On Our Way: The Final Passage Through Life and Death

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University of California Press, May 20, 2004 - 460 pages
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How do our ideas about dying influence the way we live? Life has often been envisioned as a journey, the river of time carrying us inexorably toward the unknown country-and in our day we increasingly turn to myth and magic, ritual and virtual reality, cloning and cryostasis in the hope of eluding the reality of the inevitable end. In this book a preeminent and eminently wise writer on death and dying proposes a new way of understanding our last transition. A fresh exploration of the final passage through life and perhaps through death, his work deftly interweaves historical and contemporary experiences and reflections to demonstrate that we are always on our way. 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.
  

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Contents

1 Here ? We Are
1
Some Rituals of Everyday Life
25
In Other Times and Places
43
Here and Now
93
5 Corpsed Persons
138
6 Abusing and Eating the Dead
176
The Plague and Other Mass Deaths
218
8 Down to Earth and Up in Flames
262
9 Journey of the Dead
311
10 Living Through
355
NOTES
415
SOURCES CITED
429
INDEX
441
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

Robert Kastenbaum, PhD, left a promising career as a skating messenger to enter University of Southern California on a fellowship in philosophy. He emerged as a clinical psychologist, and later served as director of a geriatric hospital before taking up his current responsibilities as professor of communication at Arizona State University. Along the way, he founded "International Journal of Aging and Human Development, " and "Omega: Journal of Death and Dying. "He is a past president of the American Association of Suicidology and past chair of the Section on Behavioral and Social Sciences of the Gerontological Society of America. Kastenbaum scripted the National Public Radio series: "Essays for the Ear: Youth's the Tune, Age the Song." He was a co-editor of "Handbook of the Humanities and Aging "(Springer Publishing Company, 1992), companion volume to the present book.

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