In my view there is no good death, but some deaths are better than others. B. J. Miller came close, losing both his legs below the knee, as well as his left forearm, in a foolish stunt as a sophomore at Princeton, climbing on top of the famous “Dinky” train and getting electrocuted by the wires. Since then he’s become a palliative-care doctor and founder of the Zen Hospice Project, which, as described in the New York Times, is a small but immensely empathic facility for the terminally ill.
In this twenty-minute TED talk, Miller proposes ways to bring “intention and creativity to the experience of dying.” His emphasis is on the importance “sensuous, aesthetic gratification”: little but tangible connections with the world (and its inhabitants) that affirm one’s being.
I would hope that I could appreciate such gratifications at the end of life, but, in truth, how do I know? Miller clearly has wide experience in what palliates death, but I can’t help but feel that consuming two baked cookies as one’s about to cross the Styx won’t reconcile me to my fate. And, in truth, this highly-touted video seems to try desperately to make a virtue of necessity. Miller is to be lauded for his efforts, but in the end remains the brute fact of nonexistence.