With All Souls Day coming, my office friends and I got to talking about how it’s best to be laid to rest because of course everyone thinks about such a stupid topic every once in a while when one nears middle age where one’s finally halfway done.
It was such a lively discussion about dying that I thought it best to continue an exposition of my opinions here on why it’s still better to be buried than to be cremated. It’s admittedly a very old argument like coffee vs tea, dogs vs cats, ice cream vs cake, or Brad Pitt vs Tom Cruise–timeless as it were and as old as there have been insufferable idiots in the world.
But enough with the introduction. I say it’s better for a person to be buried than to be cremated not because of any real religious reasons but because it’s what he or she deserves.
Get this: the best way to assess the value of most things in life is to quantify the human labor involved in producing them.
Thus, a hand-crafted car is way more expensive than your regular cookie cutter because there’s just so much more sweat and skill expended to create the commodity. To me, the same logic makes it very clear which between burying and cremation is ultimately and transcendentally more valuable.
With burying, you have a whole bunch of people worrying about which coffin to buy (and if there’s still something available your size without the funeral director having to hack away your legs to make you fit), an entire drama regarding the piece of land to purchase for your final resting place, and between those two just a crowd of people getting severely disrupted in their busy lives to do one thing or another with your lifeless body which doesn’t give a flying squirrel’s ass what’s happening around it.
With cremation, you get a guy cooking you. That’s about it.
The gap in human labor is ridiculous! To be buried is simply more special than it is to be grilled ’til charred. With the former, you’re a human whom your fellowmen rightly fuss about, while in the latter, you’re a piece of firewood quickly and efficiently set ablaze to the greatest convenience of those who are supposedly mourning their loss.
It is undoubtedly a crime of epic proportions and it’s bewildering how people came about to deciding to bake one another’s carcasses like they do their bread. Was there a point in history that we ran out of land and had a surplus of ovens?
Needless to say, my family should be ashamed of themselves if they’re planning something like this on my body someday. Why–all my life I’ve been trying my best to escape the fiery pits of hell when I die and here you go scheming to throw my body into a furnace just the same? What the flip are you thinking?! What if bad luck strikes and my soul does end up in hell? That would mean I’ll be cooking both here and in the afterlife! HELL NO.
There’s no dignity in it, I tell you.
There’s also something in the difference in the size of a grave and an urn that supports my argument. Let me illustrate.
When we’re living, we all try to be BIG–and I mean not just in a physical way (though that also counts) but we try to be big in every aspect of life because humankind descended from a line of brave and proud conquerors who wanted nothing less than the largest pieces of land to plant their tribal banners on. That egoistic, proud way of thinking is hardwired into our brains, which is partly the reason why we want to live BIG–we want a big house, a big job, a big car, a big lifestyle, big breaks, big boobs, big dicks, big everything.
Burying continues that proud tradition by making sure the dead gets their fair share of the earth. The larger, the better.
You might say, “Well, he’s already dead. Why would we waste precious space on him?” But that’s the point, you see? The fact that it is unnecessary makes it the right thing to do; only because it’s a complete waste of space, time, and energy does it correctly function as a tribute to the dead man and the life he lived. It’s now known that in ancient Egypt, pharaohs and common men alike demanded grand tombs and pyramids be built to mark their extinguished existences–so what changed in our disposition that we now even consider not having a mere 6-foot plot to bury our bones in?
Have we lost our will to assert what is ours?
By comparison, behold the urn. Only distinguishable from a common vase by its ghastly contents and the fact that you cannot plant fake daffodils in it. But my main issue with it has to do with its size, which fails to remind anyone of the dead person’s bodily proportions when he was alive. It doesn’t matter if you’re Yao Ming and you’re 7 foot 6 when you were breathing; with an urn, you end up being the size of a kettle. It’s dehumanizing!
No level of skill in storytelling can make a departed’s urn look anything but a fancy cauldron. “Your great grandpa George was a great man. He had 6 PhDs, was a millionaire by age 30, owned mansions all over the country, had 77 wives and thrice as many children,” one of your descendants might someday say. It will matter not a spit. To the listener, you’ll look like a helpless pot.
Add to that the dangers of being a house ornament nobody really wants to look at
—except naughty kids who would want nothing more than to break your container into tiny pieces the first chance they get. And believe me those nasty little buggers will succeed in their wicked plans—if not them, then for sure the house cat will.
You probably won’t make it out of your first year dead in pristine condition. By the ninth month, you’ll be an odd mix of ash, shoe mud, rice, strands of the neighbor’s curly hair, and a lost toy soldier. One of my friends also raised the possibility of a clueless housemaid confusing the urn for an old vase filled with dirt resulting in your ashes getting flushed down the toilet.
The operational word here is “troublesome.” People who passed away should be a troublesome lot. The dead must rest in peace but the living definitely should not. To put it bluntly, the living should suffer the dead like they suffer everything else in life. In their act of extreme frustration and annoyance at the futility of what they’re doing for folks long deceased, they pay their respects to their memories. The best thing you could hope for is that your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson will someday throw tantrums because he will have to go to the cemetery with mom and dad to light a candle on your grave. He’ll do his job with maximum resistance and you’ll bless him for it.
So the next time you think of something terribly trite and revolting like scattering your ashes in the wind in a beach, remember your proud lineage and have an ounce of dignity—choose to be buried.