I don’t get people who don’t consider their mortality — the actual, undeniable fact that one day they are going to die, forever (because you are, reader, you are) — at least once or twice a day.
Surely that’s because I think about my death specifically and death as a brute phenomenon generally many times a day. This has been going on for years. Like since I was seven. I maintain a shelf of books about death, from “The Denial of Death” to “How We Die.” (My id is a vivid, hyperactive place. My therapy bills, exorbitant.)
Who needs a reminder of death? I wonder. It’s right there in the face that looks back at you in the mirror.
Who wants a reminder of death? my friends retort.
Apparently a lot of people, mostly millennials, do. They want a brief if pointed reminder that they are indeed going to buy it sometime. And they want it exactly five times a day, randomly. On their phone.
That’s what the new app WeCroak offers: quick, jarring jabs calling attention to users that, yup, death is waiting around the corner. With homilies like this from Herman Melville — “Death is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried” — the 99-cent app exists expressly to galvanize consciousness, a little existential poke to nudge you into the now. And maybe to scare the holy hell out of you.
“Each day, we’ll send you five invitations to stop and think about death,” says the WeCroak site. “It’s based on a Bhutanese folk saying that to be a happy person one must contemplate death five times daily. The invitations come at random times and at any moment, just like death.”
By turns soothing and somber, quotes are culled from the likes of Emily Dickinson, Thoreau, Charles Bukowksi, Lao Tzu and Margaret Atwood.
“The grave has no sunny corners,” goes one. (For pessimists.)
“Begin again the story of your life,” says another. (For optimists.)
(That one, for fatalists, I think.)
We think we have control over our lives by doing the right things — exercising, eating healthfully, thinking positive, traveling, communing with art and nature, procreating.
WeCroak’s passages are meant to put you in touch with an untapped aspect of your spirituality, to jolt you out of complacency and into perhaps uncomfortable soulfulness. In fact, hokey as it sounds, I’d say the messages are nutrient-rich food for the soul.
The benighted disagree. People have actually called the app “sick” and “disgusting.” These people are babies. They are in craven denial. No matter — they’re still going to die.
“Death never takes a wise man by surprise; he is always ready to go.” — Fontaine
I don’t know if WeCroak offers that jewel, but it should.