Death Over Dinner

with our guest: Michael Hebb

OVERVIEW

Today my guest is Michael Hebb, a multidisciplinary artist whose medium is the table. It’s been said that in the realm of death there are no experts, but I don’t think that’s true. Michael has spent many, many, many years talking about death and is the founder of DeathOverDinner.org, an incredible movement that is bringing people together around tables, over meals to talk about issues related to end of life. He’s a very thoughtful guy that I met through Summit Series in the recent past. He has served as an advisor to the Summit Series and he also started a creative agency that’s advised many organizations including the Obama Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Tedmed, the World Economic Forum, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative, X Prize Foundation, and the Nature Conservancy. His writings have appeared in GQ, Food and Wine, Food Arts, Arcade, Seattle magazine, and City Arts, and he can often be found speaking at universities and conferences for the past 20 years.

SHOW NOTES

00:02:48 – What’s life about?
00:08:11 – Growing up.
00:15:08 – Dropping out of Reed.
00:16:11 – City Repair project begins.
00:22:51 – Apes and tables.
00:25:52 – Dating Naomi and starting Family Supper.
00:30:37 – Becoming a pariah.
00:40:14 – Eating traditions with family.
00:45:03 – Why death is a theme.
00:51:27 – Death Over Dinner discussion.
00:59:09 – Michael’s 40th birthday/funeral.

BRYAN:              00:00:40 Hello my friends today my guest is Michael Hebb, a multidisciplinary artist whose medium is the table. It’s been said that in the realm of death there are no experts, but I don’t think that’s true. Michael has spent many, many, many years talking about death and is the founder of DeathOverDinner.org, an incredible movement that is bringing people together around tables, over meals to talk about issues related to end of life. He’s a very thoughtful guy that I met through summit series in the recent past. He has served as an advisor to the Summit Series and he also started a creative agency that’s advised many organizations including the Obama Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Tedmed, the World Economic Forum, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative, X prize foundation, and the Nature Conservancy. His writings have appeared in GQ, food and wine, food arts, Arcade, Seattle magazine, and city arts, and he can often be found speaking at universities and conferences for the past 20 years.

 

BRYAN:              00:01:43 He’s been following the mandate. My client is civilization and his projects have turned into movements around the world that have impacted millions of people. His new book, Let’s Talk About Death is published in October of 2018. I’ve read it. I think it’s amazing. He has incredible insights both in this podcast and in the book he talks about the table as the first architecture saying that tables are already built. We all have them, but most of us don’t know how to use them. That the table is the basic engine of culture. And then he talks about he’s committed to spending the rest of his life reinvigorating the table as a place of culture. I think you’ll learn a lot about yourself. Probably think about some things you’ve never thought about before. Or if you have, this podcast will encourage you to go deeper. So I hope you enjoy. I hope you, uh, if you don’t know Michael already, that you get to know him better and I will talk to you at the end of this amazing conversation with Michael Hebb. Thanks for listening.

 

BRYAN:              00:02:48 So what’s life about?

 

MICHAEL:            00:02:51 What’s life about… when I replayed that question in my head, I’ve replayed it more as the classic, what is the meaning of life? Right? And what’s life about is as kind of a tricky spin on it. There’s a cliche around the meaning of life, but what life about doesn’t have quite that cliche, you know, as a individual… I kind of want to look at that. I think about it as an individual and as a collective because I think we’ve greatly discount the state of our collective consciousness and you know, we live in a country founded on the notion of rugged individualism and so it applies to that lens, I think applies to, you know, even me personally knowing that I have that cognitive bias of thinking about things from a very individualistic perspective when in fact, you know, we are, we’re social tribal creatures and in many ways I don’t think we’re prepared to answer the question about what is life about currently.

 

MICHAEL:            00:04:03 I think our collective culture is so toxic that to attempt to take on a philosophical, psychological, existential question of that scale. I think that the answers that even I can give regardless of how much I’ve attained through my own experiences in my own self reflection, the fact that I am in a ecosystem that is so repressed, that is so far from authenticity that I don’t know that I’m able to even think about things in a way with enough clarity to give you a meaningful answer. Um, if that makes sense. And I mean, we now know the forests are intelligent networks, right? Trees and plants and forests communicate about threat. I’m like fires that communicate about nutrients to other species. And so there’s both opportunities and threats that are communicated and there’s an intelligence in the network. And I think that as a culture, which I’m sure we’ll dig into around this notion around death and many other conversations we’re not facing, um, as a culture, we’re so deeply repressed, so far from our own vitality that collectively it doesn’t allow the individual to have the type of clarity that you might find in a, in a culture that would produce the Dalai Lama, right?

 

MICHAEL:            00:05:37 In a culture that would produce a variety of different indigenous cultures that would produce the type of clear thinking that I think is worthwhile. I can talk about healing in a toxic culture, but I don’t think that I can take on an existential question and give you much that’s useful.

 

BRYAN:              00:05:57 Okay. What if I change the question just a little bit to say, what is your life about?

 

MICHAEL:            00:06:04 My life has been about listening to an authentic voice inside me that has always been quite a bit louder than culture or convention. So the, I don’t know if it’s gifted or if it’s cursed with some very clear messaging about what I’m supposed to be doing and that doesn’t necessarily come through and in, you know, Oxford English always. But I’ve known from a very young age and have been motivated from a very young age to think about where we could go as a culture to be empathic enough to feel like there’s something missing and there’s things that could be improved and have been never been motivated by a job or money. Um, it’s always this motivation sometimes infuriating because it puts me in some, you know, sometimes some very risky situations, um, but the fact that I’ve been motivated by how do I help heal this culture that I’m in, has been since, you know, I was 15, 16 years old, been a resounding force in my life and so I didn’t even really have the luxury of thinking about, you know, life, career, family, all as a priority and, and more just thinking about, you know, how do I help this, the people around me live brighter, more authentic lives.

 

MICHAEL:            00:07:39 Um, so, uh, you know, it, it just so happens that living around a central purpose that’s larger than you creates a pretty extraordinary life. You know? So I, I’ve been fortunate to live what it feels like even though it’s a young life, a pretty extraordinary life.

 

BRYAN:              00:07:56 Yeah. That’s awesome. When you say that this is something that really began for you around the age of 15, I know you were kicked out, you were 15, you went back home for a year left finally when you were 17. Is that right?

