Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Tik, tock. (Does the world really need a Death Watch?)

They weren’t available this past Christmas, but if you’re looking for a next-year gift that the recipient – especially a recipient of a certain age – is going to despise, you may want to get on the wait list for a Tikker.

Haven’t heard of it?

Well, the Tikker, which is variously billed as a “happiness watch” (hah) and, more aptly, as a “death watch,” lets you know when you’re likely to die. This will supposedly encourage you to focus on what’s important – living life to the fullest, however you define that fullest – and stop frittering away your precious time, say, reading about the Queen’s corgis, watching Doomsday Preppers, or staring off into space. Unless, of course, reading about the Queen’s corgis, watching Doomsday Preppers, or staring off into space, is what gives meaning, purpose, and joy to your life.

Tikker figures out what you’ve got left in you by using:

…an algorithm like the one used by the federal government and insurance companies to determine a person’s life expectancy based on age, country, smoking habits, and gender. (Source: boston.com)

Aside from the fact that his little doohickey is going to be anything but precise, I don’t imagine there are a lot of folks my age who need any memento mori, especially if they grew up Catholic and were educated at the hands of nuns. But mostly it’s because, by the time you get to my age, you have an extremely high probability of having experienced the death of a loved one.

Let’s face it, you can get away with ignoring the facts of life, errrr, death when your grandparents die. Hey, they were old. Then your parents start to die, and your aunts and uncles, and all of a sudden, there’s not much of generation standing between you and infinity. All of a sudden, you’re next.

And then, all of a sudden, you are next.

You will lose a cousin. A colleague. A friend.

All plus or minus your age.


And then, step by step, inch by inch, it gets even closer.

My cousin lost her brother. Then a few years later, her husband.

Then my friend’s sister died of cancer. Then another friend’s sister. And his two nephews. Last year, just about this time, the husband of a close friend died.

As I said, we don’t need no memento mori. We live it.

Not to mention that, unless someone kills themselves, there’s really no predicting – other than in a gross actuarial sense – when someone is going to die. (Think about those young victims of the Marathon Bombers. What good would a Tikker have done any of them?)

But Tikker inventor Fredrik Colting told NPR that he created the watch not as a morbid novelty item, but in an earnest attempt to change his own thinking. “I think if people are more aware of their deaths, they will make better choices,” Colting said; they may be inspired to quit a job they don’t love or to call a long-lost friend.

Nothing wrong with making the most out of the time you’ve got. And I’m all in favor of quitting a job you don’t love – if you can afford to without neglecting the responsibilities you have in life – or calling a long-lost friend (as long as you don’t try to break up their marriage). But I don’t imagine that it’s especially healthy, psychologically speaking, to think about death 24/7, or every time you looked at your wrist watch to check whether, say, Doomsday Preppers is on yet.

In fact,

Some studies suggest it provides more meaning to our lives, while others have shown that it creates xenophobia, a need to bring close those who are familiar and a hatred of those who are different than ourselves…

I’m not dwelling on death – mine or anyone else’s – ‘round the clock. But when you’re a certain age, and your husband is extremely ill, and the hospice nurse comes regularly, well, it’s hard to avoid.

And, in truth, we don’t want to.

We’re sharing memories and building the list on where to scatter smidgeons of ashes. We’re going through finances and writing down passwords. We’re organizing meds and debating home hospice vs. hospice hospice when the time comes. We’re talking about my sadness, and Jim’s lack of fear.  But we’re also watching House Hunters International and debating the merits of peach vs. cherry yogurt and occasionally toasting each other with prosecco and Chambord.

So maybe if we were wearing Tikkers we’d be skydiving, or walking along Boulevard Saint Germain, or learning Esperanto.

Tikker is a wrist watch that counts down your life from years to seconds, and motivates you to make the right choices. Tikker will be there to remind you to make most of your life, and most importantly, to be happy.(Source: Tikker.)

I suspect that the young folks at ticker don’t as yet have an inkling about what it truly means to face death.

Because maybe it’s just my age, or what’s going on in my life these days, but, to tell you the truth, I really don’t need a watch to remind me to make the most of it.

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