Death Becomes Us

09 Feb

So. A new post. Unusual that it happens when I’m on the road, but that can’t be helped. The subject I was pondering was actually prompted by walking past a cemetery in a borough of Philadelphia, where the wind-buffeted American flags clung feebly to the stone monuments to which they were attached or planted in front of. I amusingly thought of a Canadian ceremony, and the lack of such Canadian flags in its midst. Something about either not having military graves, or perhaps not having as much pride in the flag as our southern cousins.

That said, I started to think about the monuments themselves. The acts of putting flowers at gravestones of our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and other relatives. At what point does the act of celebrating the life of someone fade into repetitive tasks of maintenance, and then followed by a process of the selfsame monuments crumbling to dust? I’d be surprised if any of us visit the graves of our great grandparents. Or our great great grandparents for that matter. A mere hundred years before these investments become essentially monuments to a forgotten person?

Ironically, both religious and non-religious sects put very little importance on the body after death. The soul, the spirit, rebirth, all of these things are completely separate from the physical form. Why, then, do we put so much importance on laying that form to rest? Whether interned in a simple casket or placed in a small box in a mausoleum, we put so much money and time into ensuring that we leave some impact on the world, if even for a few decades before we become remnants of a forgotten past.

I made a decision, recently. I decided that I would donate my body and organs to either needy people or science, as the case may be, in hopes that someone would gain a better understanding of the human body and how to care from it from the simple vessel that I currently inhabit. Whether this is everything I will ever be, or if there is truly some deeper consciousness residing in it temporarily, after I’m gone I’ll have no use for it again. Besides, if we’re doomed to a zombie uprising, I’d rather be burned and/or in many many pieces so that I won’t contribute to the masses the survivors are faced with. ;)

In all seriousness, though, I question whether these old practices are really valid anymore. In a world where the one thing that is endless, it appears, is the availability of data, why do we not commemorate our loved ones in representations of life with more meaning? Pictures, memories, certificates, representations of our life and accomplishments in a digital medium, linked to our ancestors and descendants for easy access. If I had access to such information, I would definitely search for hours, getting to know those who have been forgotten by simple human memory. There are attempts to start such a practice, but not for the purpose of replacing the endless amount of space that we take up storing the dead. We likely use hundreds of thousands of acres of space in the middle of industrialized areas to do exactly that, and unfortunately due to the belief that these spaces are sacred, will have difficulty doing anything with it until we manage to make some kind of paradigm shift in the way burial is viewed.

A macabre topic? Perhaps. This is the stuff I think about, though.

Until next time.


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