Don’t Fear The Reaper

Caitlin Doughty (of “Ask A Mortician” fame) explains why she believes Americans live in a “‘death denial’ culture”:

[W]e’re not engaging with death as a very natural part of life. We’re not treating it like it’s a very obvious endpoint to all of our activities. We’re trying to act like it’s not in many ways, and even more than that, we’re trying to act like the dead body doesn’t exist in culture. We just don’t see it. It’s hidden.

I think there’s a couple reasons why that happened. In the 1930s, there was a rise in both the medical industry and the funeral industry. Both of those industries said, “Hey, we’re the professionals. You shouldn’t die at home and you shouldn’t have the dead body at home. We’re equipped to do both of these things better than you would do yourself.” And the public, because there were growing cities and growing industrialization in all areas, really went along with it. So, we’re at the point now where we completely question whether we’re even able to die at home or have the body at home and take care of it ourselves. We rely on medical and funeral professionals as professionals.

Doughty also makes the unpopular claim that “death [is] a good thing”:

Death might appear to destroy the meaning in our lives, but in fact it is the very source of our creativity. As Kafka said, “The meaning of life is that it ends.” Death is the engine that keeps us running, giving us the motivation to achieve, learn, love, and create. Philosophers have proclaimed this for thousands of years just as vehemently as we insist upon ignoring it generation after generation. Isaac was getting his PhD, exploring the boundaries of science, making music because of the inspiration death provided. If he lived forever, chances are he would be rendered boring, listless, and unmotivated, robbed of life’s richness by dull routine. The great achievements of humanity were born out of the deadlines imposed by death.

Previous Dish on Doughty here and here.