from the world's big
Why people in South Korea are faking their own funerals
There is a new wellness trend emerging in South Korea – experiencing your own funeral. While at first this sounds twisted, in truth this ritual utilizes what other cultures have long known.
The quest for everlasting life is an old ambition. One of the most ancient surviving mythologies, the Epic of Gilgamesh, revolves around an egotistical king's journey to the plant that grants eternity. A deathless life is only subtext—the real story is the transformation of selfishness to humility—but it shows that for millennia humans have hoped to escape death, no matter how futile an endeavor it is.
Not much has changed as futurists count down to when biological aging proves no match for coding. The Silicon Valley set pops resveratrol like candy, washing them down with buckets of Soylent. Life, they speculate, is only a riddle to be answered, not an inevitable march toward darkness. Descartes wasn't in error; he was simply too early. The ghost in the machine is really an algorithm.
The refusal to decline is big business. Plastic surgeons become minor celebrities as they help the wealthy and conceited rage against nature's cruel machinery. Yet no amount of tucking and lifting slows the demise of organs. All it really does is make of the human a sad animal too proud to admit the realities of aging.
Ironically, the emotions behind injections and surgeries—envy, depression, anxiety—aid the process of aging. It's like drowning: the harder you fight, the quicker you'll succumb. It's much better to relax into the panic, which brings us to South Korea.
The Hyowon Healing Center is financially backed by a funeral service company to help people confront death. While at first this sounds like a twisted business scheme, in truth these counselors are utilizing what other cultures have long known: to prepare for death helps you appreciate and enjoy life.
Participants wearing linen shrouds meditate and reflect on their lives as they lie down in a coffin during a 'Death Experience/Fake Funeral' session. (Photo by Jean Chung/Getty Images)
Seneca believed death to be the true gift of God; unlike life, it cannot be taken away. Socrates attributed our fear of death to selfishness: we think we know what's going to happen when we actually do not, therefore to consider it evil is mistaken. The Buddha thought clinging to life is as dangerous as any other form of ignorance—to cling is to slowly and ungracefully lose your grip.
Tibetan Buddhists created an elaborate ritual for traveling through the bardo, a supposed liminal state between life and rebirth. Regardless of one's feelings on reincarnation—some Buddhists accept it, others reject it—the Bardo Thödol is recognized as creating a preparatory mindset for death to help one live well. The Mexican 'Day of the Dead' celebrations have a similar intention: honoring those who have passed to help us live. A little tequila doesn't hurt, as it turns out.
In South Korea this ritual involves journaling about your approaching death, donning burial shrouds, then lying in a coffin in complete darkness for ten minutes. The free program has been attended by 15,000 citizens in four years. Attendees have claimed a variety of motivations, from a deepening of self-awareness to alleviating suicidal impulses. A director of the program says:
Most participants say they feel strangely refreshed afterward, gaining a new perspective on the things that matter in life, like family.
Over the last century life expectancy rates have quickly ticked upwards, creating a unique issue for societies the world over: how to care for the elderly. A boom in palliative care, age-restricted communities, and the use of psychedelics are all means we've invented to ease the dying process—really, ways of living the fullest lives while still kicking.
In the Pulitzer-winning The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker believes it takes a heroic contribution to own up to the nature of life and death. Rituals are one place to engage in the speculative arc of life. To avoid this process, he writes, man is “drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing."
Innumerable distractions to mortality plague our anxious minds. As the cosmetic, capitalistic branch of science persists in developing technologies for supposedly youth-inducing modifications, humans continue to believe they can stave off death's inevitable call—perhaps the most useless ritual of futility imaginable. By contrast, South Koreans engaging in this coffin ceremony are displaying the heroic courage Becker invokes: acknowledge the way of all flesh now so that the time you spend until then is rich, fruitful, and honest with the terms.
Derek Beres is working on his new book, Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health (Carrel/Skyhorse, Spring 2017). He is based in Los Angeles. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.
- The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
- Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
- The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Seriously sustainable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDIzNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjM4NTMzMX0.BCEfYnn6C3z1zUHIS38xOWjXktgamNBi5iyqklSMYK8/img.png?width=980" id="ea524" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="50533380eeb18eb5833b6b6aa3abec38" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>Solar Foods makes Solein by extracting CO₂ from air using <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90356326/we-have-the-tech-to-suck-co2-from-the-air-but-can-it-suck-enough-to-make-a-difference" target="_blank">carbon-capture technology</a>, and then combines it with water, nutrients and vitamins, using 100 percent renewable solar energy from partner <a href="https://www.fortum.com" target="_blank">Fortum</a> to promote a natural fermentation process similar to the one that produces yeast and lactic acid bacteria.</p><p>When the company claims its single-celled protein is "free from agricultural limitations," they're not kidding. Being produced indoors means Solar Foods is not dependent on arable land, water (i.e., rain), or favorable weather.</p><p>The company is already working with the European Space Agency to develop foods for off-planet production and consumption. (The idea for Solein actually began at NASA.) They also see potential in bringing protein production to areas whose climate or ground conditions make conventional agriculture impossible.</p><p>And let's not forget all those <a href="https://www.bk.com/menu-item/impossible-whopper" target="_blank">beef-free burgers</a> based on pea and soy proteins currently gaining popularity. The environmental challenge of scaling up the supply of those plants to meet their high demand may provide an opening for the completely renewable Solein — the company could provide companies that produce animal-free "meats," such as <a href="https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/" target="_blank">Beyond Meat</a> and <a href="https://impossiblefoods.com" target="_blank">Impossible Foods</a>, a way to further reduce their environmental impact.</p>
The larger promise<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDI0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjU4MTg2OX0.7dZZYT5WEV_EupBuLVFwHynarTiz8RYR9aJtC6Ts2C4/img.jpg?width=980" id="3415d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e6eebe06d795f844752f9e9d30040d7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>The impact of the beef — and for that matter, poultry, pork, and fish — industries on our planet is widely recognized as one of the main drivers behind climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and antibiotic-resistant illness. From the cutting down of rainforests for cattle-grazing land, to runoff from factory farming of livestock and plants, to the disruption of the marine food chain, to the overuse of antibiotics in food animals, it's been disastrous.</p><p>The advent of a promising source of protein derived from two of the most renewable things we have, CO₂ and sunlight, <a href="https://solarfoods.fi/environmental-impact/" target="_blank">gets us out of the planet-destruction business</a> at the same time as it offers the promise of a stable, long-term solution to one of the world's most fundamental nutritional needs.</p>
Solar Foods' timetable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MTEzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5OTU1OTMwMn0.wnXh56iO_77x2XKV2uIPf78BKw4AJLUpmiyq_JBVGvo/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=172%2C146%2C62%2C135&height=700" id="0297c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="125c9a98ec818f5c241fa28ef1423e67" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Lubsan / Shutterstock / Big Think<p>While company plans are always moderated by unforeseen events — including the availability of sufficient funding — Solar Foods plans a global commercial rollout for Solein in 2021 and to be producing two million meals annually, with a revenue of $800 million to $1.2 billion by 2023. By 2050, they hope to be providing sustenance to 9 billion people as part of a $500 billion protein market.</p><p>The project began in 2018, and this year, they anticipate achieving three things: Launching Solein (check), beginning the approval process certifying its safety as a Novel Food in the EU, and publishing plans for a 1,000-metric ton-per-year factory capable of producing 500 million meals annually.</p>
The protein powder Solein. Image source: SOLAR FOODS
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