TEDMED: Mortality gives life meaning
October 28th, 2011
05:04 PM ET

TEDMED: Mortality gives life meaning

Humans have a self-preservation instinct, a natural drive to survive. But we also have an awareness that there will come a day when all of those efforts will fail, and we will die.

"Death looms somewhere in the distance," said Dr. John Wynn, medical director for Cancer Psychiatry at the Swedish Cancer Institute of Seattle, Washington. "It pushes us to ask: What am I doing with my time?"

Wynn's talk on what death means for us was one of the last at TEDMED 2011. It forced sobering reflection on mortality at the end of a week of many enthusiastic presentations demonstrating technologies aimed at fighting diseases and thus prolonging life.

"Life is built around avoiding the simple, inevitable truth that you’re going to die," he said.

Children tend to become aware of death around age 7, Wynn said. With luck, their parents will teach them how to be safe and cooperate with others. These are skills they will carry with them throughout their lives, and will help them continue on their own even after their parents pass away.

We have to ask ourselves how and where will we spend our time and our energy, and carefully calculate sacrifices we make, Wynn said.

This isn't entirely a bad thing, he said. Our society thrives because we have found ways to cope with the awareness that we won't live forever: We are driven to be creative, collaborate with others and be masters of our environment. Fear of death can push us to build things, connect with others and create beauty.

"To ignore mortality puts the meaning of our lives in jeopardy," he said.

soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Finanse

    Bardzo ciekawy blog, rzeczowy i wyważony. Od dzisiaj zaglądam regularnie i subsbskrybuję kanał RSS. Pozdrowienia 🙂


    April 8, 2021 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Window Cleaning Service East Colfax, Denver, CO

    Fairly high-quality explanation. continue the good work


    April 9, 2021 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Window Washing Service River North Art District, Denver, CO

    Keep this going please, great job!


    April 9, 2021 at 06:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Window Cleaning Service Platt Park, Denver, CO

    Really very happy to say,your post is very interesting to read.I never stop myself to say something about it.You're doing a great job.Keep it up


    April 9, 2021 at 06:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me Civic Center, Denver, CO

    Wow this blog is very nice!


    April 9, 2021 at 07:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Window Cleaning Service City Park, Denver, CO

    thanks for sharing!


    April 9, 2021 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me City Park, Denver, CO

    Thank You for your information


    April 9, 2021 at 08:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me Five Points, Denver, CO

    Wow this blog is very nice!


    April 9, 2021 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Window Washing Service River North Art District, Denver, CO

    this is very informative and intersting for those who are interested in blogging field.


    April 9, 2021 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Window Washing Service Civic Center, Denver, CO

    nice information for a new blogger. it is really helpful


    April 9, 2021 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me Washington Park, Denver, CO

    very nice! Ireally like your blog


    April 9, 2021 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Window Cleaning Service Curtis Park, Denver, CO

    Impressive! Thanks for the post


    April 9, 2021 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Best Window Washing Service Near Me Civic Center, Denver, CO



    April 9, 2021 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Window Cleaning Service University Hills, Denver, CO

    A great read. I'll definitely be back.


    April 9, 2021 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Window Washing Service Barnum West, Denver, CO

    carry on, dont stop


    April 9, 2021 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me Curtis Park, Denver, CO

    Thank You for your information


    April 10, 2021 at 03:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me City Park, Denver, CO

    Great article. Couldn't be write much better! Keep it up!


    April 10, 2021 at 04:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Window Washing Service Washington Park, Denver, CO

    Keep this going please, great job!


    April 10, 2021 at 04:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Window Cleaning Service Baker, Denver, CO

    Interesting stuff to read. Keep it up.


    April 10, 2021 at 06:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Window Washing Service Belcaro, Denver, CO

    This blog is great check it out


    April 10, 2021 at 06:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me Platt Park, Denver, CO

    Thanks for wonderful information I used to be in search of this info for my mission.


    April 10, 2021 at 08:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Best Window Washing Service Near Me Golden Triangle, Denver, CO

    very nice! Ireally like your blog


    April 10, 2021 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Raje Podatkowe

    Every time I read from this blog site I learned something new, but the comments here make me think differently at times.


    April 10, 2021 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3

Leave a Reply to Lacy Karley


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.