Death, in the view of many theorists, is a good thing, at least for a society that aspires to be creative.
A study in Psychological Science tallied the number of positive and negative words in blog posts written by the terminally ill and compared them with essays by people who were asked to imagine being near death and then write about it.
The dying people, it turned out, were more positive.
Equal parts denial and self-soothing, courage and fatalism, TMT is what kept Cold War Americans going despite fear of nuclear annihilation, and got New Yorkers out to work on that Sept. Some TMT techniques involve what psychologists call constructive distraction: When faced with acute reminders of death—say, a funeral—we push back with something that prolongs life, like going for a run.
We also become good at flippancy, making death benign or comical—think Halloween costumes. We get better at this as we age.