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How Do We Celebrate Death?

+2 votes
Given that we accept the inevitability* of closing the circle...
How do we make peace with the passing of a loved one --  our family, our friend, our comrade in sedition?

Which rituals of death have you found compatible with your anarchy, which rituals do you find irredeamable (or just fucking stupid),  and which rituals from other cultures or from fiction would you like to experience instead/in addition?

How would you like your friends/comrades to celebrate your life, celebrate your death, and dispose of your corpse?
asked Sep 24, 2015 by clodbuster (1,950 points)
one thing that really irritated me about my fathers death (and after-death rituals for lots of other people) is that people seemed to have this compulsion to basically make him into an ultra-spectacular figure, some sort of history book charactar or something, but it wasn't appropriate to complain about that, im glad that so many people were inspired by him, i doubt this will be the case for my funeral....LOL!

4 Answers

+2 votes

all the logistical accouterments of a traditional burial i find pretty awful, at least as i understand them. putting a bunch of poison in the body, then putting it in a vault or a box that is designed not to biodegrade... especially when it costs so much money that it becomes its own stressor.

ugh.

i want to be buried without a box under a redwood tree, or given to scavengers to eat. neither of which is legal, i expect.
as for rituals--the idea of a wake has always appealed to me, and at our infoshop we have a picture of a grandmotherly anarchist woman who came to a reading group for many years until she died. i like the idea of a person's presence being remembered in places where they were important...

i don't have any criticism for death rituals (the ones i know about, anyway), even ones that involve saying nothing but positive things about the dead person. i guess i like the idea of both public and private remembrance ceremonies/interactions.

but more than all that, this question of anarchist rituals is one that intrigues me--how do we have meaningful ritual when one of rituals' main components (maybe the main one?) is the longevity of it--the resonance that comes from people having done something over generations. this question comes up with weddings and holidays too.

answered Sep 25, 2015 by dot (52,130 points)
0 votes

I think what is done to the body and what it's put in for burial is silly and wasteful. Typically the body is pumped full of formaldehyde and that chemical is toxic as it kills microbial life. This is done to slow down the decomposition of the body and I really don't understand the point in it. Then the body is stuck in a box made from steel, copper, bronze, iron...etc for burial that's reinforced by concrete. This is either done to keep stuff from getting in or to keep the formaldehyde from getting out, I imagine. It seems to me that those are rituals in of themselves.

So, for me, I'd prefer to not have my body pumped full of formaldehyde. I'd rather my body be wrapped in a cloth, thrown in a hole, and then a garden made over my body or in the immediate area. I'm thinking a human corpse is a pretty good fertilizer. People can then celebrate my life/death and share memories of me over some tasty tomatoes or cucumbers. 

I've only been to funerals that are religious even if said dead person wasn't religious and I dislike those because they come off as silly to me. Like catholic ones I find a bit weird. You go to "mass" because this benefits the soul because some mumbo jumbo about sin and p
urgatory. The body is positioned in a specific way and has water sprinkled on it. Basically it's this huge drawn out production that I think is completely ridiculous. But I imagine it or other productions concerning the death of someone is useful to some people because sometimes people have difficulties accepting that the person is dead.

The only fiction related one I can recall is the one from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, where Spock dies and is put into a torpedo and shot into the area where the genesis experiment takes place. Then later we find out that genesis made him come back to life. That'd be pretty neat way to go out and come back. :P

answered Sep 25, 2015 by Zubaz (4,140 points)
edited Sep 25, 2015 by Zubaz
+1 vote
i am not a fan of ritual in general, and i particularly despise how death rituals (that i am familiar with) are so often steeped in religion, capitalism, and spectacle. not to mention... they don't typically seem like celebrations.

and for sure (to agree with other answers), the typical western way of burying the dead is absurd, imo. even cremation seems wasteful, if much better than burying a preserved, protected and falsely beautified body full of poison.

personal anecdote: about 16 years ago my wife's brother died unexpectedly. his entire family converged at his mother's home in nyc for several days, coming mostly from haiti and montreal (which was difficult, as nobody had any money to speak of). the main reason everyone was there was to have a typical religious ceremony; his mom was catholic, though he was a hardcore atheist. but in the few days we were all staying in his mom's apartment (25 or so people camped out all over the floor of a smallish apartment), we laughed, cried, cooked, played, danced, and just got to know each other in a very tender and loving atmosphere. it is one of the best, and most emotionally fulfilling, memories of my life. i cannot imagine a better celebration of one's life. fuck the church service. then my wife and i took his ashes back to the west coast, had a roaming party with all his friends, and scattered the ashes in all his favorite wild (and not so wild) places.

