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I couldn't be more excited to bring you this episode with death expert, bestselling author, and mortician, Caitlin Doughty!

Caitlin is the author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory  as well as her new book about death rites, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.

She's also the host of the wildly popular youtube series, Ask A Mortician which is one of the foundation stones of the death positive movement, which is seeking to change our relationship to death in our culture.

In this ep:

  • Taking death rites out of the “News of the Weird” category: 5:30 
  • If we can’t think it’s okay for someone to interact with the mummy of their mother, how will we work on our politics? 11:20
  • Conner Sees His Dead Mother, or But can we really respect people’s experiences or is it just lip service? 13:25
  • Resisting creating a metaphysic around death…or forcing yours on someone else: 19:15
  • The potential of the strange psychological, spiritual event of death: 21:40
  • How death is our life’s project: 23.50.
  • What’s Your Death Fantasy? (And why?): 27:50
  • Lacan, Bataille, and how thinking about what the dead want tells us about the living: 34:55
  • Grieving is a physical process: 39:05
  • The boundary reveals itself as the connection: 40:25
  • How death makes us available to others in a new way: 42:20
  • Death is the engine that moves life forward: 48:00
  • The origins of sex: 49:00
  • And here’s where we get irritated about the singularity. And go on about it for quite a bit: 52:30


Caitlin and I have collaborated a few times before. Most notably on an episode of Ask the Mortician, where we discussed death & sex goals for 2017. Also on my blog when I was recording conversations to get myself ready to do a web series, and when we did an event together a few years ago (which is where we met!).

Ernest Becker comes up a few times. He's a death-focused philosopher who's been hugely influential for members the death positive movement, including Caitlin. The professor I mention in the episode, Kirby Farrell, is big into Becker. I love Kirby, by the way, even though I didn't love how he handled the situation I mentioned.

Adam Phillips is one of my very favorite writers, and my favorite book by him, which I mention, is  Darwin’s Worms: On Life Stories and Death Stories. Here, also, is a little video interview with him which I like, as well as a lengthy and excellent interview with him in the Paris Review.

Here's my essay about my mother’s cancer, Susan Sontag’s cancer, and when I was told I had cancer, too: "When You're Sick You'll Wait for the Answer But None Will Come"

 Jacques Lacan said, “There is no sexual relationship.” It's a statement that has been interpreted in several ways. Here are two books that get at the question. What Is Sex? by Alenka Zupančič, and There’s No Such Thing as a Sexual Relationship: Two Lessons on Lacan by Alain Badiou and Barbara Cassin.  If Lacan is daunting to you, well, yeah. That's Lacan. Which is why I wrote an easy-to-read intro essay on him. 

A couple of the other books mentioned: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien and The American Way of Death (Revisited) by Jessica Mitford.

Last but not least is my essay on bacteria recreating themselves by inventing sex in the light of the Sun. It's the first in a series of very short essays I wrote on the origins of sex, so follow the thread through if you like that one.

Thanks for watching, reading, fucking, dying,


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