Black Holes and Death

Jennie Dear’s recent article on The Atlantic, Palliative Care and the Science of What It Feels Like To Die“, is a dark but fascinating read on the latest views and theories offered by science regarding what it is like to experience death, movingly told through the author’s proximity to her mother’s last few weeks before succumbing to metastatic breast cancer.

It’s interesting, particularly as one of the analogies used is far more suggestive of weird SF than an oncologist’s bedside manner:

James Hallenbeck, a palliative-care specialist at Stanford University, often compares dying to black holes. “We can see the effect of black holes, but it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to look inside them. They exert an increasingly strong gravitational pull the closer one gets to them. As one passes the ‘event horizon,’ apparently the laws of physics begin to change.”

Should we expect research into palliative care to get more Bataillean as medical professions undertake that “impossible quest to experience not only the maximally intense, but beyond that, the quest to experience from a position where experience itself is not possible; i.e. death, death itself as the limit.” [via] I assume this field of research has long been Bataillean, albeit sanitised for medical journals.

It also sounds very Hollywood… Was that remake of Flatliners as terrible as people said it was? I still haven’t seen it.

More on death as limit-experience / singularity via Bataille, Fisher, Foucault, Brassier, Land, et al. at a later date.

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