Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cool Green Grass on Forgotten Tombs

Jesse Bering:

Although the idea of green burials in wildlife preserves or park-like settings is not new, and it’s likely a desirable prospect for certain future dead soul who’d prefer absolute oblivion, it seems to me that this is not going to appeal to most individuals because we human beings tend to have a pressing need for "symbolic immortality." This was a term coined by the cultural anthropologist Ernst Becker in his book, The Denial of Death (1973), but which has since been empirically elaborated by scientists working on terror management theory. The basic idea behind the construct of symbolic immortality is that cultural artifacts that survive the individual’s literal death while also containing some reminder of the person’s special existence can meaningfully reduce human death anxiety.

That's interesting. On a personal level, I can understand wanting to have some sort of object to ground one's feelings in, something connected to the deceased, but as far as some sort of general object to announce to the wider world that I was once here, whether a typical tombstone or some other sort of monument? Nah. I'd rather go into that good night knowing that I had profoundly changed someone's thinking, indelibly influenced them in a way they'd always remember. That would be a nice sort of symbolic immortality for me. Music, too. Leaving behind some sort of recorded music would feel like part of me was still alive, still interacting with the living. The rest just seems like silly vanity.