On Our Way
The Final Passage through Life and Death
Publication Year: 2004
Drawing on a remarkable range of observations—from psychology, anthropology, religion, biology, and personal experience—Robert Kastenbaum re-envisions life's forward-looking progress, from early-childhood bedtime rituals to the many small rehearsals we stage for our final separation. Along the way he illuminates such moments and ideas as becoming a "corpsed person," going down to earth or up in flames, respecting or abusing (and eating) the dead, coping with "too many dead," conceiving and achieving a "good death," undertaking the journey of the dead, and learning to live through the scrimmage of daily life fully knowing that Eternity does not really come in a designer flask. Profound, insightful, often moving, this look at death as many cultures await it or approach it enriches our understanding of life as a never-ending passage.
Published by: University of California Press
Download PDF (61.1 KB)
Title Page, Copyright
Download PDF (25.1 KB)
Download PDF (61.4 KB)
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Download PDF (35.7 KB)
1 Here (?) We Are
Download PDF (240.0 KB)
A book concerned with how we move through life and death might use-fully begin with who and where we are at this moment in the co-biographyof ourselves and the universe. Scientists tell us that the universe startedwith a Big Bang, or that maybe it didn’t. Life evolved to fulfill a cosmicplan, or maybe it popped up as a fleeting aberration. In our tiny zone of...
2 Practicing Death: Some Rituals of Everyday Life
Download PDF (202.2 KB)
The unknown often arouses an uneasy blend of excitement, hope, anddread. “Be gentle with me. It’s my first time” can apply to situations otherthan a farewell to virginity. What will it be like to move away from theold neighborhood? To leave the familiar companions and routines ofhome? To leave school for the workplace? To retire after so many years...
3 Good Death, Bad Death (I): In Other Times and Places
Download PDF (368.3 KB)
Does it make any sense to think of a person as having either a “good”or a “bad” death? History suggests that it does. People in many timesand places have developed strong preferences about ways to live and diethat are deeply rooted in religious beliefs and cultural values. “The good(or bad) death” actually refers to the end phase of life. The latter term...
4 Good Death, Bad Death (II): Here and Now
Download PDF (283.9 KB)
More people are alive today than at any time in history. How will allthese lives end? In the past, acute infections and contagious diseases werethe leading causes of death. Infants and children were at especially highrisk, as were women during and after childbirth. Famine, accidents, andviolence also claimed many lives. It is different today in countries with...
5 Corpsed Persons
Download PDF (347.2 KB)
...“Funerals are for the living, not the dead.” This glib statement is oftenheard and is often incomplete and dismissive. In many instances, funer-als have been for the dead as well as the living. Many peoples have de-veloped core religious beliefs and practices around the fate and well-beingof the dead. What does it mean to be a corpse? Where has the person...
6 Abusing and Eating the Dead
Download PDF (251.7 KB)
There are good reasons to behave well toward the dead. Usually we doso. Furthermore, there are many examples of people who have devotedthemselves to correcting a perceived injustice to their own dead. Here,though, we explore the opposite response. Abuse of the dead has beenwidespread throughout the centuries, almost always coexisting with tra-...
7 Too Many Dead: The Plague and Other Mass Deaths
Download PDF (478.7 KB)
Traditional societies often give their all when one of their members hasdied. The kin and, at times, the entire community devote themselves to seeing that the right things are done in the right way. The rituals canbe exacting and time-consuming. Scarce resources, such as the mostesteemed foods, may be expended. Other activities are put on hold as...
8 Down to Earth and Up in Flames
Download PDF (451.6 KB)
A person has died. Now what? In most societies on most occasions, therewill be both a symbolic and a practical response. The symbolic responsemight be as elaborate as a Hmung ritual or as tellingly direct as an Amishfuneral.1 A marimba band might be included in the funeral procession,and women closely related to the deceased might be expected to chant...
9 Journey of the Dead
Download PDF (299.8 KB)
There is the leaving. There is the going toward. There is the arrival. Wecould be talking about any journey. The journey might be marked byrituals, especially at the points of origin and arrival. These rituals areinteresting to anthropologists, who use “rites of passage” as a heuris-tic concept. The first set of rituals helps us to separate from our people...
10 Living Through
Download PDF (454.2 KB)
Should we live for that elusive moment of exhilaration? Or take eachmoment, no matter how ordinary, as it comes and goes? Perhaps insteadwe should discipline ourselves to meet expectations and obligations overthe long run. Do our lives add up to something, with the best yet tocome? Or are we only deceived by such pernicious ideas as continuity,...
Download PDF (89.7 KB)
...1. John Leslie zestfully expounds the Doom Soon thesis in The End of the World(1996) and other writings. Martin Rees (Before the Beginning, 1997) is among thestimulating guides to understanding and evaluating the Big Bang theory. This influen-tial theory is still being volley-balled back and forth by ardent proponents and re-2. Does everything add up to nothing? The answer—are you ready?—is yes. And...
Download PDF (98.3 KB)
Agha, Asif. 2002. Tibetan book of the dead. In R. Kastenbaum, ed., Macmillan ency-Ahrensdorf, P. J. 1995. The death of Socrates and the life of philosophy. Albany: StateAinsworth, Mary D. 1973. The development of infant-mother attachment. In B. Cald-well and H. Ricciuti, eds., Review of child development research. Vol. 3. Chicago:Anthony, Sylvia.  1972. The discovery of death in childhood and after. New...
Download PDF (705.1 KB)
Page Count: 460
Publication Year: 2004
Series Title: Life Passages