(…) We see some incredible cadavers at the hospice. Some are so skinny they would scare the residents of Auschwitz, some are skeletal transvestites endowed with ample silicone inflated breasts. Thousands of visitors pass through the wards for educational purposes, conferences or to make donations; a shrewd marketing specialist realised that a small death museum of the incredible cadavers would boost the donations.

About fifteen naked cadavers are exposed there, preserved in glass coffins of formalin, for anyone with the stomach for it to see. It was intended that the most spectacular and rare specimens would be on show, but unfortunately the plan failed. Not many patients are willing or senile enough to accept to be placed in this naked collection. In short, the choice of cadavers is limited to those who signed permission for their body to be used before the room existed. That is, they were quite unaware what their future would entail; no one had spoken of nudity for example. Children too can be added from time to time. Children, always orphans of course, are not able to oppose their official guardian: the hospice authority.

I had a patient in the ward whose head was like that of a Jesuit. You could imagine the style. The dry body, face hard as iron but which exuded a sense that he is pitiless only with himself, never anyone else. He was the incarnation of rigor! A rigor like that endowed to the sort of person who might be a teacher of morals. He was without the shortcomings so frequent in the clergymen of the past however; there was nothing of a Pharisee about himMy good Jesuit was returning to the soul, drying out, without complaining. He asked for nothing, because he needed to expiate. He was convinced that he had committed a moral mistake, whereas the men around him appeared to regret their technical mistakes…The manager came and glued a warning on the cover of his file: Attention! Don't cremate him! Beware in advance!Yes, this marabou wanted to give his last lesson after he had died, from the after death room. He wanted his mistake, his sin, to be exposed so strongly that the younger generations might have the foresight to follow the path of true virtue.

Then he died. He ended up in the oven all the same, because he died too early. His body was already very skinny, but he wasn't spotty enough, he had no silicone or tattoos. He was not spectacular enough to deserve embalming. (...)


(...) Is the main monk a great spiritual?

Like all westerners, my first tendency was to compare the spiritual value of oriental (Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Ayatollah Khomeyni and others) and Judeo Christian criteria of compassion and intellectual wisdom. But now I understand now, that there are possibly other criteria.In fact, I see that this monk was purporting great spiritual charity; he showed compassion to people who had been deprived of it.But then it seemed so ambiguous, how could this be the case of someone who is also able to create statuettes out of the bones of his patients and a display of corpses?

I had to review my position when I observed people's behaviour in front of those statues and corpses. There was no outcry or scandal, not even astonishment from the most educated classes. Only a shy remonstrance among the more westernised among them. Did that mean I was a victim of the unbridled and morbid sentimentalism which characterises the western cultures of today? Past civilisations have embalmed corpses, or used tibias to make flutes. Even the Judeo-Christian world has had its mummies, relics and other souvenirs of death exposed or even venerated. I suppose what had shocked me, was not really the statuettes but the possibility that patients would observe what they were about to become by looking at the statuettes. Yes! What shocked me, was to see that those people, even those very close to death, could have such detachment with relation to their own deaths. We, on the other hand, stagnate in irresolute anguish.

With regards to the monk's spiritual value, I try to understand the judgement of his fellow nationals. All classes venerate him. The religious elite of his country now give him more and more soaring titles. If at times I hated him, because of the statuettes he made with my patients, well, today I respect and admire him, in the same way I admire all those who know how to remind westerners that they are not the sole owners of absolute values. He is right, because his countrymen smile more than mine. I know too much about this culture to satisfy myself with a tourist's judgment. (...)

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