The Torajans Of Sulawesi Island Death Theory

957 words - 4 pages

As humans, we all become intimate with death at least once in our lives. We live and then we die, it’s as simple as that. Death, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is just the end of life. However, this basic definition of death only perpetuates fear. This is due to the lack of knowledge that we have as to what happens after we die. Many choose to comfort this fear with religion or hope that there is something more after our lives end. Religion proves that our beliefs and attitudes towards death greatly affect the way that we choose to live our lives. Through analyzing other cultures’ perspectives, the human experience, and our current biomedical definition of death itself, we could learn how to face it with something other than fear.
The Torajans of Sulawesi Island in eastern Indonesia view death not as a singular event, but rather a gradual social process. Major cultural interactions are not weddings, births, or even family dinners; they are funerals. With guest lists in the hundreds and spanning the course of a few days to a few weeks, their funerals are more of festivals than a ceremony. The death of one in Torajan culture is not a private sadness, but more of a publicly shared transformation. This transformation is just as much about the identity of the living as it is a remembrance for the dead. Due to the sizes of these funerals, it takes months, sometimes years to gather the proper resources to perform them. The deceased are placed in a temporary home where they are cleaned and embalmed often. They are referred to as sick or sleeping until their funeral rites have been completed. Not only does this let the family properly grieve the death, rather than immediately accepting the reality, but it allows the family to maintain a physical relationship with the deceased. In the west, where we have sort of a visceral reaction to the idea of being close to death, (in this case, physical distance to a dead body) the Torajans look upon their decaying family members with love. This indicates that Torajans socially recognize and culturally express what we all feel to be true, despite the definition of death, and that is that our social relationship with the deceased is not ended by death. They exact this idea of a never ending bond by showing their affection to the biggest part of their relationship, which is the human body. In this culture of death, there is no phobia of dying, which is largely owed to the cultivation of love throughout their relationships and their ancient ancestral traditions.
The human experience widely varies depending on numerous factors. However, there are instances that are universally shared within the human experience, one of those being death. If...

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