Through the Glass Darkly Readings

Through the Glass Darkly – Readings

(Class of 1969 50th Reunion June 2019)

 

At the Reunion, Arthur Fergenson moderated a panel consisting of himself, Professor Margaret Graver, Peter Schaeffer, and Peter Elias to discuss our understanding of and approach to mortality as we age. A number of resources and readings were suggested by the panel and participants and it was requested that the list of these readings be made available. Here they are, somewhat annotated.

 

Letters on Ethics to Lucilius by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, translated with an introduction and commentary by Margaret Graver and A.A. Long (University of Chicago Press 2015)

  • Published.
  • Online pdf.
  • The Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca (4 BCE–65 CE) recorded his moral philosophy and reflections on life as a highly original kind of correspondence. Letters on Ethics includes vivid descriptions of town and country life in Nero’s Italy, discussions of poetry and oratory, and philosophical training for Seneca’s friend Lucilius. This volume, the first complete English translation in nearly a century, makes the Letters more accessible than ever before. Written as much for a general audience as for Lucilius, these engaging letters offer advice on how to deal with everything from nosy neighbors to sickness, pain, and death. Seneca uses the informal format of the letter to present the central ideas of Stoicism, for centuries the most influential philosophical system in the Mediterranean world. His lively and at times humorous expositions have made the Letters his most popular work and an enduring classic. Including an introduction and explanatory notes by Margaret Graver and A. A. Long, this authoritative edition will captivate a new generation of readers.

 

The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays. Harry Frankfurt.

  • Online pdf.
  • Amazon.
  • This volume is a collection of thirteen seminal essays on ethics, free will, and the philosophy of mind. The essays deal with such central topics as freedom of the will, moral responsibility, the concept of a person, the structure of the will, the nature of action, the constitution of the self, and the theory of personal ideals. By focusing on the distinctive nature of human freedom, Professor Frankfurt is ale to explore fundamental problems of what it is to be a person and of what one should care about in life.

 

Taking Ourselves Seriously and Getting It Right. Harry Frankfurt

  • Amazon.
  • Harry G. Frankfurt begins his inquiry by asking, "What is it about human beings that makes it possible for us to take ourselves seriously?" Based on The Tanner Lectures in Moral Philosophy, Taking Ourselves Seriously and Getting It Right delves into this provocative and original question. The author maintains that taking ourselves seriously presupposes an inward-directed, reflexive oversight that enables us to focus our attention directly upon ourselves, and "[it] means that we are not prepared to accept ourselves just as we come.

 

Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl.

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  • Man's Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity. The book intends to answer the question "How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?" Part One constitutes Frankl's analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory called logotherapy.

 

When Breath Becomes Air. Paul Kalanithi.

  • Amazon.
  • At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

 

The Bright Hour. Nina Riggs.

  • Amazon.
  • An exquisite memoir about how to live--and love--every day with "death in the room," from poet Nina Riggs, mother of two young sons and the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the tradition of When Breath Becomes Air.

 

Still Alice. Lisa Genova.

  • Amazon
  • Movie on DVD.
  • Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever. As she struggles to cope with Alzheimer’s, she learns that her worth is comprised of far more than her ability to remember.

 

Denial of Death. Ernest Becker.

 

Crossing the Creek. Michael Holmes

  • Download.
  • Online site.
  • Crossing the Creek helps people understand the dying process i.e. what is happening, and why. We wonder about death; what it is and what it will do to us… In his book, Michael Holmes gives a general description of what we can expect to encounter during the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual processes that dying people undergo as they transition from life into death, in an understandable and helpful way.

 

The Last Lecture. Randy Pausch.

  • Amazon.
  • A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy? When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave--"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"--wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

 

Being Mortal. Atul Gawande.

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  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is a non-fiction book by American surgeon Atul Gawande. The book addresses end-of-life care, hospice care, and also contains Gawande's reflections and personal stories. Throughout the book, Gawande follows a hospice nurse on her rounds, a geriatrician in his clinic, and reformers overturning nursing homes.

 

How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter. (Sherwin Nuland)

  • Amazon.
  • Sherwin Nuland's How We Die has become the definitive text on perhaps the single most universal human concern: death.

 

Tinkers. Paul Harding.

  • Amazon.
  • An old man lies dying. Confined to bed in his living room, he sees the walls around him begin to collapse, the windows come loose from their sashes, and the ceiling plaster fall off in great chunks, showering him with a lifetime of debris: newspaper clippings, old photographs, wool jackets, rusty tools, and the mangled brass works of antique clocks. Soon, the clouds from the sky above plummet down on top of him, followed by the stars, till the black night covers him like a shroud. He is hallucinating, in death throes from cancer and kidney failure.

 

Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant (a graphic novel). Roz Chast

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  • In her first memoir, New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast's memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

 

Duck, Death, and the Tulip. Wolf Erlbruch.

  • Amazon.
  • In a strangely heart-warming story, a duck strikes up an unlikely friendship with Death. Death, Duck and the Tulip will intrigue, haunt and enchant readers of all ages. Simple, warm, and witty, this book deals with a difficult subject in a way that is elegant, straightforward, and life-affirming.

 

Cliff Notes for a series of 26 lectures for a Yale University course entitled Death by Professor Shelley Kagan.

  

Dying: A Natural Process. Denys Cope.

  • Amazon.
  • A Beside Manual for Being with Dying A one-of-a kind guidebook, provides practical and insightful information about rarely addressed topics such as What best supports a peaceful death? When is it time to call in hospice? If my loved one is not eating will he starve to death? Are people hallucinating at the end of life?

 

Last Rights. Stephen Kiernan.

  • Amazon.
  • "In Last Rights, award-winning journalist Stephen P. Kiernan shows how patients and families can regain control of the dying process, creating familial intimacy like never before. Bolstered by both scientific research and intimate portraits of people from all walks of life, Last Rights offers a hopeful, profound vision for patients, doctors, and families: a way to honor people during their greatest vulnerability, a chance for families to reconnect, an opportunity for the medical system to treat patients with ultimate respect, a time to give comfort and compassion to those we most love."