Secrets of Death

Secrets of Death

Death is literally described as the end of life. Every living thing eventually dies, but human beings are probably the only creatures that can imagine their own deaths. Most people fear death and try to avoid thinking about it. But the awareness of death has been one of the chief forces in the development of civilization.

Throughout history, people have continually sought new medical knowledge with which to delay death. Philosophers and religious leaders have tried to understand the meaning of death. Some scholars believe that much human progress results from people’s efforts to overcome death and gain immortality through lasting achievements.

Medical Aspects of Death

Scientists recognize three types of death that occur during the life of all organisms except those consisting of only one cell. These types are necrobiosis, necrosis, and somatic death. Necrobiosis is the continual death and replacement of individual cells through life. Except for nerve cells, all the cells of an organism are constantly being replaced. For example, new skin cells form under the surface as the old ones die and flake off.

Necrosis is the death of tissues or even entire organs. During a heart attack, for example, a blood clot cuts off the circulation of the blood to part of the heart. The affected part dies, but the organism continues to live unless the damage has been severe.

Somatic death is the end of all life processes in an organism. A person whose heart and lungs stop working may be considered clinically dead, but somatic death may not yet have occurred. The individual cells of the body continue to live for several minutes. The person may be revived if the heart and lungs start working again and give the cells the oxygen they need. After about three minutes, the brain cells–which are most sensitive to a lack of oxygen–begin to die. The person is soon dead beyond any possibility of revival. Gradually, other cells of the body also die. The last ones to perish are the bone, hair, and skin cells, which may continue to grow for several hours. Many changes take place after death. The temperature of the body slowly drops to that of its surroundings. The muscles develop a stiffening called rigor mortis. The blood, which no longer circulates, settles and produces reddish-purple discolorations in the lowest areas of the body. Eventually, bacteria and other tiny organisms grow on the corpse and cause it to decay. Defining death. Traditionally, a person whose breathing and heartbeat had stopped was considered dead. Today, however, physicians can prolong the functioning of the lungs and heart by artificial means. Various machines can produce breathing and a heartbeat even in a patient whose brain has been destroyed. These new medical procedures led many people to call for a new definition of death.

The Uniform Determination of Death Act, which was drafted in 1980, has been adopted by most states of the United States. Under this act, a person is considered dead when breathing and the heartbeat irreversibly stop, or when brain function totally and irreversibly stops, which is a condition also called brain death. The act permits physicians to use reasonable medical standards in applying this legal definition.

The brain-death definition of death raises important medical, legal, and moral questions. People who support this definition argue that it benefits society by making vital organs available for transplants. In most cases, the organs of a person who has died under the traditional definition are damaged and cannot be transplanted. But many vital organs remain alive and functioning in an individual whose body processes are maintained by machine, even though brain activity has stopped. Physicians can use these organs in transplants–if brain death is accepted as a legal definition. Critics of the brain-death definition point out that there are many unanswered questions regarding this concept. Such questions include: Who should decide which definition of death to use? When has brain death reached the point where it cannot be reversed?

The Right to Die

Many people believe that physicians should use every means to maintain a person’s life as long as possible. But others argue that dying patients and their physicians have the right to stop treatment that would only temporarily extend life. Some people also feel that the patient’s family and physician have the right to stop such treatment when patients can no longer express their wishes. In 1990, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that patients who have clearly made their wishes known have a right to discontinue life-sustaining medical treatment. Withdrawal of such treatment is sometimes called passive euthanasia.

Some people draw up a document called a living will, in which they express their wishes about what kind of care they want to receive when they are near death and unable to communicate. Most states have laws that recognize living wills under certain circumstances.

Some people believe that hopelessly ill patients should have the right not only to refuse treatment but also to request physician-assisted suicide. In physician-assisted suicide, a doctor helps a patient die painlessly and with dignity. Many nations and many states of the United States have laws against the practice. Physician-assisted suicide is technically illegal but widely practiced in the Netherlands.

Supporters of physician-assisted suicide feel that life-extending medical techniques have created a need for new approaches to care at the end of life. They feel that such care should include help with dying if patients can think clearly and freely request assistance. Other people oppose physician assisted-suicide because it is a form of active euthanasia. In active euthanasia, fatally ill people are put to death with or without their consent. Opponents fear that physician-assisted suicide could open the door to other forms of active euthanasia.

