Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

I’ve been late Life seems to be passing me by, so I downloaded an app that reminds me five times a day that I’m dying. I thought it would help me to accept my death and focus on what really matters, but it made me anxious. Is there something wrong with me? What is the main thing to be worried about? Do you think these apps can be helpful?

-Pingit towards death

Dear Ping to Death,

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you. Or rather, you are suffering from a problem that is endemic to all mankind, a species that has an almost limitless ability to survive by denying an inevitability. Even the most vivid reminder of our death – be it the death of a loved one or a phone call – fails to inspire the abysmal fear and trembling of the abyss and instead fills our lives with a vague instability, an enveloping panic. “Death,” as WH Auden puts it, “is the sound of distant lightning at a picnic.” This is, incidentally, one of the quotes featured by WeCroak, I think you’re using the app, which contains death reminders, including the nuggets of literary knowledge of Kierkegaard, Pablo Neruda, Margaret Atwood, and others.

We live in an era of slow-mo crisis, which manifests itself at a pace that makes them easy to ignore. Social security is declining year after year. Glaciers are melting fast, but still at the speed of glaciers. The oceans are warming at a rate that can bring the proverbial toad to life. Death is hidden behind them all. Occasionally, the severity of our plight is realized through natural disasters or UN climate reports, but the alarm bells ring out in the news. The Doomsday Clock – arguably the most deliberate attempt to keep our focus on these threats – currently stands at 100 seconds to midnight, leaving us with about a minute and a half of existence from the time of our final death.

Death-reminder apps are basically a doomsday clock for the individual. In fact, some of them have real clocks so that you can see in real time, the rest of your time is gone. The Death Clock, a website that has been active since 1998, predicts the day of your death, although its estimates are based on somewhat unrefined data points – your age, BMI, and whether you smoke. Horror film from several years ago Countdown Imagine an app that serves as a deal with the devil through the user’s agreement, able to intuitively, at the time of a person’s death, up to the second. (The film’s tagline: “Death? There’s an app for it.”) The movie inspired a real-life app built on the same premise ম minus, obviously, supernatural knowledge, but it temporarily scared enough people to boot the App Store.

WeCroak is not so sick. Its inspirational quotes about mortality are a kind of companion to many mindfulness apps, to remind users to stop what they are doing and take stock. Its co-founder came up with the idea while having a throw Candy Crush Addiction, and many users have commented that the app, which tends to interrupt those hours while on Twitter or Tikto, has forced them to face how much their lives are wasted on social media. The product, in other words, belongs to the growing segment of technology that is designed to remedy the problems created by technology. If digital platforms remain our most reliable confusion from the crude information of our deaths তাই so the argument goes সম্ভবত perhaps we can channel the same tools to break down those psychological buffers and deliver a more enlightened comfort with our impending death.

WeCroak, as you already know, is partly inspired by a quote from a Bhutanese man who claims that happiness can be achieved by thinking of death five times a day. Bhutan has often been ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world, and WeCroak seems to be trading on a casual alienation that is not uncommon in mindfulness cultures, presenting antithetical traditions as antidotes that will ultimately free us from the graves of modernity. The fact that this has only increased your anxiety, however, is not at all surprising to me. It is not so easy to just wish yourself to face the truth that you are equipped to ignore. (If anything, the idea that we can reverse the whole current Western denial denial through a free app is a sign of our technological dominance rather than its tonic.) Period observance is not shirk from death as proven by tradition. Bhutan’s dominant religion, Buddhism, teaches that transcendence depends not on escapism but on accepting the cruel truths of existence অর্থাৎ that is, life itself suffers.

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