“The ancient postulate of perennial philosophy - the inseparability of value and reality - is psychologized into the demand that reality must satisfy us; the denial of the necessity of this demand is followed by the exclusion from philosophy of most of its traditional problems and the "raising to the dignity of philosophy many trivial and often foolish questions"”
Wilbur Marshall Urban

The Intelligible World: Metaphysics and Value

Isn’t it Ironic?


The other day I went to visit an art gallery with an exhibition that displays 23 pairs of portraits of people before and after their deaths. It’s an intense exhibition – but I also found it comforting and amusing. Initially I felt nothing but then I felt a physical pressure in my abdomen. I found this image which you can click for a link to additional information about the exhibition:

When that gave way some thoughts came to mind. I think that the majority of images are from western culture (though I do remember one Islamic baby girl). From the stories it seems that most of the people were caught by surprise – death had not been a conscious part of their lives before it became a relevant reality. In the living images the people seemed thoughtful, serious and at terms with their pending death (though some of the texts indicated otherwise). In the dead images – most of the people looked serene and at peace. I was thinking of eastern cultures that have a different outlook/relationship with death and how they would appear in their living images.

But what really caught my attention is one image – the living image of a woman who was in my eyes very different from all the others. She was smiling, not like the image you see above – which some may consider a smile. She was really smiling – a real tips of the mouth up high smile. When I noticed this – I walked through the exhibition twice more to confirm this. The story beneath her images revealed that she had been insane… and there she was smiling in the light of her death. Beautiful.

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