. . . Tuesday January 15, 2008

Help Wanted: After-Death Experience Required

You probably haven’t given much thought to reading your own obituary. Presumably, you won’t be around to see it. But on occasion, public obituaries are published prematurely giving the subject a glimpse of how he’ll be remembered.

If I say the name Alfred Nobel, your first reaction might be to connect the man to the Nobel Prize. A modern reader would certainly expect to see mention of the prizes in the lede of any Nobel obituary.

Such was not the case, however, when a French newspaper ran a several years premature obituary of Alfred Nobel. Imagine Nobel pouring a cup of joe and opening up a morning newspaper to read:

“Le marchand de la mort est mort (“The merchant of death is dead”): “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”

When you invent dynamite and build your fortune on armaments, you might expect a mention of these biographical details in your obit. Still, the phrase “Merchant of Death” was likely not a big hit around the Nobel household.

Alfred Nobel had the opportunity, in the ensuing years, to change the way he would be recalled. He left a large pile of cash for the institution of the Nobel Prizes, and to a large extent, it worked. Nobel changed his own obituary.

It’s interesting to imagine your own obituary and to wonder how you’d change your last few weeks, months or years with that in mind. Perhaps it’s a bit morbid to put a lot of thought into your own obituary. But what about considering an obituary, not of your life, but of the week gone by. If an objective journalist were to chronicle the past seven days of your life, would you like what was written? If not, what are your plans for next week?

Fortunately, I just wrote this remarkably interesting and thoughtful post, so I am totally set until at least next Tuesday.

Concentration is important!