 

MICHAEL:            00:08:11 Yeah, and I’ve, I really think that the, it started much earlier when my father was, my father was 72 when I was born. He was born in 1904, and the Yukon Gold Rush. Yeah. Yeah, no, it’s remarkable. I think only Charlie Chaplin and a few others have beat him, you know, elderly fatherhood but…

 

BRYAN:              00:08:31 Steve Martin is 60 or 70.

 

MICHAEL:            00:08:33 Yeah, it’s pretty rare. And um, so the likelihood of him seeing my high school graduation was already fairly dim. Right. And that was one of his central concerns, certainly, but they decided to go ahead and have, you know, have the child and have me anyway. But needless to say, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was in second grade. And you know, there’s a kind of your life if you’re a second grader, I’m living with a father that struggling with Alzheimer’s. Your life has already significantly different than your peers.

 

BRYAN:              00:08:33 How?

 

MICHAEL:            00:09:41 Well, that isn’t a struggle that most second graders are facing. That’s not a desirable place within our culture. And so it’s, it, you know, especially in our, um, our middle schools or elementary schools and our high schools. So when you haven’t experienced that so distinct from normalcy, it creates a schism. And that really came true. I think it started with my father getting ill, but when he died when I was 13, I realized how little I had in common and that I was going to stop trying so hard to relate to, um, and build relations with the people, with my peers because I found it, it was no longer nourishing. I had experienced a loss of father and was already a very thoughtful human being, but I needed other resources than my peers could offer. And, and I wasn’t getting it from my mother. There weren’t great uncles and there weren’t. I wasn’t surrounded by mentors.

 

MICHAEL:            00:10:42 And so I turned to literature, you know, starting with Henry Miller and Annise Nin and Lawrence Durrell and their friendship and moving on into understanding the world of Hemingway and Gertrude Stein and what I started to see was both what a real, what it looked like when people came together around passionate interest, that kind of scene, but like a meaningful scene right. At a very young age I could see the distinction between a meaningful scene of people connecting around things that they were passionate about. And then also was introduced to mysticism, you know, at, especially when it came to Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell and, um, and then DH Lawrence and the writers that I loved and loved most in their older lives who got, became completely fascinated with mysticism and eastern philosophy. So at the age of 14, 15, I’m reading Thich Nhat Hanh. I’m reading Thomas Merton. I’m reading Rumi and, you know, started meditating, started doing TM when I was 17, had out of body experiences.

 

MICHAEL:            00:11:57 And so this, there’s been this constant and it kind of marked me at that period of this interest in meaningful, uh, gatherings of humans. And then people that are interested in a truth that’s larger than what we see in our everyday life and larger than our cultural understanding. So I think that, that those became my books and my practices and then some mentors starting to filter in, became my community and then I just had to go find, you know, the, a meaningful collection of people in an adult setting.

 

BRYAN:              00:12:37 Interesting. Who were some of your mentors during this time?

 

MICHAEL:            00:12:40 I had a teacher named Kate Johnson who saw the talent that I had in writing and uh, when I was a sophomore in high school actually went to the pretty extraordinary length of giving me four class periods to just write, and went to literally sparked a battle with the vice president or principal and the other teachers who were like, why are you making an exception of him? I don’t care if you’re disrupting our core curriculum and, you know, how do we grade him? And she went to bat and she was like, no, he needs time and space to write. Um, he has a unique voice and I want to help him develop it. She also was the person who, even though I graduated as a junior from high school, convinced me to, to apply, to Reed. Um, I was, I wasn’t going to go to college. I thought it was bullshit.

 

BRYAN:              00:13:31 Why did you think that by the way?

 

MICHAEL:            00:13:33 Um, because it seemed like, well, it didn’t seem like a meaningful collection of humans again, like it seemed like people were doing it for inauthentic reasons. They were doing it. People were going to, towards higher learning and education without an articulating why they’d want to, that it was a way to spend their parents’ money that, uh, that, you know, education is a privilege. Um not something that should feel like something like a should or a stepping stone towards their career. So it just seemed the whole thing seemed distasteful to me. And also, you know, when Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac and um, you know, Gary Snyder and Thich Nhat Hanh and the Buddha are your heroes, right? Going to Oregon State University is not that attractive right here. Like, that’s not the path to enlightenment. So I wanna, you know, stroll the, you know, the, uh, the dusty world and want to experience life. I don’t want to be stuck in a school, but Kate convinced me that, that my opportunities as a writer and as a thinker would be limited if I didn’t at least give college a try. What?

 

BRYAN:              00:14:51 She must’ve done a pretty good job because you ended up not only getting a bachelor’s degree but you went on and got a master’s. Right?

 

MICHAEL:            00:14:56 Neither of those things.

 

BRYAN:              00:14:58 Oh, you didn’t? But you did enter a Master’s program. Is that?

 

MICHAEL:            00:15:01 I taught at a Master’s program.

 

BRYAN:              00:15:03 So how great is that? Didn’t…

 

MICHAEL:            00:15:08 No, I dropped out of Reed after a year. It was intellectually an incredible environment, but I think people were so unwell, so unhealthy there were incredible amounts of drugs being used. Um, and just a lot of unprocessed pain and trauma. Add drugs and add a great deal of intellectualism and you have an incredibly ugly cocktail. I mean, you know, depressive and so, and I didn’t want to be in that community, um, left and then, um, had a pretty significant nervous breakdown or you know, I guess best describes as a nervous breakdown. I know that that word doesn’t necessarily mean something specific but had a mental break and had to kind of rebuild from the ground up when I was 19. And that’s when I decided to go study architecture. And so I spent, I did four years worth of architecture work at University of Portland in the studios, but I didn’t complete the other requirements.

 

MICHAEL:            00:16:11 And then started, was asked my fourth year of studio work during, um, I’m an architectural crit where there’s architects who come into essentially destroy your work. Um, there was an architect named Mark Lakeman who asked me one if he could buy. He was so moved by my work that if he could buy the model that I built and if I’d go to tea with him afterward. And it was funny because the other architect in that crit was Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works who has become one of the most important American architects. And he hated what I did. Um, and Mark said, you know, his kind of response to Brad pissing all over me, um, was, uh, you know, I’m going to buy it. Can I buy that piece for $100 and what can you will come and have tea with me and the tea, he asked me if I would be his partner in a project called the City of Repair project. And we started building public squares illegally in the public right of way in Portland and tea houses and all kinds of kind of burning man esque Ringer Rainbow Gathering esque projects before, certainly before Burning Man it was in the public consciousness .

