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Why is death still a taboo?

Usually there is a roundabout phrase: “goodbye”, “the departure”, “he has left us”. Using the term “death” is as if it were scary. It’s hard to come to terms with it. «Even if the sharing of Michela Murgia’s illness and that of Gianluca Vialli, in a certain sense they were a signal. Perhaps after a pandemic we talk more openly about death, as we couldn’t before”, he says Elisa Siriannicurator and communication expert, who, together with the actor and theater director Mario Biaginibuilt the project While alive – The Miracle of Finitenessproduced by Metastasio Theater in Prato, directed by Massimiliano Civica with the support of the Cassa di Risparmio di Prato Foundation: «Our idea is to talk more about death, to come to terms with it. Why is death still a taboo? Does fear go away by pretending that death doesn’t exist? The idea came to me after the pandemic and after the diagnosis of cancer. As I work in the theater and deeply believe in its function as a space for public debate, it was natural to channel these reflections into a project for a place that is also a happy metaphor of finiteness: in the theatre, everything is born and dies every evening, in front of an audience of people who share that ritual, being together. Facing an end together, collectively and creatively, is already a form of protection from the pain of loss.”

The project relies on a vast territorial network and tries to gather as many voices as possible: «We have organized a cycle of meetings and citizen assemblies. We have involved doctors and philosophers, writers and anthropologists, we are asking people how they experience the idea of ​​their death and separation from their loved ones, we are proposing a theater workshop, we have opened a Facebook group (Da Vivi – The Miracle of Finiteness), a digital space to exchange opinions and materials on the topic, and talk about it, talk about it and talk about it, because the best antidote to taboos is the word. We live pretending to be eternal, eternally young, eternally in a performative and performative condition, which sees the limit only as an obstacle to overcome. Old age and illness, often confused with each other, are put aside, hidden, arouse shame, they are not considered usual processes for which it is necessary to equip oneself emotionally, culturally, socially, but rather as sad and unexpected misfortunes, which should not be thought about until the inevitable moment”, says Mario Biagini. «The ritual of mourning has disappeared from the radar», continues Elisa Sirianni, «dwelling too much on the loss is not looked upon favorably, “life goes on. The apparent paradox is that stopping and internalizing the idea of ​​limits and loss also reserves good surprises, and the possibility of living perhaps more fully, freed from the anguish of a removal that is impossible to achieve completely. Outside the taboo you are more protected from the fear of the end, not the other way around.”

Elisa Sirianni (photo Luca Franco)

The project also had a political impact, so to speak: the Municipality of Prato could be the first Italian Municipality to promote a so-called hospitality pact on this topic, a document, also signed by the healthcare company and citizens, for a better quality of life in the approach to death and the experience of mourning: «The intent is to create greater sensitivity, to treat all physical and emotional aspects that the end of life entails and this involves a change in both perspective and practice. The little time that doctors have available for hospital visits, for example, is not compatible with taking charge of the doctor-patient relationship, which is as important as the administration of therapy, especially in the case of poor prognosis. Meetings are underway to verify whether it will be possible to build the path that would lead the Municipality and local institutions to sign a document that identifies any critical issues, proposes questions and possible solutions”.

Meanwhile, every Friday, at the Ridotto del Metastasio in Prato, experts from different subjects are called into question – thanatology, philosophy, medicine, palliative care, anthropology, sociology, literature, law – to explore what is scary, what could be done with it a little less, what paths can be taken to live fully in finiteness, rather than suffer it and every week, in the same place a group of artists meets anyone who wants to participate to explore through theater and song the beauty that life holds, precisely in its finiteness.

The calendar of all appointments can be found on www.metastasio.it.

Lettering Francesco Chiacchio

Source: Vanity Fair

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