Attitudes about death changed during the 1900′s. About 1900, the majority of deaths were those of children who died of diphtheria, pneumonia, or some other infectious disease. Most people died at home, surrounded by their families. People were familiar with dying and viewed death as a natural part of life.

Today, most people in industrial nations die from heart disease, cancer, stroke, or other diseases associated with aging. As a result, about 95 percent of all children reach adulthood without experiencing a death in their family. In addition, most deaths now occur in hospitals. Therefore, many young people have never been present at someone’s death. This lack of experience makes it difficult for many people to talk openly about death or to be with a dying person.

The increasing number of deaths among the elderly has also affected attitudes about death. Many people have come to view the elderly as having “lived out their lives” and experience the death of an elderly person as a natural, inevitable event. The death of a child or a young adult, on the other hand, is considered unjust. Such a death generally has more complicated emotional consequences.

Traditionally, people have confronted death within a set of religious beliefs that gave it meaning apart from the natural world. Mourning rites and funeral customs have helped them deal with the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one. But a growing number of people now view death more in terms of a biological process. On the other hand, some people find death a threatening prospect and choose to deny it. Still others regard death as the greatest possible challenge. They seek to delay the aging process or to defeat death itself through medical science or by other means.

During the mid-1900′s, many psychologists and other people became interested in the special emotional needs of dying people. For example, studies showed that friends, relatives, and even doctors and nurses avoided dying patients because of their own feelings about death. As a result, many critically ill patients suffered greatly from loneliness. To help solve this problem, a number of medical schools, hospitals, colleges, and churches began to give courses in death education. Such courses were designed to help people become more knowledgeable about death and more responsive to the needs of the dying.

What Happens After Death


Why People Dance


Dance is the movement of the human body in a rhythmic way. Dance serves many functions in human society. It is an art form, a social activity, a type of communication, and a form of recreation. People can dance by themselves, in couples, or in large groups. The dance can be spontaneous or performed in established movements. It can tell a story, explore an emotion, or serve as a form of self-expression. Many people dance as a career, but anyone can dance simply by moving in rhythm. Dance is among the oldest human art forms. Dancing extends beyond the human species itself. For example, many animals perform complex dances during courtship.

Dance differs from other kinds of rhythmic movement, such as dribbling a basketball, because in dance the movement itself is the goal of the activity. Music usually accompanies dance, providing the rhythm, tempo, and mood for the movements. In modern societies, many people enjoy dancing simply for entertainment. Each generation creates new dances as an expression of its own sense of life and fun. For example, rock dancing arose about 1960 with the popularity of rock music. This type of dance was created primarily by and for young people. Rock dances such as the twist did not require partners to touch each other while they danced. The dancing was free-spirited and individual, allowing each dancer to create his or her own steps spontaneously. Rock dancing stressed pure emotion underscored by the strong beat of the music.

Why people dance

Religious Reasons

For thousands of years, human beings have danced for religious reasons. Many religions involve some form of dance. Many religious dances are forms of prayer. Believers dance as they pray for rain, for the fertility of crops, and for success in war or in hunting. Such dances often imitate or pantomime some movement. For example, dancers may imitate the movement of the animal to be hunted, or a hunter’s actions in stalking it. They may wear elaborate costumes and masks or makeup to depict deities or animals.

Religious dance also may attempt to create a state of ecstasy (intense joy) or trance in the worshiper. Dance may also be used as one part of a religious occasion or ritual. One example is the dancing of Jews at the festival of Simhat Torah. Another example is the dancing and whirling of members of a Muslim religious order called dervishes. Dancing was a formal element in Christian worship until the A.D. 1100′s, when religious leaders began to prohibit it because they believed it was too worldly an activity. However, spontaneous dance has become a common element of worship among some Protestant denominations.

Social Reasons

Dancing plays an important role in social functions. All societies have characteristic forms of dance. Such dancing may take place at ceremonial occasions or at informal gatherings. Like traditional foods and costumes, dance helps members of a nation or ethnic group recognize their connection to one another and to their ancestors. By dancing together, members of a group express their sense of common identity or belonging.


