I’ve read all of Catherine Lim’s books as I like the precision of her language and her remarkable economy of expression. An Equal Joy: Reflections on God, Death and Belonging is her latest book (launched in late March) and my latest read. This book contains 24 essays and is about the long and intense spiritual journey she has undertaken. It consists of short chapters in no particular order of chronology or significance, with no overall connecting theme or tone. It bears all the marks of free, spontaneous story-telling and haphazard, rambling reflection and sometimes slips into reverie.
In Ali Baba’s Cave of Treaures, Lim writes about the trove of treasures in three areas: discovery that our universe is expanding, discovery of the relationship between matter and energy, and the evolution of other caves connected to it by passages.
Death and Two Women is about two women who were in their 60s when they passed away: in a brave attempt, one planned to continue the old life of mastery and control and another went on a rampage of pure rage, then went about preparing for life in the next world in a systematic way.
With Death At the Banquet Table discusses the five stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, based on Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s model, with the ultimate message that there is no bargaining with Death, so don’t even bother to try.
I’m partial to a few chapters, such as Suicide (an act which implies frustration, despair and shame and its stigmatisation by society), Celebrating Nature’s Spaces and Places (in which she talks about Emily Bronte’s intense love of nature as represented by the wild moors surrounding the house where she lived), The Scorpion Women (about gender feminism and equity feminism), The Right To Die (one of the most highly charged worries in the 21st century that provokes much controversy and emotion as it is an ultra-sensitive issue and may be abused) and My Holy/Holistic Trinity (in which she explores the goals of a perfect life in Truth, Goodness and Beauty).
Other interesting pieces include Guilt, A Bondmaid Named Hoon, Placing Bets On God and Luca, Ida, Lucy and the Rest of the Family. There are also more serious topics, like cloning and religion (A Wonderful Religion, Did Jesus Even Exist?, Marcion’s Gods, The United nations International Miracles Day, Did Jesus Have a Sense Of Humour, Cherry-Picking the Gospels and Did The Neanderthals Have Souls?).
The title of the book, An Equal Joy, comes from her self-penned obituary about 20 years ago, which goes: “I have loved and lived life richly and deeply. and I embrace its closure with an equal joy.”