It’s a bit morbid, but I’ve always wondered what it is like to watch someone die. Not that I think I want to, but there’s something about that moment which I can imagine would be transformative. It might be a way of confronting death to come to grips with it, or it may serve to remind one of the tenacity of life. Or its frailty. The movie 21 Grams has a lot to say about that, I bet — I still have to see it. A recent NY Times article (reg. required) talks about people who visit those dying alone to comfort them. I’ve heard there’s also some terrible TV show whose protagonist collects souls for a living — perhaps that feeds a societal obsession with the moment of death.
I think these morbid thoughts come from the graphical descriptions of the deaths and horror during the French Revolution in Marat/Sade. Hacked buttocks lying in the street, people being carried to the guillotine in dung carts, their eyes still moving after the blade fell. It’s repulsive, even more so knowing that text cannot possibly do justice to the experience of being there — that is something only imagination can provide, and it takes a monumental effort for me to force my imagination to grapple with those images.