Lonely Losers

Lonely Losers

A small but growing percentage of adult men and women remain single throughout their lives. In the United States, approximately 5 percent never marry (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1998). These individuals experience life without the support and obligations of a spouse and usually children. While often stereotyped as either ‘‘swingers’’ or ‘‘lonely losers,’’ Stein reports that both categorizations are largely incorrect (1981). Instead, singles cannot be easily categorized and do not constitute a single social type. Some have chosen singlehood as a preferred option, perhaps due to career decisions, sexual preference, or other family responsibilities. Others have lived in locations in which demographic imbalances have affected the pool of eligibles for mate selection. And others have been lifelong isolates, have poor social skills, or have significant health impairments that have limited social contacts.

Attitudes toward singlehood have been quite negative historically, especially in the United States, although change has been noted. Studies report that during the 1950s, remaining single was viewed as pathology, but by the mid-1970s singlehood was not only tolerated but also viewed by many as an avenue for enhancing one’s happiness. In the early 1990s, when asked about the importance of being married, approximately 15 percent of unmarried white males and 17 percent of unmarried white females between the ages of 19 and 35 did not agree with the statement that they ‘‘would like to marry someday.’’ The percentage of blacks that did not necessarily desire marriage was even higher, at 24 percent and 22 percent of black males and females, respectively. Interestingly, the gap in attitudes between males and females was the largest among Latinos, with only 9 percent of Latino males, but 25 percent of Latina females claiming that they did not necessarily want to marry (South 1993).

Despite this gender gap, single males are viewed more favorably than are single females. Males are stereotyped as carefree ‘‘bachelors,’’ while single women may still be characterized as unattractive and unfortunate ‘‘spinsters.’’ In the popular card game ‘‘Old Maid,’’ the game’s loser is the one who is stuck with the card featuring an old and unattractive unmarried woman. Oudijk (1983) found that the Dutch population generally affords greater lifestyle options to women, and only one-quarter of his sample of married and unmarried persons reported that married persons are necessarily happier than are singles.

Shostak (1987) has developed a typology in which to illustrate the divergence among the never-married single population. It is based on two major criteria: the voluntary verses involuntary nature of their singlehood, and whether their singlehood is viewed as temporary or stable. Ambivalents are those who may not at this point be seeking mates but who are open to the idea of marriage at some time in the future. They may be deferring marriage for reasons related to schooling or career, or they may simply enjoy experimenting with a variety of relationships. Wishfuls are actively seeking a mate but have been unsuccessful in finding one. They are, generally, dissatisfied with their single state and would prefer to be married. The resolved consciously prefer singlehood.

They are committed to this lifestyle for a variety of reasons; career, sexual orientation, or other personal considerations. A study of 482 single Canadians reported that nearly half considered themselves

to fall within this category (Austrom and Hanel 1985). They have made a conscious decision to forgo marriage for the sake of a single lifestyle. Small but important components of this group are priests; nuns; and others who, for religious reasons, choose not to marry. Finally, regretfuls are those who would rather marry but who have given up their search for a mate and are resigned to singlehood. They are involuntarily stable singles.

While the diversity and heterogeneity among the never-married population is becoming increasingly apparent, one variable is suspected to be of extreme importance in explaining at least some variation: gender. Based on data gathered in numerous treatises, the emerging profiles of male and female singles are in contrast. As Bernard (1973) bluntly puts it, the never-married men represent the ‘‘bottom of the barrel,’’ while the nevermarried women are the ‘‘cream of the crop.’’

Single women are generally thought to be more intelligent, are better educated, and are more successful in their occupations than are single men. Additionally, research finds that single women report to be happier, less lonely, and have a greater sense of psychological well-being than do their single male counterparts.

