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Living & Ending Notebook

A Japanese company brings cutsey & cheerful stationary to end-of-life planning & conversations.

Photo of Oonie Chase
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"A depressing combination of Filofax, family solicitor and awkward deathbed conversation with the children, the 64-page notebook is a personal organiser for Japanese who feel their demise, however distant, is in sight. With more than 10m octogenarians, the country is not short of people reaching that conclusion.

In the Japanese way, Living & Ending is punctuated with cutesy cartoons, cheerful fonts and other devices to soften the tone of a book that helps you set out your life in preparation for its extinction. The message is coy but clear: get your affairs in order while you still have your marbles, Gran, and spare your offspring the torment of guessing your Pin numbers, where you keep your bank book, what you want on your headstone and whether you and the dog have insurance. There is even a family tree to fill in, to make it easier to work out who to disinherit."

from, 11.15.2015

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How might we shift from dusty, dry & depressing to bright, cheerful & optimistic? How far is too far? Is there an "uncanny valley" for tone when we consider/talk about death?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Shane Zhao

Love this example Oonie! Bringing lightness and humor to the end-of-life conversation is something we're particularly keen on in this challenge. In many ways, packaging end-of-life planning materials as light-hearted stationary reminds me of this post from Jim: First Person: Emily McDowell on Fear and Humor (Video Interview)  It'd be good to reach out to Jim and exchange some insights:)

Photo of Oonie Chase

Will do!  In the US (dare I say the "west"), we don't have a culture of kawaii.  Maybe the Louis C.K. / George Carlin -style "lightness" (in quotes because it is only light in comparison to the lack of humor we have around end-of-life today) is as far as we can go.  I've been impressed with what LCK has done with weight, abuse & other taboo subjects - and by impressed i mean had-my-breath-punched-out by the honesty & bracing darkness.

Maybe our humor around end-of-life has to be darker than end-of-life itself in order that we can find our way back to greater lightness.

Photo of Aaron Wong

You're right, Oonie. The west, US at least, doesn't have a culture of kawaii. If I had to categorize US and Hollywood, it would be a culture of Heroism. There's so much death and violence in our moves... but we don't show it on screen, making it taboo. By implying death and destruction, and not acknowledging death, it seems to have created a lapse in knowledge and public opinion or what is socially acceptable at the end of life. Even in non-action shows and movies, most of the time, death and other serious topics are brushed over. We see some fumed or sad interaction in the hospital. Non of the delicate emotions of the patient or survivors are shown, the funeral is skipped over, there is no grieving, and before long, death is completely forgotten.  I can appreciate humor in dark subjects, but I don't think it's doing us any good ignoring grief either. If you look at asian shows/movies, there is A LOT of crying and sad scenes. Personally, I feel better seeing someone else cry and display emotions.

I think Death and The Arts by Betsy Trapasso, MSW  has some good ideas about death implemented into western culture too!