physicians, nurses and other health professionals?  One doesn't have to look far to find burn out... do unconscious and unprocessed grief and fear take their toll unnoticed?  If so, this would make the case for reflective practices like writing that encourage us to explore and share our most difficult emotional encounters.  And what about the converse effect?  Can we catharse these sad experiences into love of life and an appreciation of the present? 

What do YOU think?

I opened some mail this morning from an investment firm.  It related to the estate of my late father-in-law and it contained a form which bespeaks...I'm not sure what.  Existential crisis? Tone deafness? A sense of humor?

The form is call "Change of Address As A Result Of Death."  (I'm not sure why there's a field for zip code.)

Very best wishes for a happy, healthy, life-affirming and meaningful 2014.