One reason why single women are more likely to be the ‘‘cream of the crop’’ as compared to men is that many well-educated and successful women have difficulty finding suitable mates who are their peers, and therefore have remained unmarried. Mate-selection norms in the United States encourage women to ‘‘marry up’’ and men to ‘‘marry down’’ in terms of income, education, and occupational prestige. Thus, successful women have fewer available possible partners, because their male counterparts may be choosing from a pool of women with less education and income. A second reason for the gender difference is that some highly educated and successful women do not want what they interpret as the ‘‘burdens’’ of a husband and children. Career-oriented women are not rewarded, as are career-oriented men, for having a family. Someone who is described as a ‘‘family man’’ is thought to be a stable and reliable employee; there is no semantic equivalent for women. Thus, well-educated, career-oriented women may see singlehood as an avenue for their success, whereas well-educated, career-oriented men may see marriage as providing greater benefits than singlehood.

Demographers predict that the proportion of singles in our population is likely to increase slightly in the future. As singlehood continues to become a viable and respectable alternative to marriage, more adults may choose to remain single throughout their lives. Others may remain single not out of choice but due to demographic and social trends. More people are postponing marriage, and it is likely that some of these will find themselves never marrying. For example, the number of women between the ages of forty and fortyfour today who have never married is double the number in 1980, at approximately 9 percent (U.S.

Bureau of the Census 1998). Some of these women may marry eventually, but many will likely remain unmarried. Moreover, the increasing educational level and occupational aspirations of women, coupled with our continued norms of marital homogamy, help to ensure that the number of never-married single persons—women in particular—is likely to increase somewhat into the twenty-first century.




by Nehemiah Wong

From darkened hearts,to darkened caves; from silos and bunkers buried deep to bustling marts and wailing minarets; from skyscraping Towers to smart Government HousesーGames of Terror are being played with horror: without boundaries, without borders, without honor. With zinging bullets and dirty bombs,warfare germs and poison gases, jumbo jets or flashing missiles: weapons of mass destruction, in blown up proportions and over-blown intentions. Dreadnaughts or Juggernauts! Killing machines,unleashing annihilations of staggering dimensions! War-Monger or Death-Hunter stalking by day, by night; seeking onslaughts round the clock. Seven Eleven or Nine Eleven? It doesn’t matter! If it duly shocks. If it devastates and kills a lot! The bigger the body count, the more it will count! “Send them on to Hell!” That’s the catchall call, hell-bent warriors must recall and in it stand tall. Hidden dangers! Crouching shadows! Puffs of smoke, stealth at work. Death baring fangs, dripping blood. Reality shows gone so gross, all decency’s lost! Headless torsos bowing before faceless killers! Human rights crying outright. Mercy mocked, socked, and stomped about without recourse! “Mercy’s for the weak!” We hear the mantra chanted as edict. “No feeble links in our chain we insist! Force will carve our future, shape our Fate!” Cynical dramas! Fiendish plots outdoing Hollywood’s damnest fictional rot! Viral methods, video madness! Pathological manipulations! Today, political intimidations and global ambitions! Tomorrow, world domination! Bomb blasts in commotion urging believers to devotions! Daily explosions, enemy liquidation. Civilizations in collision! Cultures in combustion! Carrion birds in circulation! omens of doomsday perdition. Brimstone and fire moored over every spire. Even over all that we aspire. In underground cells, cadres conspire! Routing wires, as they perspire. Black or white they cannot tell. In lurid light, all seems right! The doctrine of “ The End is Right!” is their expressed delight. Bombs with wings will get to ride! Murder incorporated: Suicide incarnated! Women and children in dissimulation. Playing stealth Games of Mirages and Mirrors! Human chameleons with contraptions for deceptions. Moving explosions! Cadavers burning to embrace black Death in vermilion. Human incendiaries, eyeing sensual glories in an alternate heaven. Seductive creeds, blinding beliefs. Bending reality. Blending insanity! Conscripts standing edgily at the cross-flow of life and death, nervously asking, “What shall it be?” “What shall it be?” “Life or death?” It’s so unreal. It’s actually surreal. Even delusional! In a flash, button’s pressed! The ticking bombs: “Kaboom!” Dark clouds spew up like mushrooms. The sky’s falling down! Why is it raining blood around? The horizon’s gone! The world seems spinning fast away! The ground feels, as if giving way. Life’s crumbling into pieces in everyway! It has gone completely amok! It’s busted up! The second, the eyelids are closed, lives are forever foreclosed! The Sun forever banished, its golden rays never to gaze. Forever imprisoned beneath, a heavy lidded coffin, in a Twilight World; in an inescapable Hades without exits, for unconscionable deeds. Merchants of death, of body bags. Reinventing new killing fields with twisted steel and broken bricks! Seeding high density cities with violence for genocidal yields. Making calamity jungles of tangled metal and dusty mortar hills. Gratuitous artists of avant garde skills, painting our cities bloody red, with graffiti from every fresh kill! Bombers armed with a Great Commission for destruction. Suicide missions granted to nimble technicians, executing final resolutions! Body strapped with booby-traps. Body parts ripped into parts. Shrapnel debris, migrating everywhere in the air. Killer pellets with deadly force, spraying into crowded herds: thudding, piercing, cutting into pulps of human flesh! The blood of helpless “Able” crying out in trouble from the rubble! Can his pain ever cease? Will his sorrows be ever appeased? Can the rape of moral Good ever make Evil good? In that boom, foes with victims are mashed . What a fatalistic mess! Friends or foes? Hard to say! In life opposed. In death reposed? United at last? Inseparable, alas! Locked in a deadly embrace, will dog fights, agitated by blind hate, continue to dog them into the Land of Shades? Playmates of Furies, plunging their angry fists, into Hell’s orifice! Dredging up implacable fire-beasts. Setting carnivore dragons free, to rampage and to viciously feed on the carcasses of Human Peace. Zealots mistaking violence will suffice: and death, the irrefusable price in the exchange for a long “Lost Paradise!” Fragments of a broken dream, blown away by the winds of violent change.


