This is a beautiful telling of the week long series of events surrounding a Japanese (Shinto) funeral. Despite having spent time in Japan, and being privileged enough to visit some amazing cemeteries, as gaijin such a level of participation in a culture’s traditions (along with weddings) is of course very rare. If you’re interested in a fictional tale that recounts similar cultural differences then you might enjoy an entertaining book called American Fuji . It is about an American professor who loses her job teaching English and eventually becomes employed at a Japanese “fantasy funeral” company. I find it comforting that there are so many ways to celebrate a person’s passing and yet our need to honor the dead in some way meaningful to us is universal. “Traditions are imploding and exploding everywhere – everything is coming together, for better or worse, and we can no longer pretend we’re all living in different worlds because we’re on different continents.” –Philip Glass
It’s my fascination with human nature, the natural curiosity of an amateur cultural anthropologist and my inbred librarian proclivities that compels me to ferret out the things people search for online. Today I wandered over to del.icio.us out of the same mysterious force that propels you down that darkened alleyway or that deserted stack of books in the back of the shop. Inevitably it remains fascinating the information people feel is worthy of saving and sharing, especially when they match interests you didn’t know you had. For instance, this list seems to make the odds of you dying in your sleep even more remote than usual. This information goes to show you don’t even have to be dead to have people think of you that way. There even exists a patent for a talking tombstone. I wasted(?) hours combing through other people’s bookmarks which made me think of how bookshelves are intimate reflections of inner lives. I know it is extremely personal, and some people wouldn’t even think of sharing their reading habits, but you can tell a lot about a person just by looking at the books they save, and the bookmarks they keep. And since this is the end of “Banned Books Week” it’s also a good reminder that governments throughout time have been known to abuse your privilege to hold them dear.
I’ve been following Scott Meyer’s work ever since he started getting cartooning advice from Scott Adams a couple of months ago. Although I’m also a fan of Adams, there were times I didn’t think his advice worked, which surprised me because like most people I seek out expert opinion, or at least the opinions of people who seem to understand and who’ve “been there, done that.” There were times though I wanted to write Meyers and whisper “hey, you’re doing just fine. You make me laugh. I mean yes that other guy’s made millions and what he did obviously worked for him, but for you…not so much.” Of course then I figured that was just my advice, and I haven’t been there. Besides, he already has heard hundreds of voices telling him variations on that same theme. Enough to drive anyone crazy. In the end all we each have to go on is our own sense of the “rightness” of things. So I’m just grateful he keeps producing things like today’s strip, How To Express Condolences. Sometimes when you can’t cry anymore a smile is the only other emotional knee jerk reaction available. It has the added benefit of making your friends a little more comfortable with the whole grieving thing. If there are enough smiles, the healing feels like it must be right around the corner. Which is why we all need people like both Scott and Scott.