When you die, do you want to be cremated or embalmed & buried? Growing up, I thought these were my only post-mortem options. So did Caitlin Doughty, until she took a job as a crematory operator.
In Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory, Doughty takes us on a historical and biographical account of death. What I found most fascinating is how the western world has completely sanitized how we deal with death and dead bodies in the last 150 years. In fact, these changes have little to do with disease and more to do with war and business. In the past, death was celebrated, embraced, and consumed and I mean this figuratively and literally (read the book).
A lot of interesting questions regarding the current death industry are raised and Doughty clearly wants to see some changes. I think I would prefer an outdoor cremation on a funeral pyre vs. confined in an oven. Even a natural burial, under a tree, with no embalming seems fantastic.
Most times the concepts or ideas we have about what makes a civilization great are not set in stone at all, history has proven that. Our lives are just so short, we tend to forget or have no memory of what came before ourselves. Maybe it’s time to open the casket, peel back the shroud and reintroduce ourselves to death and dying.
- “Shut Up and Let Me Go”– The Ting Tings, Yeah, yeah…It’s a break up song, but isn’t a break up pretty much a death?
- “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime”– Beck, I picked this more for the sound. Sad and beautiful. However, the movie it’s found in (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) deals with trying to erase memories and perhaps that’s how we are currently trying to deal with death.
Books Read: 4