Death and Philosophy

By Jeff Malpas; Robert C. Solomon | Go to book overview

5

DEATH AND THE SKELETON

Kathleen Higgins


Aestheticizing the skeleton

One evening, several years ago, when I was having dinner with my friends the Ashers, 5-year-old Alexis Asher asked me, ‘Do you know who lives inside you?’ A bit worried that Alexis was about to draw some inaccurate conclusions from sex education, I professed ignorance. ‘A skeleton!’ Alexis assured me. ‘A skeleton lives inside everybody.’

I had never thought of my skeleton as such an independent being before, but I rather liked the image of my slipping food to a skeleton as I ate. The idea of my inner self being not a child, but a skeleton, also had an oddly transforming effect on my dim consciousness of death. Instead of seeing it as complete deterioration, why not think of it as skeleton liberation? After all, the skeletons featured in Día de Los Muertos tableaux seem to be living it up. And skeletons dancing in fun houses and cartoons are able to manoeuvre themselves into fantastic arrangements.

A series of body therapy sessions has convinced me that, even now, my skeleton is able to move more pliably than I used to imagine. I supposed that I formerly thought that skeletons were rigid bone-people, awkward as shadow-puppets in the hands of an untrained puppeteer. But now, imagining the skeleton living inside me, I think of it floating, ribs swaying as boats in a marina. When I dance, I try to let my skeleton move more freely now than I did before I’d given it very much thought. I think of freeing the inner skeleton, to some extent, now, while we’re still attached.

The attachment of my skin to my skeleton, however, seems more variable all the time. On my fortieth birthday, the day I started writing this paper, I thought about revisioning wrinkles. (The time, it seemed, had come.) For a while before the big ‘Four-O’, I had been noticing wrinkles with more interest. Recognizing that my own were becoming definite entities, I started attending to those of others. At first, this was mostly an effort to convince myself that the rest of the world was ageing, too. But in time, I took more interest in wrinkles as patterns. During the Gulf War, I noticed that all the chief generals had multiple vertical lines between their eyebrows. I mentioned this to a friend who

-39-

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Death and Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Death and Philosophy 1
  • 2 - My Death 5
  • 3 - Against Death 16
  • 4 - On the Purported Insignificance of Death 22
  • 5 - Death and the Skeleton 39
  • 6 - Death, the Bald Scenario 50
  • 7 - Death as Transformation in Classical Daoism 57
  • 8 - Death and Enlightenment 71
  • 9 - Death and Detachment 83
  • 10 - Death and Metaphysics 98
  • 11 - Death and Authenticity 112
  • 12 - Death and the Unity of a Life 120
  • 13 - The Antinomy of Death 135
  • 14 - Death Fetishism, Morbid Solipsism 152
  • Notes 177
  • References 198
  • Index 203
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