 

BRYAN:              00:17:24 Asking someone to tea. I think that can only happen in the Pacific northwest. I don’t know how well that would go over. Well maybe now, but even like when that happened, I don’t know if a dude could have done that in like somewhere else, you know?

 

MICHAEL:            00:17:35 Right, sure. Yeah. No. And Mark is a, is a remarkable human being. Um,

 

BRYAN:              00:17:43 It sounds like it.

 

MICHAEL:            00:17:44 Yeah. And he’s continued to do his work and his work has now spread all over the world. And so for two years we were brothers in arms and he was much older than I am. Um, but he didn’t see himself as a mentor even though he was, he saw me as his partner and so, you know, the… so I dropped out of architecture school and yeah. So when I was asked to be a teaching fellow at the University of Washington in the graduate community of communications program, it was a bit, not only a surprise to me, but some of the administrators. They don’t like that, they like you having done your time. Yeah. So some people had to fight pretty hard to allow me to teach there. So.

 

BRYAN:              00:18:25 Well, I mean, it was there that you had this conversation with a couple ladies on a train.

 

MICHAEL:            00:18:33 Yeah. I had taken the, um, the position of teaching fellow with the idea, um, of how do we scale this was the idea I was investigating was how do we scale a dinner party? Like, how do we scale, um, the experiences that I was having at dinners because I had at that point had spent about 10 years bringing together, um, some of the most remarkable minds of our generation to salon style gatherings

 

BRYAN:              00:19:02 Before we get to this about scaling.

 

MICHAEL:            00:19:05 Yeah.

 

BRYAN:              00:19:06 How is it with all these diverse paths that you were following, you know, with the mysticism and with the architecture and this lawyer, where was the food component? How did that come into your life and why, why is that so central for you?

 

MICHAEL:            00:19:21 Yeah. So, um, food came in and a couple of different ways. One, the work that we were doing with City Repair, um, we were um, and, and the tea houses we were building saw very clearly that the ceremony of drinking tea together, even in a casual setting is the thing that brings people together and holds them together. And then release system. It’s a very, in a very intentional thing to do. We don’t think we take it very casually, but you’ve, you commit to a kind of contract, um, when you decide to sit down to tea with somebody and a meal is the same.

 

BRYAN:              00:19:53 What do you mean by that? Like explain that. What’s the contract that people have entered into when they have a tea together?

 

MICHAEL:            00:19:59 Sure. So if I ask you to sit down and have tea with me, um, you have agreed to give me at least 15 minutes of your time. Probably an hour, right? I mean, you’re more likely than not going to be looking at your phone. Would you have, there was a unwritten contract or that would be rude. If we’re sitting down to t we’re going to share something and I’m, if I’m inviting them, I’m probably providing it. So there’s already a gift that’s being given. Um, it may be that I go say you go get your own tea at the counter, but if I’m inviting you into an intentional environment to say, sit and have tea with me, there’s that, um, we’re going to converse. But more likely than not, it would be awkward if we sat there and talked about, you know, it didn’t speak to each other.

 

MICHAEL:            00:20:43 So there is a contract about a conversation. There’s a contract about civility. It’s not necessarily when you’re in conflict with somebody, you don’t necessarily say let’s go have tea. Right, right. Um, so

 

BRYAN:              00:20:58 Although it might be good if we did.

 

MICHAEL:            00:20:59 It would be great if we did. Um, so a lot of those things are true if a meal as well. Um, the, if you’re inviting an enemy to the dinner table, you’re there. It’s assumed that you are interested in reconciliation of some kind or you’re trying to poison somebody. So it’s one or the other. Um, but you know, I started to realize that the table is actually the first architecture. It’s the first intentional other place, right? So, um, shelter, we had shelter, we had caves, right? And we could find shelter in different ways. But to intentionally build a table, um, to share a meal is this pretty significant moment you have, you’re really investing.

 

MICHAEL:            00:21:47 Um, you know, our predecessors were really investing in that shared experience, right? It’s not singular. Um, shelter can be singular. Um, a table is a communal situation. It’s essentially the more convivial, more interactive version of a campfire, right? The fire is where, and if you think about the height that you cook food over a fire, it’s the same height as the table without charging it or burning it. And essentially, if you don’t want to burn your fingers while you’re eating that food, you want to move it to something else and you don’t want it to be in the dirt. So what is that thing? The other thing that is interesting is that, um, you know, we made the evolutionary leap from ape to human by cooking, by concentrating calories. So apes have incredibly big jaws, right? And smaller brains than we do when you concentrate the calories by cooking what…

 

MICHAEL:            00:22:51 We took a huge load off our of our belly. So an ape chews seven hours a day. Humans chew 24 minutes. So you have six and a half hours of very intense, um, you know, um, activity that the body has to do outsourced, right? And so there’s all this energy and we got big brains and our jaws thinned out because we didn’t need to chew all the time. And so eating is what in fact makes us human. It’s connected to our DNA. Um, it’s connected to our evolution, right? So it’s not surprising that we would actually seek out tables for reconciliation or evolution, um, as a natural place. So for me, it related to my classics studies around because I was studying the symposiums and the work of Socrates and Plato and Aristotle and then architecture and understanding that here, instead of having to build an entire environment for an experience, tables are already built and we all have them and most of us don’t know how to use them.

 

MICHAEL:            00:23:56 Right? Um, and so then there was this huge opportunity, right? And where a very large light went on in my head. And this is like, again, the thing where the blessing or the curse to have these, have these transmissions come through you. And then I realized all this when I said, well, I’m going to spend the rest of my life reinvigorating the dinner table as a place of culture and realize that it’s the basic engine of culture is the dinner table, but we have, you know, 20 percent of meals are eaten in the car, um, at least another 20 percent are eaten on the couch or in bed. Um, and so the, um, and how many are eating standing, how many are at your desk, um, while you were working. And so, you know, our cultural capital or our social capital, which you’ve seen a great reduction and we tend to blame on technology.

 

MICHAEL:            00:24:52 I would blame more squarely on the fact that we don’t eat together. Technology’s just a tool. Um the… and the fact that we haven’t made strong social contracts around eating together, um, I think has been more corrosive to our culture and our social health than anything else. Um, so I found. Yeah. So I saw, I was like, I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. And, and I, and I was already considered myself a kind of multidisciplinary artist and then I was like, well my, now my medium is the table, you know, the trick is I didn’t there, there’s not clear patrons, there’s not other artists that you can share battle stories or, you know, understand a trajectory ugh career wise. So I decided to pick a medium that essentially it was a man without a country, said, well, if I’m gonna do this work, how am I going to do it?