One of Humanity’s Greatest Inventions

One of Humanity’s Greatest Inventions

Book consists of written or printed sheets of paper or some other material fastened together along one edge so it can be opened at any point. Most books have a protective cover. Books are a reasonably inexpensive and convenient way to store, transport, and find knowledge and information. The book thus ranks as one of humanity’s greatest inventions.

People have used books in some form for more than 5,000 years. In ancient times, people wrote on clay tablets, strips of wood, or other materials. The term book comes from the early English word boc, which means tablet or written sheets. The first printed books in Europe appeared during the mid-1400′s. Since then, millions of books have been printed on almost every subject and in every written language. Young readers are familiar with storybooks, textbooks, workbooks, and comic books. We often consult almanacs, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and telephone books for reference. We read novels, books of poetry, and printed versions of plays for entertainment.

The pages of a book are glued or sewed together along one side, called the spine or back. Two covers are joined by hinges to the spine. Books are either hardbound or softbound, depending on the cover. Most hardbound books have covers made of cloth, plastic, or leather over cardboard. A paper dust jacket is often added to protect the cover. Softbound books, called paperbacks, have paper covers. Usually, the book title and other information appear on a book’s spine and front cover as well as on its dust jacket.

Inside the front cover of a typical book is a collection of pages called the preliminary material. The material begins with a blank or decorated end paper, followed by the half-title page. The recto (front side) of this page carries the book’s title. The verso (back of the page) may be blank, or may carry a list of other books by the same author. Throughout the book, the verso is always an even-numbered page and the recto is always odd-numbered.

The title page carries the full title of the book and the author’s name on the recto. It also carries the imprint, which is the place and date of publication and the name of the publisher or company issuing the book. The verso of the title page contains additional publication information and a statement of copyright, which is a notification that the book’s contents are the property of the author or publisher. In the earliest printed books, the information now carried on the title page appeared at the end of the book in a statement called the colophon. The illustration that faces the title page is called the frontispiece.

The preface follows the title page. In the preface, the author discusses various aspects of the creation of the book. The table of contents usually comes at the end of the preliminary material. It lists in order the book’s main topics or the headings of the individual units and their page numbers. The text is the main part of the book. The text is usually divided into separate parts called chapters or books. The text may also include illustrations. In many books, several sections follow the text. The appendix contains notes, charts, tables, lists, or other detailed information discussed in the text. Many books have an index, which lists in alphabetical order important subjects, names, and places in the text. The index gives the page number where the reader can find these items in the text. Finally, some books have a bibliography that lists sources used by the author in writing the book. The bibliography also lists additional sources on subjects in the text.