I have been waiting for a good opportunity to publish a set of related stories about our attitudes towards the cremated as this is such an interesting aspect of human behaviour. Back in August, during “Operation Amen” (I kid you not), Italian police arrested workers at a Tuscan crematorium who had disposed of 10-20 bodies at a time rather than individually to save money leaving grieving relatives to mourn the ashes of strangers. They were charged with fraud, conspiracy and “offending the piety of the dead.” So everyone was pissed off because all the ashes were mixed but then in what sense are the ashes of the individual?
Konrad described this in an earlier comment and there was a very funny article printed this weekend in “The Guardian” about people who keep the ashes in very peculiar places including the glove compartment of their car. The fact that people revere the last mortal remains of a loved one is not particularly surprising even if they are reduced to carbon. I don’t have problem with that. But in many instances the fact that Granny is beginning to leak from the box or has been shared by several relatives really starts to challenge the way that we think about individuals and a unique collection of matter.
And what about the story of Keith Richards snorting his father’s ashes? I know it was said in jest, but even if it was true, I don’t think it is particularly sacrilegious. Maybe some of us want to absorb and imbibe those that we feel connected too.
Give me your thoughts on this. I would be really interested to know. After all, if you are in your middle age, then most of the cells in your body are 10 years old or less…. In other words, your cells are continually replenishing themselves. There is no material you!
Now isn’t that a comforting notion?