 

MICHAEL:            00:25:52 And you know, and the Naomi Pomeroy and I, we were dating at the time. I was working with Mark on city repair and she’s very talented, numb, Cook. And we ended up building a, um, you know, now she’s a very famous chef on like Top Chef Masters and um, has a, um, you know, renowned restaurant in Portland called Beast and now me, um, and I were dating at the time and we decided to build a personal chef company for her that turned into a catering company that ended up making much more money than the architecture. So I let the architecture go, but I was unfulfilled by the service industry orientation of our catering company. And so I proposed this idea to Naomi. Naomi was like, we’re gonna build a 21 foot table in our living room out of hollow core doors, three, seven, seven foot hollow core doors, um, that I can personally put up by myself.

 

MICHAEL:            00:26:51 She was pregnant at the time with her first daughter I can put up by myself in about five minutes and we’ll invite 20 friends and strangers to dinner twice a month and call it family supper. Um, and then we’ll leave a jar by the door and let them pay. And I knew very well in the same way that Mark and I were creating toolkits and ideas that we wanted to see happen all over the world. Um, with intersection repair and the tea house and the tea house, which did those projects, did seed thousands of copycat projects. And that was the intention. With family supper, the idea was to create the underground restaurant movement. Um, and I knew it at the time, it wasn’t, we’re just having friends over for dinner. It was I want to show other would be chefs hosts um, people interested in conviviality and cuisine and food to a way that they can use the space that they have instead of going to culinary school or working for Wolfgang Puck or doing any of the traditional route, which is very costly.

 

MICHAEL:            00:27:55 I felt like the culinary world needed and underground. Just the way that the art and the architecture and music world like garage bands like Nirvana, like all of these things that are creating the future of an industry or an art form with culinary world lacked. And so I said, we’re gonna do these illegal dinners in our house and we’re gonna make a lot of noise about them and the health department is not going to know what to do with us. They’re not going to shut us down because they won’t even if they wouldn’t even know that what we are because they’d never seen it before and the city’s not going to shut us down because they don’t. It’s not enough money from a permitting to see it as a for profit business. And so within six months, we’re on the front page of the dining section of the New York Times having sparked to a, uh, a global movement and, you know, it just so happens that, you know, Gus Van Sant, um, you know, and the Decemberists and all of these remarkable people that were in Portland ended up at our table.

 

MICHAEL:            00:28:56 And so, and I knew that that was part of it, that, that you, again, back to that meaningful scene. Um, we started to create in Portland through family supper and then our restaurants an artistic epoch. It was an era of incredible artistic production. Sleater Kinney, and you have, um, Miranda July, the beginning of her career, you have the December issue, have Gus Van Sant, these incredible creators all coming together at our, at our dinners and around our restaurants. Every day you’d walk in and you’d see somebody else who was doing remarkable work in Portland or globally, um communicating with each other. Matthew Stadler became a writer in residence. Gore Vidal came to do a dinner with us, Gregory Crewdson like the list went on and on.

 

BRYAN:              00:29:49 How awesome to have people from so many different disciplines. And backgrounds coming together .

 

MICHAEL:            00:29:54 For sure. Yeah. Marina Abramovic came and did a dinner with us and the famous dancer and artist, um, you know, and, and, and we had, I can’t even, you know, the amount of, of intersection, you know, Thomas Keller came, came and Ruth Reichl. And so you had the culinary world mixing with the, you know, avant garde art world and the music world. I mean, some of the Decemberists first shows were in our, we’re in our restaurant and so the, it, it really satisfied that need for me, you know, and then, and then it kind of all blew up.

 

BRYAN:              00:30:33 So how long did you, how long did you, you called it family supper?

 

MICHAEL:            00:30:37 Family supper was one component. We ended up with a little bit of a mini restaurant empire that was more of an art project and it was meant to be a business, but we ran it as a business. And so we ran a terribly and, but we had three restaurants in total, um, and Gotham Building Tavern, Clark Lewis and then Family Supper. And it was, you know, they, they, they gained international media attention as restaurants and you know, we were, we’d become kind of the it couple in Portland and um, and then it all fell apart because we’re terrible business people. Um, and I became the persona non grata the pariah in many ways of Portland. My partners, no one else was willing to take responsibility and I wasn’t willing to defend myself because I’d already been assumed that it was my fault. And so, you know, when the press decides that you are the pariah in a situation, if you don’t have the money to pay for the PR firm to spin it in your direction, you’re pretty much screwed.

 

MICHAEL:            00:31:39 And so, you know, I had the New York Times eviscerating, me and all of the Portland magazines.

 

BRYAN:              00:31:46 What were they saying?

 

MICHAEL:            00:31:47 Um, that I was this, um, kind of, uh, what was Svengali, like manipulative, larger than life business person. Empresario that had lied to investors or left my wife and child, you know, like this kind of. And then when I think the Willamette Week printed that I ran away to Mexico with bags of coke and dope and others, I don’t know if the hookers were in bags or not, but um, and the reality is I went to Mexico for two weeks to be with my brother because I was suicidal and I needed to clear my head because of the amount of shame I felt for failing as a, um, as an entrepreneur. And so, you know, I, I move, I bought an airstream and moved about 40 minutes outside of Portland because I figured no one would take that away from me. And then I was close to my daughter so I could see her more than I had in the previous years because I was so busy. So I started spending a lot more time with August and then living in the airstream and then eventually moving to Seattle. So I could be, have a fresh start in a city, but be close enough to my daughter. And that’s really the only reason I moved to Seattle.

 

BRYAN:              00:32:55 Oh. So from this story that you shared, how there was such amazing, like there was such an amazing creation, like something, you had a vision for something. Pursued it with abandon, it, created something really special for many people for a period and then it ended,

 

MICHAEL:            00:33:17 Exploded.

 

BRYAN:              00:33:18 It exploded. What I’m thinking about as, as I’m putting myself in the seat of a listener now also is, you know, like, what’s a takeaway from that, whether it’s how you came through a failure or how you moved forward with a passion you had. I mean, what do you take away from all that.

 

MICHAEL:            00:33:38 Well, I mean the, a whole new life, you’re at a crossroads when you fail that big.

 

BRYAN:              00:33:44 It’s very public. Many people won’t have their shortcomings publicized maybe.

