chapter  12
13 Pages

The Travesty of End-of-Life

Introduction I started this book by positing an impasse that I explored through the narrative and that I must return to as its irresolute conclusion. I began by restating the enigmatic query from Sophocles’ chorus on whether not to be born might be the greatest boon of all. I dramatized this query as if a proposition intending to provoke reflection on the life of the dying body. Non-being as this sense of being unborn seems impossible to imagine and this possibility of impossibility accounts in part for our fear of death. Yet, the Greeks believed that acute suffering could cause us to reach for such an impossible image and in desperate circumstances to try to imagine it as a choice we might have. Indeed, could life cause us to choose being unborn as preferable to what it has to offer? Yet as we said at the outset, life seems impossible to reject in most cases though our acceptance is not simply habitual but tinged with anxiety. Here we begin to appreciate the figures of escape and flight in everyday life and its imaginative infrastructure. My use of this enigmatic refrain of the Greek chorus is a gesture designed to unsettle our relationships to life as part of social inquiry into our imaginative structure. The fragility of such a structure can be expected to become most visible at the end-of-life and it is the situation of aging in our society that I will briefly address at this point.