Shoutout to Cathy Chou who send me a link a while back to Caitlin Doughty’s wonderful memoir “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Caitlin is basically the hero of contemporary death culture, demystifying myths that have been plaguing society by perpetuating fear and tricking people into more consumerist inefficient practices. She hosts, Ask a Mortician, a youtube channel to create transparency with the public about the death industry, she also founded The Good Order of Death, and a natural / revolutionary funeral home Undertaking LA.
I spent the day finishing this book – an admittedly fast and enjoyable read considering the subject matter. Here are my top ten quotes:
- Death drives every creative and destructive impulse we have as human beings.
- Two of the world’s humans die every second… the dead space out this process so nicely that the living hardly even notice they’re undergoing the transformation.
- Not being forced to see corpses is a privilege of the developed world… The industrialized world has developed systems to prevent such unsavory encounters with the dead.
- “She is just cremating her leg? So are you telling me that this is a… premation?” (In reference to a woman who got her leg amputated and sent it to the crematorium)
- Less than a year after donning my corpse-colored glasses, I went from thinking that it is strange that we never see bodies anymore to believing that their absence is a root cause of the major problems in the modern world.
- Every time a woman gives birth, she is creating not only a life, but also a death.
- A dead body poses very little threat to a living one… (it is more dangerous to your health to fly on an airplane than it is to be in the same room as a corpse).
- A corpse doesn’t need you to remember it… It is you who needs the corpse. Looking at the body you understand that the person is gone, no longer an active player in the game of life. Looking at the body you see yourself, and you know that you, too, will die. The visual is a call to self-awareness. It is the beginning of wisdom.
- It is never too early to start thinking about your own death and the deaths of those you love… accepting death does not mean that you won’t be devastated when someone you love dies. It means that you will be able to focus on your own grief, unburdened by large existential questions… Death isn’t happening to you. It is happening to us all.
- The earth is expertly designed to take back what it created.
(I was luck enough to finish the last few chapters with this view.)
An update from Cairo: my mural still stands and is being enjoyed by both cats and human who happen to pass by.