 

MICHAEL:            00:33:49 No, no. And especially at the time Portland was such a small but big town, right? Um, and I didn’t know how to metabolize this kind of failure. And so it was front page news, you know, for a long time and really like way over considered for the scale of what it was. Um, so I went from being, you know, very loved in Portland to very hated and so that was pretty shocking. So I knew that I had a choice of, to be defined by that failure or to be defined by what I knew to be my true nature. Like, you know, when you’re misunderstood, you can get bitter, right? And, or you can empower the part of you that you, that you feel wasn’t seen. Right. And so I decided to, I knew that the work that I was doing was for the good of all, right.

 

MICHAEL:            00:34:46 It was, it was meant for the good of Portland and for culture. And it wasn’t seen that way. It was seen as, um, that I was manipulative, that I was greedy, that I was privileged, you know, um, these kinds of things, deceptive and the, and the reality was I was like, no, I was trying my best to wake up a kind of culture and connect a culture and create a meaningful seen within Portland. Right. That had lasting impact for sure, both in the culinary world, and the arts world. So it’s like one part of me was successful and seen and understood and another part wasn’t and that overshadowed so I could have recoiled or taken an easy route, like, gotten a job in advertising or something where I knew I could succeed. Right. I’m very clear about how to make a splash and culture, you know, like advertising would have been easy. But what I decided to do was, you know, made a distinction that I was like, I’m not going to own anything for the foreseeable future. Um, so the people as I reemerge there won’t, we can clarify that it wasn’t about greed, right. I’m not, I’m never going to take investors on again and I don’t want employees.

 

BRYAN:              00:36:02 And is, is this all still true today?

 

MICHAEL:            00:36:05 Yeah, it is actually true about owning things for the most part. I don’t have a kind of distaste for ownership.

 

BRYAN:              00:36:14 So this almost rules maybe like very low. Like what I’m hearing is minimalism. You didn’t use the word but minimalistic lifestyle, not looking to take, not looking for investors, not looking for employees.

 

MICHAEL:            00:36:27 Right, right. Well, and I knew that I had a quality about myself, that was Icarus like right, that I could become ungrounded and be motivated by excitement and attention and make it too grandiose. Right? And so I had to really ground myself and say, every day I’m in an will end for here on forward. I’m only going to do the most honest work I can do right. I want every step of the way to have total integrity. There’s not going to be any half lies. White lies like it’s going to be. The work that I’m going to do is be very, very clear and very clean and very honest and about the table. And I was like, clarify takeaway the businesses say, well now I’m going to actually work on a project from a mission standpoint, not try to combine mission and business, which some people do brilliantly.

 

MICHAEL:            00:37:29 I’m not necessarily like, at least at that point in my life, I wasn’t able to hold the two together. And so I decided that I was just going to focus on mission and I figured within about 10 years, that’d be really painful. For 10 year. And then that there would be enough people who understood where I was coming from and the work that I’m doing, the work would be clear enough that I wouldn’t have to live with that amount of misunderstanding and judgment, which I found so painful.

 

BRYAN:              00:37:59 So you talked about business or mission. Some people can mix those. You chose mission? What is mission?

 

MICHAEL:            00:38:07 Multiple things. But I’d say that clarified down to reinvigorating how we eat together became the, the call to action. Right. And why would we do that? Is because the table is a exceptional place of healing. It’s not only a place of human connection and the building of relationships, it’s actually perfectly designed to treat, if you, you know, if we’ll indulge that language, repression and shame, difficult conversations, um, that are, are the, like the currency of meaningful dinner experiences.

 

MICHAEL:            00:38:52 And so in a culture that’s so deeply shamed and so deeply repressed, the table becomes like the clinic for that. And so I had a realization that my work was no longer about a western art ideas like I used to Marcel Duchamp and the Dadaist, and the Situationists and the Surrealists were who I was referencing in my work up until that point. And then I started, I went back to my kind of eastern mystical healing interest and realize that the table in my work, we’re about healing. And so how would then the table the maximized as a healing vessel, right? As an engine of healing and a vessel of healing. So that’s, you know, that’s, that became clear..

 

BRYAN:              00:39:47 Just want to get one question in here of my own intense personal curiosity about things that people can do. Like parents specifically. Yeah. To enhance the quality of their family dinners. Like what advice do you have for kids and parents to create like strong health? I mean because the same people largely the same food for years and years. Like what insights or advice do you have for people in that situation?

 

MICHAEL:            00:40:14 Yeah, I mean I think that there’s one thing that comes to mind, several things, but I’m a friend of mine, Kathy Maxwell and I had this idea to create a family ritual around eating together called the blessing cup or you know, we’ve started, um, we call it appreciation in the round and death over dinner. But she would make a chalice with her kids out of clay and fill it with grape juice and passed the chalice of wine or grape juice, not wine, around. And everyone would take a sip and I’m first they’d say something that they appreciated about everyone at the table and, or they could say something nice about everyone at the table or they could say something they learned that day. And at first her kids were, you know, as you can imagine, a little bit hesitant about the whole thing. But with a little coaching, they ended up taking it on really robustly. And so to the point where when they left for college, they asked if they could make an individual cup to take with them. And now they do it with friends and family and you know, and like even when their college and their dorms, they were doing blessing cup and so those type of things where, I mean it’s for one, it’s awkward as a parent to try to create ritual, um, at your table, like even saying grace feels awkward for even religious family sometimes, right?

 

BRYAN:              00:41:40 Yeah. Or sometimes I’ll ask our 14 year old will say, abby, would you like to, would you like to offer a blessing? No, thanks. And of course I don’t want to force her to.

 

MICHAEL:            00:41:49 Right. And, and that’s so you notice that, that sure continue to make a blessing over the food, but also think of other, um, rituals that will activate and engage your children because that’s the goal. It’s not that they should be able to make a blessing. It’s how do I meet them where they’re at and engage them in an activity and help them through that’ll eventually ingrain. Um, the other thing is like all humans, children respect vulnerability. They respect authenticity. If you tell your children something you’re afraid of saying, some hardship you’re having in your life that you will find a response to it. It’s one of my golden rules. Um, when I’m hosting dinners, even when I’ve done, I’ve done so many death dinners, but I’d be like, well, that might get boring like you with people talking. You’ve heard every kind of answer.