i share dot's thoughts about what i'd like to happen to my body when it has expired. and actually, where i live, i probably could make myself wildlife food pretty easily.

i have no idea how accurate it is, but the viking ceremony i have always read about has some appeal, though burning a good boat seems unnecessarily wasteful.

grief is a very strong emotion, and everybody processes it differently. i think a celebration of one's death should have room for, but not focus on or spectacularize, grief.

i have yet to go to one, but i have heard many times about "death cafes",  informal gatherings where death is the topic of discussion. sounds like a pretty good idea, at least potentially. especially given western culture's typical ways of dealing with it - trying to avoid it at all costs.
answered Sep 25, 2015 by funkyanarchy (12,270 points)
+2 votes
I don't know that I celebrate death, celebrate seems like the wrong word (though in some cases I could see it happening...)

I actually mostly compartmentalize and/or self medicate with alcohol (or whatever else I can get) when someone I love dies. I am not saying that is healthy, or desirable (well, actually, I would argue that we need to lock down our emotions tighter, but I suspect part of that is rooted in Scandinavian familial heritage, while part of it is that I just don't like experiencing emotions very much), but in thinking about patterns in my own life and that of the dysfunctional people I surround myself with sometimes, it is true, at least at first.

Eventually the lock-down can't continue and I need to feel, and I have figured out particular music that evokes the feels. I don't think that would work for everyone, but for me, I associate certain music with certain moments and experiences, and it can work like a key in that lock, This is something that no one else ever sees, and it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable writing it here.

Wakes are a good middle ground, as often they are like a party for the dead held by people that cared. An interesting thing I attended recently was a "living wake." It was for a friend's companion dog who was going to be put down. The day it was going to happen they made lots of food, invited people over, and we all ate and hung out with Fred (the dog), wrote fond memories in a journal, and reminisced about how awesome Fred was. Meanwhile, Fred's last meal (baked chicken) was cooking. After we left, Fred's family sat down and ate with him, and then helped him pass.

I liked that Fred was able to be present to get all the well wishes and love, and that he was surrounded by the people who loved him as he died. I think that is ideal.

I think it is more complicated with humans (because humans are so... blech). Most humans I've known who have died I have felt far less unconditionally in love with. In these instances, waking the dead has felt somewhat more of a mix of emotions and things left unsaid.

As to ritual. I am opposed, even if I have my own rituals. To me, the point at which a thing is ritual is when it has become the thing we do because ________. When a response has morphed from an honest expression of whatever feelings to a thing we do because a thing happened, it is no longer authentic.

(edited for some typos and clarification)
answered Sep 25, 2015 by ingrate (21,970 points)
edited Sep 28, 2015 by ingrate

ingrate: bringing up dying dogs is not fair, gdmt.

 

f@: the party that happens around the ceremony is kind of my point? it helps to have the framework to hang the real (?) feelings on. or something.

what do i know. i don't have feelings.

dot - I had to try and think about deaths that I actually was emotionally impacted by, and that meant thinking of my canine and feline friends. Not that I don't have humans whose deaths have impacted me, but much less immediately. Yeah, lack of normal human emotional response... funny that I am in a helping profession...

your answer also resonates with me, ingrate.

"I associate certain music with certain moments and experiences"  

while not limited to loss of loved ones, that statement packs a shitload of truth for me. 

and i too have grieved more for non-human friends than for human ones, over the course of my life.

i like the idea of a living wake as well. i saw a movie about that not too long ago, and it gave me all kinds of ideas and fantasies. not that i found the movie all that good.

dot: not sure i quite understand what you are saying about a framework to hang feelings on? 

i would rather not separate the celebration (party) from whatever ceremony might be involved. i have no problem with stopping the music/activity long enough for folks to say what they want to say (etc), i would just prefer that they do it spontaneously and when they feel it, not at some predetermined time when everyone that has anything to say has to kind of say it one right after the other (that makes it more ritual-like to me). as long as they don't cut off that funky groove (that i am dancing my ass off to). ;-)

 

i think i mean that there has to be a social expectation that cuts across choice lines (i'm sure your family has made various choices different from yours, but everyone knows that you come to a funeral) to create the scenario that allows real connection (which seems to happen rarely--though not never--at the official event).

(by cuts across choice lines i don't mean that goes against choice lines, but that operates on a different plane or something.)

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