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Home » Current Focus » Articles & Essays, 2008 » Living with Mortality Photo Essay

Photo Essay

The Fifth Annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue

"Living with Mortality: How Our Experiences with Death Change Us"

"A central and fundamental challenge for the coming century will be that of establishing a culture ... that does not disown death, but directly confronts and correctly positions death within a larger living context."

- Center Founder Daisaku Ikeda, 1993

All photos by Marilyn Humphries, except where noted

BRC BuildingThe 5th Annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue was held at the Center on September 20, 2008, a sunny Saturday in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Read a feature story on the event.)

harding, Laverty, Kircher, and Marsella

Called "Living with Mortality: How Our Experiences with Death Change Us," the event featured panelists (l-r) Vincent Harding, Megan Laverty, Pam Kircher, and Anthony Marsella.


Audience at 5th Ikeda Forum The day began with welcoming remarks from Executive Director Virginia Benson. During her comments, she shared findings from the Center's yearlong investigation "Understanding Death, Appreciating Life."

(photo by J. Farr)

Virginia BensonBenson also invited the gathering to join in celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the Center. This Forum, said Benson, was inspired by a lecture by Daisaku Ikeda, given at Harvard when he founded the Center in 1993.

(photo by J. Farr)

Masao YokotaCenter President Masao Yokota spoke next, reflecting on the cycle of life and death as something natural, needed, and beautiful.

(photo by J. Farr)


Small group discussionMost of the morning was spent in small group discussion, focused on two topics: Share one experience with death that has changed you. As you have had other experiences with death, how have your views of life and death changed? (Read their insights)

(photo by J. Farr)

PanelistsVirginia Benson launched the afternoon session, called "Possibilities for Cultural Change," with an introduction of the panel.


Pam KircherPam Kircher offered the perspective of a hospice physician who has witnessed the slow but steady humanizing of death and dying in the U.S. for three decades now. The hospice experience, said Kircher, facilitates life reviews, meaningful connections, and the awareness that, above all, it is relationships that matter in our lives.


Anthony MarsellaAnthony Marsella, president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, explored a vision of life and death as inseparable, and promoted the idea of what he calls "life-ism," a reverence for all of existence, in all its mystery and immensity.

Megan LavertyPhilosopher of education Megan Laverty, Teachers College, Columbia University, proposed that we adults could learn from children's attitudes toward the dying. In so doing, we might become more natural and at ease in the presence of death.




Vincent HardingSocial historian Vincent Harding challenged the gathering to become "hospice attendants" easing the death of the America that has become too comfortable in its fear and isolation. At the same time, he invited everyone to become "midwives" guiding the birth of a new America, one more aligned with the ideals of his friend Martin Luther King, Jr.


Elise Boulding and Winston LangleyThe Center was delighted to welcome two longtime friends, peace scholar Elise Boulding and Winston Langley, Interim Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the University of Massachusetts, Boston.


Elise Boulding with son Russell

Boulding and her son Russell (r) enjoyed Vincent Harding's talk, during which he acknowledged his indebtedness to her work.

Mel King

Boston-area activist and educator Mel King attended the event. During the plenary session, he asked what the phrase "living with mortality" must mean to our young people who live with the daily threat of potentially fatal violence.

Mel King and Vincent HardingThe event provided an opportunity for Mel King and Vincent Harding to say hello. The two are old friends and colleagues in the quest for civil rights and positive social change.


15th anniversary toast for the BRCThe day ended with the Masa Hagiya leading the gathering in a toast celebrating the Center's fifteenth anniversary. He wished everyone health, happiness, and many more years of friendship.














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