This talk by Charles Leadbeater floored me. It makes me want to push myself and to reconsider some comfortable perspectives. If you have 30 minutes to spare, maybe watch the talk and tell me what you think.
In this talk, Leadbeater encourages us to think about things that we're just not encouraged to think about, or speak about (or let enter our heads in any way). Let's face it, for most of our lives, our later years barely get a thought, and death is just off limits.
Leadbeater encourages us to grapple with the certainty of ageing and death, and to fundamentally re-think our later years. For him we should re-imagine the ageing and dying process founded on two principles; participation and relationships.
Towards the end of our life we should be able to participate and contribute. We should be able to do the things that we love doing; our lives should be about capabilities, not about infirmities. We should be able to make active decisions about the type of death that we want and don't want. We should grow old while maintaining strong relationships with others, conversing with others - rejecting the idea that the highest goal we should strive for by the end of our lives is efficiency and professional success.
I love this talk because Leadbeater talks about an incredibly sensitive topic in a completely open and humane way; It is hard enough to talk about death, let alone to talk about death in front of an audience - using the death of your parents as the key reference.
The talk really resonated me. I've had some experience of the death of a family member, and I suppose the way I think of ageing and dying is fundamentally shaped by this experience. For me, the process of ageing and dying haven't really been positive things to think about; they go hand in hand with medical intervention and the loss of capability. His talk has shaken that perspective a little bit, and encouraged me to actively consider the type of life that I want.
In a broader sense, the talk has also made me think about the things that I design. At ITP this semester I'm working to re-think the way we participate in urban environments and to design health devices and services. The talk has just encouraged me to think about these two challenges from alternative perspectives. Maybe routes that that feel uncomfortable feel that way because they are more necessary and potentially more productive. I need to step beyond what I'm familiar with, otherwise all I will ever design will be some version of my own perspective on the world - no matter how much research I do.