Friday, April 08, 2005

Honoring the Corpus

Dear Internet Diary,


My thoughts on religion have always been that it's a socially inflicted brainwash. most that go outside the boundaries of their society are ostricized to an extent. Therefore, people who go against religion are not as socially accepted as others (at least in the U.S.). Funerals, I believe, are socially inflicted gatherings. ... if you don't go to a funeral, you are usually labeled disrespectful. Personally, i hate funerals. After speaking with other people, they concluded my views were immature and that i would "get it" when i got older. that's offensive, especially when i just "don't get" why a funeral is so important.

Funerals are religious, but most services are not. They are like Christmas: they started out Pagan, the Christians and Jews tried to make everyone believe they started it all, and then the secular world, sensible as it is, made it into a food-centered event. Not a surprise, considering Catholics dress corpses like they would a Thanksgiving turkey. It's ghoulish. But, it's what they do. It has a little bit more of a party feel in Hispanic countries, where the party continues on well after the burial. There's no way they can hide the pagan ritual in that. When you have skeleton bands dancing around with devils, it's kind of hard to hide.

Last time I went to a funeral, I felt way out of place until the son started joking through the whole thing. Rather than being offensive to everyone, it was a big relief. We were doing the Catholic thing, and some of the family was still paying lip-service to it. We had to babysit the body from morning 'til cremation.

Not all of us feel a "duty" towards a corpse. Those that feel compelled to honor someone's memory should do so. My mother-in-law, I felt, was honoring something else. Not a memory or a corpse that hardly resembled her mother at all (it looked like a porceline doll, like the pope does). She was honoring a passage in her own life.

However, not everyone that is bullied or pressured into attending these things feels a need to honor anything about the person. I think its about as disrespectful to someone's memory you could possibly get to guilt someone (who doesn't feel that need) into filling a seat, to appease a sense etiquette. Perhaps it would be better for that person to place a sympathetic phone call to grieving family members. The meaning of that gesture is caring and honest, not superficial.

But thanks for listening, diary.


breakerslion said...

Disclaimer: Since we don't know each other very well (yet?), I must preface this by saying that this is an attempt at humor and should not be taken seriously. In other words, I might be crazy, but not this kind of crazy.

Funerals have been a big deal for a long time, so I decided to channel my 2008-year old friend Lazerus to see what he had to say about it. (He hates being called 'Lazerus' by the way, his real name was Lenny, but that sounded too ordinary for publication, so the editors changed it.)

(Lenny) Funerals been a big deal forever. Is kinda weird seeing your dad or somebody all glessy-eyed and lookin like a stitue whats fallen over. The early types, they just poked you with a stick a couple a times then left you alone. Well, that kinda attracted rets and bugs, and smelled real bid, so we did like the cats did with things they 'don like and covered the dead guy with dirt. Next thing you know, somebody says, 'mebbe we should say g'bye or something' and the whole funeral bit gets started. Things is pretty confused at first, so there was the stick-pokers and the dirt throwers. The stick pokers is still got some representation you know, as that's why they bang the dead pope on the noggin wit the lettle hammer. Dis goes on for a little while 'an pipple notice that diggin holes is real nesty work, especially if all you got is rock under you, so they find somebody to do it for 'em. Course, you 'don dig no hole for some body you 'don know without you get paid for it unless you're a schmuck. So this is when da priests (or Shamanigans as they was called back then) takes over. That's cause anything that gets paid for needs the seal of approval, so to speak, what is available for a cut of the ection. So now we gotta make a big deal outta things and do it right, and dis makes the Shamanigan's cut bigger.

Hokay, so how does the food get in? Gled you asked. The food thing was really a nice show of support from the friends and relatives what liked the widow and the family. The idea was that the family was gonna have enough to do, what with the family business and paying off the Shamanigans and all, that they 'don need to be cooking for all them relatives what came by for the funeral. What happened was that since the rest of the funeral got all these rules and stuff from the Shemanigans, pipple started thinking that mebbe there was a right way to do this, so the Christians went and turned this into the ritual of consoling the widow with ham.

Hellbound Alleee said...


I actually watched a program the other day about what the first burial was actually about. The program was in French, as are most of the tv shows around here, but I managed to get the gist of what was going on.

A brother and sister lost their mother due to some illness. Other mammals will mourn this loss and stay by the corpse of the mother anyway.

The brother and sister stayed by this corpse as well. Then the carrion birds started trying to get at it. They didn't want this, so they covered their mother with sticks and rocks. The rest of the tribe noticed this behavior, and some of them brought food over because they were worried about these children. The son took the meat and put it on the "grave," ostensibly to "feed" the mother. The emat was quickly snatched back.

It could be that the son just didn't know that the mother was dead, and hoped she might be sleeping, and would soon wake up. He didn't have the experience with death other tribe members had. So it was actually concern for the grieving family that brought on these gestures. From this we develop these gestures of offering gifts to the corpse. Maybe from then we made up ideas that the corpse "Went somewhere," perhaps like we do in sleep many nights. If a person can "go somewhere " in their sleep while the schlub next to them watches, maybe a forever-sleeping perosn "goes somewhere" too.

breakerslion said...

I ran this by Lenny, and he had this to say:

Well, it coulda happened dat way I suppose, but if you think your mother is slipping, she gonna be awful mad when she wakes up all covered in rocks. As far as puttin' knicknacks and stuff in with the dead guy, I seem to remember that I heard somewhere that one of the old time chieftans or kings or something said "Oh yeah?", when somebody told him ya can't take it with you.

As long as we're still on the subject, I been meaning to tell you why a ham. No, this aint no Karl Marx routine about why a duck! I'm serious, and you should be too! You only get to die once in a lifetime you know! So anyway. The reason the Christians picked a ham is that the Jews and the Moslems that schlep in for the funeral won't eat it, so there's more leftovers.