Sunday, October 20, 2019

Bringing death to life

Her most recent book, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, might have a kids-say-the-funniest-things title (unsurprisingly, given that it's structured around questions posed by children), but Caitlin Doughty's mission - "to dispel the West's fear of death" - does seem to be, as the Guardian's Marianne Eloise has put it, "a very admirable personal aim".

Talking and thinking more about death, Doughty suggests, can be constructive and enable people to be better psychologically equipped to cope with the inevitable. Children's natural curiosity about the subject (one that, as a parent, I've encountered regularly over the last three or four years...) means that such conversations should ideally begin at an early age.

Not only are many of us in the West in denial, we also rely on "cookie-cutter, bland death rituals" that offer little in the way of comfort or meaningful ceremony. In this respect, her pop-anthropology book From Here To Eternity - a survey of such rituals around the world - sounds like a potentially enlightening read.

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