Quick-take: Death rituals from across the world.
Caitlin Doughty, our modern day Wednesday Addams, is traveling the world exploring all the different death rituals.
I am a fan of Caitlin Doughty's work of disrupting the funeral industry's needless laws and complications to get our own rituals basic to something more sustaining and meaningful. Biggest example: What is the point of paying thousands for a fancy casket to just shove it in the ground to rot?
We have so many problems with the American funeral industry that are wonderfully covered in her first book (5/5 stars). She revists some of them in this book. The difference is she now owns her own funeral home, and she is actually practicing what she preaches --at least as much as the local laws will allow.
Disagreements with the local laws seem to be some of her motivation for writing. Doughty travels various places all over the world to explore rituals. The emphasis is on "green" rituals: Traditions that are low cost, well-sustaining, or in some way continues the regular circle of life (food for animals or trees). She visits a couple places in the United States, Spain, Mexico, Japan, and others.
I won't reiterate the places she visited, but I will point out a couple that had left an impression on me. The first was the small town in Crestone, Colorado that has the nation's ONLY outdoor funeral pyre. How did that get that through all the local laws? Doughty can only make conjectures. She then holds it up as a beacon of hope for funeral industry reform.
The other that made me pause to reread a bit was her visit to Bolivia for "sky burials". The body is offered as a meal to vultures. The vultures consume the entire body in mere minutes. Despite it being an extremely gruesome sight, it is very effective and very green. The body is disposed of and returned to the Earth as food.
Doughty has mentioned this in her previous books. She has made the point that she has enjoyed consuming the remains of dead animals, and it seems only fair that in her death, an animal may get to enjoy her remains. My own thoughts are the same. I too think my body becoming a meal for an animal would be a good final task for my dead body. Doughty then immediately makes the insightful comment that she visited places that local laws require 1 method of disposing of a body, and then you travel to another part of the world, and that exact method of disposing is illegal.
Once again, in this book as in her previous book, she acknowledged though seemed to offer little help to those suffering from Death Anxiety (saddened from the universal condition we are all going to perish). She talked briefly that it is a very normal state of being and said learning the rituals of others and seeing it is as completely natural may help. I'm not sure this book does.
After writing plenty of gushing praise for her work, I did not particularly enjoy this book. Score: 2/5. Reading about random rituals based on faux science (e.g. unneeded glass barriers to protect viewers from dead bodies) was just not that interesting to me.