So you want to be cremated! Burned up! You really think that is the best way to go? Let’s see, that is 1200 degrees plus Fahrenheit and since you are 80-90 percent water that means–going , going, gone–very quickly. The entire procedure (burning up muscle and organs) takes about 2 hours. And remember, the bones are rarely reduced to ashes. The cremation administrator has to put you through a grinding machine (like a blender) to get everything to be like ash with the same consistency throughout. The result is a gray dust or ash that weighs 5 to 7 pounds. Then what? Where will you go? Who gets you? Really, why would anyone want to be cremated? I am not against it, I am just not sure I understand why we do it. But, I will give you one explanation–we have lost our best friend.
Imagine this, I am at home standing in the den talking with a family member. It is cold outside, but the room is warm and comfortable because of the heat from the crackling blue and yellow flames in the fireplace. My wife brings me a letter from an old friend. I excuse myself from my wife and relative and walk toward the fireplace while opening the letter. I begin to read. The letter is filled with lies, deceptions, obscenities, and this man’s utter disappointment with me. I immediately realize our friendship is over. This is something that cannot be fixed. Our relationship has failed, and I am extremely angry. I find no personal or legal reason to save the letter, so I crumple it up and throw it in the fireplace. I watch the flames destroy the letter and with it what I thought was a lasting friendship filled with all kinds of potential.
Maybe – just maybe – that is what cremation is. Humanism has taught me to believe in myself, and in turn, my body. In general, I like to take care of my body because I believe if I do, my body will take care of me. I have this notion that I can live a long time by doing the “right” things to my body. So I exercise, eat nutritious food, occasionally diet, get regular medical and dental check-ups, get plenty of rest, avoid disease, and at times, indulge in cosmetic repairs to the body for appearance sake. My body is my best friend. I see a lot of potential in this relationship. I treat the relationship with great importance and the things I do, I do because it will enhance longevity. But in the end I realize it is a lie, and that I have been deceived. The relationship I have with me body will end in failure and disappointment. No matter what I do I am going to die. It makes me angry. So, what will I do? I will throw my body into the fire! In anger, I will burn my body up!
Think about it, and of course, talk about it. Are not the underpinnings of “body failure” deeply embedded in our psychic? Isn’t this what Martin Heidegger called “angst” – an individual’s continuous movement towards nonexistence? Is it possible that cremation could be a quick, clean, inexpensive, natural, and sometimes unconscious “knee-jerk” reaction (in anger) to the body’s inability to function forever? Doesn’t this create anxiety in you right now! Face it, DEATH IS WOVEN INTO EVERY FIBER OF EXISTENCE – stop avoiding it!
Updated: March 23, 2013