 

MICHAEL:            00:42:44 And, and the thing is, the thing that makes it, continues to make it vital for me is that I pushed myself every time I host a dinner. I say something that I’m afraid of saying every dinner. Find my edge and go over it. And that’s what, what happens in that. And it’s become… I’ve pretty wide edges at this point, but what you’re doing is you’re giving people access to you. When you do that, you’re showing a vulnerable and a meaningful place in yourself. And people tend to be it… It amps up the empathy at the table. It will have sensors for that, like just innately. And so if somebody is being vulnerable, it will turn on their empathy. And so you’ll see the better angels in your children, but it also gives people permission to do the same. Um, and so you’re modeling, modeling that. So, um, that’s how I mean you, you will have the best experience with your, your family gatherings of if you use those. A couple of those…

 

BRYAN:              00:43:50 Well thank you for that.

 

MICHAEL:            00:43:51 Yeah, of course.

 

BRYAN:              00:43:52 That’s great. So okay. How do you, when you meet somebody, I mean you’ve done so much between death over dinner and drugs over dinner.org, all the dinners you’ve posted being an advisor at Summit, you know, what you’re doing now with women, teach men, you know, like how do you describe yourself when you meet someone new? How do you introduce yourself?

 

MICHAEL:            00:44:13 I don’t know. It’s terrible. You know. I mean it’s really useful to have written a book now because I can say I’m a writer, you know, I just finished a book and maybe for like, you know, how long do you have? You know, somebody asks you that. It’s like you got an hour, you know, it might be worth your time for me to tell you, but it’s going to take you that long to understand this unique, you know, collection of things. Um, and I, you know, and again, that’s, that it would be much easier for me to have a conventional existence in some ways, right? It’s much easier to party to be like, yeah, I work in media, I’m a journalist, I’m a this, I’m of that. And you know, to make yourself almost unrecognizable is, um, is a challenge.

 

BRYAN:              00:45:03 Well, I know this is a challenge that each of us faces in some way, some kind of resigned or give up others continue to push the limits of, of, you know, what is their identity, what’s their professional identity? Was their personal identity that all this kind of thing with I’ve looked at, as I’ve known you over the last few years and as I’ve just watched you online and this kind of thing. Um, obviously this topic of death is a big one for you. I mean, I think it was now about five years ago you gave your Ted talk on this and you’ve now hosted or organized, been responsible organization now thousands and thousands of these death dinners. Why is this… why is this topic so resonant with you? I mean, why people gather around food and everything you’re talking about the table being the first architecture could have been significant, but why is death such a theme?

 

MICHAEL:            00:45:54 Well, it is. If I said let’s have dinner and talk about life for one, it wouldn’t have gotten your attention. It wouldn’t have gotten the world’s attention, right? That’s called every day, right? I mean the death dinner is actually a dinner about life. But you know, I happen to have some experience in branding and narrative and cultural storytelling. So from that perspective, when I, you know, what will one, I realized how badly we die in this country, right? So, and then a lot of people feel that impact financially. So when I realized that we’re not talking about death and it’s impacting us financially, emotionally, and that it, you know, psychologically, you know, I mean so many different ways are we impacted by how poorly we die, plus a conversation about death is like the foundation of philosophy. Um, and it’s also what gives our life meaning is our mortality.

 

MICHAEL:            00:46:53 It’s also that we’ve been so distance from it. We’ve medicalized death and so, and we’ve distanced ourselves from wisdom traditions and all wisdom traditions contain reflections in meditations on death. It’s central to many. And so there’s this incredible… well, one, there’s a gap in meaning, right? There’s a real loss of meaning we know in our current culture, it’s talked about by people more eloquent than me and, and, and then there’s this gap and facing our mortality and I think they’re the same, right? So that’s my hunch. I go on long hunches and then my design side starts designing around. If my hunch is true, how do I get people to the full expression of this long hunch? Right? And so let’s have dinner and talk about death as a provocation. It’s, uh, it’s, it’s an invitation, it’s permission giving, if you even just mentioned the project to somebody, the title of it, or you’re a journalist and you write, it’s called death over dinner or it’s called let’s have dinner and talk about death.

 

MICHAEL:            00:48:01 You’re doing the work for me, right? Like it’s fulfilling its desire as an… at the core of this project is to increase death literacy, but also to increase our literacy around facing topics that we avoid, AKA reducing repression. Right? So we repress the thing of the core of my work is the understanding that when we repress something, we’d make ourselves highly susceptible to stress. Right? So in a secret is much like a repressed topic, right? When that secret or that you know, if you’ve had an affair with somebody say, and your wife or your husband is talking about fidelity and the importance of fidelity, or have you ever… have you ever stepped out on me or I can’t believe that Joseph cheated on Mary. What’s going on in your system? If you have a secret about, about an affair? It’s cortisol. Yeah, like lots of stress.

 

MICHAEL:            00:49:05 And we know very clearly that the flooding of stress hormones through our system is what creates disease. And so, or environments and environment is rich, fertile train for disease or for infection or inflammation, right? It is a type of inflammation. And so if I can allow people to surface these things that, these secrets, these things that they’re repressing, I don’t mean as. I’m less interested in secrets and I’m more interested in the thing, the topics that we repress, the, and some of it is because we have a cognitive bias, right? Death, we have a cognitive bias around which we can talk about later if we want, but the more I can give people access or the work that the projects that I’m doing can give people access to alleviating a repressed topic or conversation for them to have full expression to their loved ones or friends or at least someone.

 

BRYAN:              00:50:06 Or for themselves.

 

MICHAEL:            00:50:07 Or themselves, right? They are going to be living in a less stress rich body now. And so it’s, you know, it should be, what are health insurance companies are funding.

 

BRYAN:              00:50:22 By the way, just one thing to put to put in here and I was, so I was just on deathoverdinner.org today. I was looking at how I think it’s a really cool design, how anybody can go and basically download the guide, you know, and it will generate the invitation that they can send to their loved ones or their colleagues or friends or whatever. And uh, by the way, if it, if it didn’t snap to it already on the prep, you know the book and that’s now we’re going to have to add your, your book to the reading with that, which is really cool. Yeah. So that thing just that anybody can go, you know, if someone has the privilege of being invited to one of these, definitely I encourage them to go, but you don’t have to wait to be invited. You can organize and host one yourself, which is really cool. And it’s basically not something anybody just about anybody could do. Right.

 

MICHAEL:            00:51:15 It’s happened in 30 countries and you know, there’s a, there’s probably a hundred death thinners happening tonight. We don’t know, we don’t track them. We haven’t had to. Um, so

 

BRYAN:              00:51:27 Very cool. So let’s go back to your book for a moment. So the title, let’s talk about death over dinner. Yeah, right. Who did you write this book for and what did you want it to do for them?

