Saturday, December 29, 2018

Composting human bodies

There's a one-upmanship among secular progressives. New York and California are the leaders of the progressive wing in the culture wars, so Washington and Oregon sometimes take the initiative to signal that they, too, are players. 

How we dispose of human bodies is symbolically significant. Symbolism isn't unimportant or all-important. For those who have the luxury, how we dispose of human bodies is an interpretation of what it means to be human. The final interpretation of what it means to be human. 

Sometimes it's not a universal statement. Sometimes it's a statement about social class. At one extreme are Pharaonic entombments. One notch down are funerals for English royalty and other dignitaries, entombed at Westminster Abbey. Papal funerals are a religious counterpart.

Then you have family crypts for the rich, or fancy sarcophagi. These are ways of signaling to the world that the decedent was more important than the lumpen. 

Christian custom favors burial in the ground. The decedent is buried with his feet facing east. This reflects belief in the resurrection of the body, as well as venerable belief that Jesus will return from the East. Thus, the dead in Christ will face the returning Savior. Whether that's accurate is a different question. 

Open casket funerals give those who weren't present at the moment of death a chance to say their final farewells. But before the age of modern embalming, the dead were buried quickly. 

Burial spawned the mythology of the Netherworld. Or perhaps the mythology of the Netherworld supported burial. Which came first?

Cemeteries have an advantage if living relatives live within commuting distance of the cemetery. We also have military cemeteries. 

Then there's the tradition of church graveyards. That's a nice tradition, although the Catholic church gamed it. 

Some cultures have the custom of a funeral pyre. Speaking for myself, I prefer the symbolism of a funeral pyre, emblematic of the soul liberated from the corpse and rising to heaven. To me, burial has the unintended symbolism of the soul trapped in a coffin. The soul chained to a particular plot of ground. But I realize the intended symbolism is the body awaiting reunion with the soul. In any case, this is metaphor rather than reality.

Back to composting human bodies. In blue states, the political class are atheists, although some may dabble new Age beliefs or pop Buddhism. For them, humans are just animals. When you die, that's it. Humans are just a part of nature. Just a product of nature. Nothing more. Earthlings from start to finish. That's the emblematic significance of composing human bodies. Like Christian burial, that, too, is a statement about human nature. A secular statement. A ruthlessly, defiantly secular statement. 

From a Christian standpoint, there is something majestic about the cycle of nature. Dust to dust and ashes to ashes. But from a consistent secular perspective, there's nothing beautiful about the cycle of nature. That's an example of a shallow, sentimental humanism that projects meaning onto something objectively meaningless. 

Does it matter how we treat corpses? It's analogous to cannibalism and necrophilia. In naturalism, it's all arbitrary. Nothing is sacred. There are no lines you may not cross. You bury your pets and compost your parents. 

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