Thursday, 2 May 2013

Knock-Knock-Knocking on... Oh, next door? Right, sorry.


There's a subject worth exploring.

I don't mean the nice anthropomorphic Mr Death, one of the little men from the Village, who seemingly hasn't come about the hedge.

I mean The End, the moment your brain no longer produces electrical impulses, the bit in the medical dramas where there's that 'Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' noise and someone with an infeasibly chiseled jaw turns to a nurse who would be badger-velcroingly beautiful if only she's take her hair out of a bun and take off her glasses and says 'I'm calling it!'

So, there you are (because it's your death we're talking about) lying on a slab, peaceful for the first time since you were declared an adult - Enjoying whatever afterlife you've picked for yourself, whether it be all vikings and naked ladies, or wandering about in white robes, rubbing shoulders with the great and the good of the entirety of history.

What happens to the stuff you've left behind?

The meat, the bits that look like you but really aren't you any more.

Recent traditional history has convinced everyone in the English Speaking world that they've got two choices:

You can get buried in a wooden box and eventually become wormfood, helping to fertilise the planet with the (on average) 155lbs of starstuff that we're all made from - As Elton John sing... The Cir-her-hercle of LiIiIiIife.

Or you can get cooked at gas mark 900 (1700 F) for 90 minutes, then tumbled in the Cremulator (TM) for 20 minutes until thou art dust - It's a great way to lose weight though, at the end of the process, you weigh about 5lbs.

But it's a fascinating subject, if you're into the macabre, or you're a Goth - Do a bit of research, you'll be hooked.

If you go back a bit further, you'll find that most cultures have, or in some case still do, practice the Funeral Pyre - Which is sort of like an open air cremation, whether it's on a big pile of wood a'la Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, or or on a boat, as in every viking movie ever.

In other countries, they have their own quaint little foreign ways of making sure they haven't got a dead body stinking up the place for too long (or not).

Your actual Mongolians have a practice called 'Air Sacrifice' which involves them starving a load of feral dogs, taking the corpse out into the wilderness and then giving it the old 'Off you go Fido, fill your boots' (Not that I'm implying that the Mongolians force the dogs to wear boots - they're odd, not cruel)

The Tibetans, revered by thousands of up their own sphynchter students with no experience of the real world as the most wonderfully spiritual race in the whole of the multiverse, do pretty much the same thing, but leave out the dogs... So their funeral practice essentially involves taking the body away from the village, putting it somewhere out of site, and nonchalantly wandering back whistling and saying 'Body? What Body? No idea what you're talking about me old flower.' The Maasai in Africa do the same thing - No-one ever claims that they're all spiritual and what-not do they?

The Haida people of North America / Southern Canada used to throw all the normos, like you and me into a big pit behind the village and let nature take its course.  But if you were a chief, or other important person, they would take your corpse, beat it with clubs until your bones broke sufficiently for you to fit into a small wooden box which would then get nailed to the top of a totem pole so that you could help guard the village along with all your ancestors (By ancestors, I obviously mean rotting shoeboxes of suppurating flesh)

The Vikings were great too... (Hang on, I hear you say, you've done the Vikings havent you? Up there, with the ship and the fire and the Up Helly Aa business?) Well, just think about that for a moment, if you were a traditionally seafaring race, what you wouldn't want to do was go around burning the ships every time someone popped his furry bootees.  So what they actually did was dig a hole in the shape of a boat and fill it with rocks... Not sure why, I mean it wasn't like it was in any immediate danger of floating away or anything, then put you in it with a selection of your goods and chattels - Chattels in this case including your recently gangraped and strangled wife, then they'd cover you over and do a bit of light pillaging in your honour.

The people of Kiribati, one of the Gilbert islands, East of Australia, bury their dead, just like real people do... But then after a while, they dig up the bodies, remove the skull, oil and polish it, and keep it on the shelf in the family huy as a knick-nack, whilst occasionally offering it tobacco and snacks - To date, none of the skulls has ever been reported as having partaken of these offerings.  Someone thought one had once, but it turned out to be the island's only professional ventriloquist, who is now on a shelf, in the chief's hut...

But what if you're not in a country? What if you're between countries?  What if you're on a boat?  Did you know... That any Captain of any ship of any nationality can legally perform a burial at sea. OK, only on dead people, but otherwise they're pretty much all powerful.  So how would they do it? They certainly wouldn't stick you in a coffin and then slide it over the side, you'd probably get sewn into a burlap sack with a load of rocks... As a final test of your continuing deathness, they'd put a stitch through your lip, reasoning that if that doesn't wake you up, nothing will.  I think they actually show this in that Russell Crowe film, Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World, shows this in detail... Great film, you should watch it.

As yet, I understand that no-one has tried to carry this type of funeral over to the Trans-Atlantic air routes, for which long-haul pilots are quite rightly upset.

Although they'll happily shoot you into space... Or compact your ashes into a beautiful diamond for, like, £5,000

But what about me? How would I chose to be interred?

What if you could choose anything to happen to you after your metabolic processes are history, when you've dropped off the twig, kicked the bucket, shuffled off your mortal coil, run down the curtains and joined the bleedin' choir invisibule?

There was a craft-related toy in the 70's, which, unfortunately, I can't remember the name of, (I'm sure one of you knows what I mean) that let you encase household items into a clear, rubbery plastic, to make things like ugly broaches or very small paperweights.  That's what I want doing with my corpse... I'd like to be cast into a block of clear plastic, in a rugged pose, possibly something out of the Freeman's catalog's 'moustached men pointing at something in the distance' section, and then placed on a slowly rotating plinth outside a public library.


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