 

MICHAEL:            00:51:39 Well, I mean in essence, and I don’t mean to be cheeky, it’s written for anybody and everybody. We all die and so the majority of us could probably improve our ability to, when it comes to speaking about death, when it comes to facing death, if you know at some point someone close to us is going to be in critical condition, most likely or be diagnosed with a terminal illness or chronic condition that will move them closer to a mortality. We’re going to lose someone we love. We are going to face our own death whether we know it’s coming or it happens, you know, we’re involved in an accident. So my presumption is that we could all use a little bit, myself included an expansion, a deeper set of skills and willingness, uh, and hear stories of how people have had these conversations and how they’ve impacted people’s lives to be inspired to have the conversation which to see it’s not morbid to see that it is actually a conversation that brings vitality and humor and deep connection and, and so, and there’s not really a book that does that right now.

 

MICHAEL:            00:52:56 There’s lots of books that talk about the industry of us being unwell and dying. Um like being mortal or personal biographies or autobiographies like, um, When Breath Becomes Air and those are so important. And then this book steps, um, in many ways outside those and says, okay, you know, alright, you over there maybe like me, you would like to have more freedom around this conversation. And in the process of writing the book and the process of creating death over dinner, I’ve gained more freedom. So it’s not like I’m, you know, in the realm of death is a realm of no experts, you know. So I don’t profess to be an expert, I just profess to be willing and have gone on a journey and, and I’m telling you about my journey and the journeys that I have collected of others. So it’s a very, um, it’s a very humble book in my estimation.

 

MICHAEL:            00:53:58 It’s not, it’s actually not written for me. It’s not written to make me, um, for you to know how smart I am or thoughtful I am. It’s, I’m writing it with the reader in mind, um, and really have changed the way that I write and the way that I speak so that it will hopefully land where more people are than if I was just, you know, you know, being my, uh, you know, speaking to my friends about this topic. And so it’s, it’s, uh, you know, and I’ve had the opportunity and the honor of speaking with thousands of people about this. So I have a sense of how to meet people where they’re at. I think.

 

BRYAN:              00:54:40 No, I, I definitely think so because looking at the way the book is structured, following along from these prompts. That anyone could use as part of a death dinner they host or that they’re a part of. And then seeing how you’ve put a few stories after each of the prompts, it’s almost a response or how about that prompt was used and seeing how there’s dozens and dozens of stories where even though this is a topic, you know, that we often don’t want to face how, like you’re saying, it’s very life affirming, you know, talking about reconnecting with their parents or you know, solving problems before they become catastrophic, or just, um, in some ways healing themselves. Maybe emotionally or spiritually, even in the face of, you know, a, a terminal diagnosis. You know, and this kind of thing. What was the moment that you knew that you were going to write this book?

 

MICHAEL:            00:55:40 Hm. I would say I had a sense that this would turn into a book from the time we began the project, but it was when it became a, um, a reality to me when I actually saw it, um, as opposed to kind of had a felt sense when I saw that it was a book was I was asked. Um Richard Harris is a producer in a, used to be a producer for Nightline. I’m for Ted Koppel and as a journalist and he had wanted to write about death over dinner for, I can’t even remember. I think it was for PGS or some sort of a print version of PBS. And so I said, well, Richard, I’m going to be in Boston and let’s just do a dinner and you can attend it. And, but the thing is, you can’t attend it as just a journalist. You have to attend it…

 

MICHAEL:            00:56:32 And this is always my rule for journalists at the dinner. It says, um, you’re not a fly on the wall. Um, you will also answer these questions or you’re not invited and there will be no article and that’s fine with me. And so, you know, he’s like, he was not thrilled about the idea that they’d have to participate after so many years. He’s the producer that turned Ted Koppel under Maurice Schwartz that became Tuesdays with Morrie. So he’s been at this like, it’s been just a behind the scenes, uh, a very important person in the end of life awareness movement. And so, and he saw this as another opportunity for sure to have… to be a catalyst around this topic. And so we had a dinner and at that, at that dinner, both Richard and another attendee, a friend of mine, Sofie Bacall were adamant that was like, this is, this needs to go beyond just a website and a tool kit.

 

MICHAEL:            00:57:31 This needs to be a book. And they kind of made me promise that I would turn it into a book and seeing that, you know, these very sophisticated, you know, middle aged and older men like being so adamant that a book about a conversation about death need to happen, but you know, emblazoned into me. And then Richard, you know, had me on a phone call with Random House the next week and the idea wasn’t there yet, but we had an interesting conversation and then, and then he had me on a call with his favorite agent, Gail Ross, um, who certainly doesn’t take on new clients very often and she was thrilled about the project. And so, you know, once again, Richard became, has been this kind of matchmaker, this end of life space. I don’t, you know, Tuesdays with Morrie is the most, um, printed book of a biography of all time or autobiography of all time. And uh, yeah, so it, it, it became clear to me at that point.

 

BRYAN:              00:58:38 it is a book that as we just discussed, it has so many stories, so many powerful and moving stories. And one of the things I love about it is it is not just stories that you’ve collected from others, but you also share some of your own stories. And there’s one in particular that I found really fascinating and maybe it’s because I’m, I just turned 40 as well. But you talked abouT…

 

MICHAEL:            00:59:00 It’s gonna get loud downstairs because everyone’s showing up. Let’s do that after…

 

BRYAN:              00:59:05 You could tell that because I thought that was great.

 

MICHAEL:            00:59:09 It was about three months away from turning 40 and my friends decided to throw me a living funeral for my 40th birthday. And it came about kind of in a unique way is pretty unique thing. So it’s not surprising that it came about in a unique way, but I had just broken up with the love of my life. Um, Angel Grant, my co founder of death over dinner, we’d decided that we couldn’t figure out how to be romantic partners that we wanted to remain best friends. And I was heartbroken. And um, the thought of facing my 40th birthday alone, um, was terrifying. It just seemed like a threshold that I didn’t want to be alone for. Um just this, um, this kind of sense that I haven’t really figured out romantic relationship. Um, and the kind of, I guess really the loneliness that goes along with the lack of that kind of central relationship in one’s life.

 

MICHAEL:            01:00:10 And so I had a knee jerk reaction and immediately as Angel and I were saying our goodbyes, I sent out an email to about 50 of my closest friends. I said, hey, three months from now I’m turning 40 and I want all of… as many of you as you possibly can to commit as soon as possible to spending the weekend with me somewhere on the northern coast of California and the details will become more clear, but let me know if you’re in. And I immediately got about 40 RSVPS. Yes, like within the first 24 hours, which felt amazing. Like it felt like, okay, this is, this could actually be great, this could be a great birthday. And so I’m about a week into this email chain, you know, because people started saying, well, what are we going to do? You know, there was the, the things that happen on an email chain of 40 or 50 people.

