What I Don't Know About Death, C.W. Huntington

Anyone read this book? I highly recommend it. It’s profound and so deeply moving, a quick but engrossing read too.


What about the book inspired you?

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I have not read it, what is it about?

Any favorite quotes from it?

Will put it on my reading list

There is plenty of discussion and consideration of death here, and rightly so. This is the last book of an academician, a philosopher, an interpreter of Tibetan and Buddhist scholar, among other things. In it he confronts the reality of his own, actual experience of death, after a surprise diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

One of the things the book brought home for me is how so much talk on the subject of death is “teacup talk” without the slightest appreciation of just how this is so. In this book he deals with his own realization of how, through all his previous study of and work with death, as with sitting with hospice patients and his scholarly work, etc., death was basically distant and blunted, because when we ponder death from the armchair, we’re really pondering someone else’s death. There is a denial buried deep within us, and the pondering is seen for what it is when, death is, as he says, pressing in from all sides.

One question that is interesting to me, is to what extent the intellect of scholars and true intellectuals such as he, are thwarted in the actual application of their learning and deep knowledge. I found myself wondering about this in this book. Is it sometimes the case that the learning and academic work, translating, writing and the like, can become a burden or barrier or more of a complication when it comes to the individual’s own path.

Regardless, the book is touching and wrenching. It’s also filled with beautiful quotes and references (it’s less than 200 pages). His erudition and familiarity with the literature, as well as the terrain, is obvious. It really moved me like not many books do, and a lot of the reason why is probably that it’s not just another self help or instructional book. It’s an extremely sensitive, articulate and eloquent guy actually dealing with the reality and pain of not waking up tomorrow.

What I Don't Know about Death | Book by C. W. Huntington Jr. | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster.


Makes me think of two things:

First, having been in the military in war, being around people who have survived while others died, some have caused others to die—and since then, be with many of those people in civilian life, I have seen how they deal with issues of life and their own survival. It is often humbling.

Second, Andrew Holececk is developing a several month program on preparing for death, previously announced but still in development. Several of us are looking forward to this program for many of the reasons you have written about.

Thanks for the recommendation, I will certainly read or listen to this book.

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I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

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