Friday, August 17, 2007

Death and Culture

Think of this, too, in terms of the family. In all Western cultures, a person was once “gathered to his fathers.” But constant relocation and the urban distaste for cemeteries have made care of graves difficult. Why shouldn’t we expect family tradition to weaken at the same time as family graves begin to disappear?

Indeed, the logic loops back on itself to spiral downward: The failure to maintain the family graves increasingly leaves the family name without meaning, and the emptiness of the family name increasingly becomes a reason not to have family graves. The modern failure of funerals serves as both a cause and a symptom of the shattering of culture, first into the nuclear family, then into atomized individuals, and at last into nothingness—with, for instance, the increasing use of “anonymous death,” a European innovation now beginning to appear in America, where the dead are abandoned without ceremony in deliberately unmarked graves, or their corpses are cremated with the ashes spread across large and indifferent spaces. Link

I have had the tendency to see memorial day as a waste of time and resources. I now believe, after reading this article, that my attitude was wrong.

1 comment:

William said...

That was a very moving and thought-provoking passage. I am a person who believes in nothing, and maintains selfishness as better way of life, for myself, at least, but this passage has awakened within me the thought that perhaps all tradition is not vain and wasteful. Perhaps tradition is truly a beautiful thing, for all its failings.