 

MICHAEL:            01:01:05 And one of my friends Matt Wiggins, one of my most disruptive friends, through this kind of grenade into the center of the email chain and said, hey, since Michael is, you know, Mr Death, let’s, let’s do him a solid and turn his 40th birthday into a living funeral. Just kind of like a, a, you know, a little bit of a, it started as a little bit of a joke tongue in cheek idea and it, it started to gain real momentum and people got very excited about both, um talking to me about it, but then also kind of behind the scenes and you know, the weekend arrived and we had this incredible feast on Friday night and on Saturday was going to be the ceremony. And it, it had reached a level of, uh, you know, I would say a certain amount of seriousness. And so I took it seriously too.

 

MICHAEL:            01:01:55 And spent the day in relative silence. Um meditating and uh, you know, had a bodyworker come and work on me. And then I was anointed with oils. And there were steam baths and I dressed all in white. And it was really playing the part and then was taken, um, with my eyes closed downstairs. It was dusk. Everyone was outside on this… we were in Point Reyes, California in this beautiful house a friend of mine owns. And before I know it, I’m being helped into a coffin. I didn’t open my eyes, I just trusted the whole experience, but it was clearly being put into a wooden box. Luckily, or mercifully, there was no lid to this coffin. And so I laid down like it didn’t, you know, didn’t resist, as I said, laid down. And then before I know it, I’m being lifted up. There are pallbearers, um, and uh, you know, I guess not surprisingly, their breath smells of whiskey, so it all became even more real.

 

MICHAEL:            01:02:59 And then I was taken inside to kind of the main room of this house and put down. We’re in a very dimly lit, maybe there’s just one or two candles in this room. And that’s where everyone was gathered. Almost immediately um, one of my friends and at the time I didn’t know who it was, started wailing like a guttural cry. Almost the type that you almost never hear at funerals, like real grief. It had gotten very seeing me, motionless in white in a custom made, you know, cedar I’m confident that my friends for my friends had commissioned and had built for me, unbeknownst to me was just too much and that started like kind of an emotional wave that hit the room. And so it became very clear that this was, um, it was a real experience that we were going to treat this at face value.

 

MICHAEL:            01:03:55 And so for the next three hours, what happened was those that are closest to me on the planet eulogized me for one, um, but also offered some pretty rough grievances. There was, there was some real honesty being dropped in that room about places where people felt like I had hurt them or how they felt like I hadn’t really allowed myself to be seen by them. Places where our connection wasn’t a very strong. Um, and that was actually, you would think that that would be a hard thing to hear their grievances. But I knew that I could, you know, in a number of hours I was going to get up out of this coffin and I could work on those relationships, have the conversations, do the healing with the people that clearly needed it, that we’re willing to talk about a grievance in this setting. What was, was really difficult, were the, were the eulogies was, all of the love, you know, the, uh, I don’t think that beyond childhood and everyone has a different childhood.

 

MICHAEL:            01:05:03 Um, we don’t really teach people how to receive love. Um, it’s not, we don’t teach one how to receive a hug, receive a kiss, receive a compliment. These are things that pretty difficult for us. Um, and I realized that I had gotten very good at giving love and creating experiences for people. And you know, I kind of built up my generous side, but I hadn’t built up. I haven’t really built up my receiving end. I hadn’t really built up the ability to accept metabolized, take in love. You know, I think a lot of that was childhood. A really rough childhood and you know, my mother was great at a lot of things, but she wasn’t a natural nurturer and so, um, I really just have never developed that, those abilities, and it was very clear to me and I was reading a couple of weeks that, that was very clear to me walking out of that experience.

 

MICHAEL:            01:06:02 After three hours I eventually was dumped into a water, a cedar, a hot tub, you know, not dumped, but kind of I guess baptized almost in some way and brought back to life and, you know, this incredible party ensued. But a couple of weeks later I was reading this book how we die, I believe it’s called. And it talks about the medical, what happens to us medically, physiologically, um, as our, as our body dies in different settings. And I was reading about the heart, the heart, this principle life giving, you know, organ and are in within humanity with across humanity, across species. The heart has two main functions, which I didn’t, I didn’t realize we think about the heart pumping blood and that’s kind of where we focus. And same way that we kind of focus on what we give for what we’ve created or what we’ve manifested, but the heart is two distinct muscles fused together in a kind of miraculous bit of timing.

 

MICHAEL:            01:07:07 Half of the heart does pump blood out to our body, but the other half receives it and oxygenates the blood so that it’s ready to be pumped back out. Um, so you have this perfect dualism of giving and receiving and when you’re not balanced, when you’re giving and receiving, the heart is not balanced when the timing is off. That’s called a heart attack and it is still literally the number one killer in the world. And so I had this very real, I wouldn’t even call it an analogy or a metaphor because it’s, it doesn’t have that level of distance, but I had this very strong clarity about walking out of this experience, this kind of strange Adams Family experience of being at your own funeral. My, I guess Tom Sawyer had the opportunity as well fictionally, but um having the experience. I came up with this very clear set of operating instructions.

 

MICHAEL:            01:08:08 And that was learn how to receive or you know, or you’re not going to be on this planet as long as you would be otherwise. And so, you know, that’s what I’ve been focused on. We also, um, because of the success of the funeral, we’d built a round glass. We built a whole new platform and growing movement called the living wake and it’s www.livewake.com. And it gives people the tools to have these experiences, not necessarily for those only for those people that are turning 40 or 50 or 60, but say your terminal, perhaps you know that your time is limited or you think it might be and you want to gather in a very intentional way and hear from your community and maybe you want to say some things, but maybe you just want to hear what they have to say about you or maybe you’re turning, you know, 70 or 80 these milestone birthdays or maybe there’s no reason, but other than the fact that you want to do this kind of wacky thing, I think it’s an incredibly powerful ritual.

 

BRYAN:              01:09:13 There you have it. My friends. Thank you for listening to the school for good living podcast. I hope this inspired you to live more fully, to love more deeply, to do the things today that you thought maybe you would do tomorrow. Knowing life is short, life is precious. I hope you enjoyed getting to know Michael Hebb and that you learn more from him by visiting death over dinner.org. Maybe you organize your own death dinner. Maybe you have your own living funeral. All right, until next time. Thanks again for listening. Take care.