“Sometimes, I think about my death and I think about it as a character – I call him Whitmore. So here, I drew this picture, and it’s Whitmore and it’s death, but it doesn’t and isn’t death. It’s just Whitmore,” said art professor Bill Ramage upon the question of translating a talk about death into one connecting art.
In an upcoming fall series, an eclectic mix of lecturers including Ramage will premiere on the Castleton State College campus. The topic? Death.
Although some may think morbidly about the topic, this lecture series will provide various insights and perspectives into death, the experiences of presenters as well as the biological and philosophical ideas behind death.
The talks are orchestrated by philosophy professor Bob Johnson, but professors Joyce Thomas, Jim Hagan, Mark Fox, Bill Ramage, Rabbi Doug Weber and religious leader Remgius Ntahondi will also contribute their various perspectives.
Johnson, who recently completed a sabbatical focusing on the same topic, thought that this was such a unique and interesting subject, that it deserved some time and consideration here on campus.
“For me it has really been ‘what’s the significance of death?'” he said, adding that the answer here is an obvious one: We can all die at any time.
“Every person can think, ‘What would I do if my death was imminent?’ and if you knew, what would it look like to waste these times? That would change my thinking because then, things would take on a list of dwindling importance,” he said.
The value of thinking about death, Johnson said, is in confronting your life.
This thought is seemed to be mirrored by many of the other speakers planned for this series, which is scheduled to start on the evening of Sept. 11 and stretch into December.
“For myself, I have poems to speak…my initial reaction to Bob was if this is about what I’ve learned, can I just stand up and say, ‘Oh haven’t learned a thing?” quipped Thomas, smiling.
“Really, what I have to share are responses from my own experience-responses not because of what I have learned, responses because learning is happening,” she adds.
Each lecturer will have at least a 25-minute window through which to provide their insight, with time for question and answer afterward.
“The biggest challenge with this, is keeping it short,” says professor and local Rabbi Doug Weber. “There is no simple answer to death,” he ponders, “…[and] this is a great venue because although people might not have the opportunity to study or listen about this, death is the ultimate thing we share as humans,” he stresses.
Weber also said that a well-rounded education means still coming out of your time being educated as having thought about the bigger questions, not just about what your major was.
“For anyone,” says Hagan, “and especially for a Buddhist, thinking about death really means -or should be-about making the most of life and taking full advantage of that consciousness now. If you get comfortable with idea now, doesn’t that make it much easier?”
The first lecture will be from Johnson with a look at the philosopher’s consideration of death. Lectures on biology, religious thinking, writing, and art relating to death will follow on Tuesdays of Sept. 25, Oct. 23, Nov. 13 and Dec. 4. All lectures will be presented in Herrick Auditorium at 7 p.m. For more information, please contact Bob Johnson or Bill Ramage at their Castleton email addresses.