Death

by CarlD

John Hope Franklin died the other day. He was a towering figure for whom all praise is too faint.

Professor Susurro has ably covered his inspirational legacy. Then, in a second rich post, Susurro links a discussion we’ve been having about James Baldwin’s iconic status as a marker of team membership to reflections on her disappointment that amid the general outpouring, the historians’ team has not so far stepped up to memorialize Franklin as he deserves. “As I surfed across the historian specific internet highway, I was waiting for the ‘Yay team!’ moment. I expected it. I needed it. And 2 days later… it still has not come.”

I’m sorry for that. But I must live up to my billing as a ‘cranky prof’ in Susurro’s blogroll. And in this as in so many other ways, I am a bad historian. I just don’t do memorials. In fact, I’m not big on special celebratory occasions of any kind – anniversaries, birthdays, holidays. Although I understand their ritual significance as occasions for community-affirming collective effervescence, I think we could choose better ways to do that, starting with mindfulness in all of our beings-together.

I’m especially disturbed by what special occasions tend to say about the intervening time. Relationships we value could be appreciated and affirmed more regularly. There needn’t be anything left over to say to and about each other on some particular occasion. If you like your mom, don’t let Hallmark tell you when to treat her accordingly, right? High-intensity occasions do not make up for routine neglect or worse, and because they’re asked to carry so much of the weight of what could be continuous solidarity they’re almost inevitably disappointing. As a rule of thumb, the more grandiose the occasion, the more weight of relationship it’s being asked to carry and the more prone to collapse under that weight it is. The biggest weddings are never the happiest ones. If you feel unappreciated, one party isn’t going to fix that for long.

Waiting until folks are dead seems to me like an especially perverse way to handle appreciation. They’re dead now, it’s doing them no good; and the good it’s doing us just distracts from any lesson about treating people better in life we might have learned. Fortunately, John Hope Franklin got loads and loads of appreciation while he was alive, including a lovely building at Duke named after him at which I’ve been honored to attend several conferences. Monumental architecture aside, I imagine he found some satisfaction in the work itself. And his legacy going forward will be people doing work he would have admired; but those people deserve to be appreciated for that work in their own right, not as mere means to the end of his fame.

I’m also dubious about using death and other special occasions for team affirmation or team building. I’m pretty well in touch with my feelings and they’re generally mixed. Individuals and communities are complex things, each with its admirable and deplorable qualities. For both those reasons I’m not a joiner, and in general I think we’d all be better off with a little less joining. Again, mindful being-together is my standard. Therefore, being drafted into performances of unqualified affirmation feels like emotional blackmail to me, the ‘dead vole‘ situation par excellence. Making others feel your emotions along with you or for you is a form of tyranny, as feminists like Arlie Hochschild have shown.

An unusual example from around here may illustrate. From time to time mortuary signs show up by the side of the road asking all who pass to “slow down – death in family.” I imagine grief-stricken aunts and cousins stumbling around in a stupor, wandering into the road in transports of woe. For this I would slow down – no sense compounding the family’s loss by waffling poor old Uncle Chester. But realistically this is not what’s meant. The idea, I think, is that for a moment we are meant to share the family’s distress, join their team and express our solidarity by a brief sacrifice of our convenience.

What’s the problem? Even if one is not clear on whether the deceased or the bereaved in question are people one might have personally liked, playing along for a second is an ordinary kindness. Not even much of a sacrifice all in all, even if one believes sacrifice is a regressive, destructive model of sociability. And although we have no trouble seeing how badly teams/clans/gangs distort ordinary kindness when they are activities, faiths, genders, races, classes, nations not our own, surely these more contingent enlistments do not threaten such systematic troubles. It might even be healthy to extend our concern to unknowns in these meaningful little ways.

I’m on board with the importance of each life and the integrity of each feeling. It’s on precisely this ground that I think it’s rude at best to enlist others in these situations. As an outsider to the immediate circle of concern, I can’t figure out why I’m supposed to care more about this dead guy right here than that one over there. Why is the local woe more deserving of my solidarity than that of similarly bereaved worldwide? What makes John Hope Franklin’s life more fundamentally worthy of celebration than an Ethiopian peasant who died at the same moment? That he was a historian? It’s really just an accident of proximity, or of selective attention. Each and every instance of life and loss is just as special, and just as not special, from the very perspective that asks us to take the pain of others seriously. That’s all others, not just the ones we have affinities for or who did stuff we think is cool, let alone the ones with aggressive recruiting strategies.

Well, pragmatically a state of permanent woe for all the world’s losses is a non-starter, although Johnnie Cash made a nice career out of it. In practice there’s got to be a threshold of active concern where you say, my sympathies but life is going to go on over here. And each of us has to decide where that is, otherwise our sympathies can be leveraged against us, in each instance with equal moral force, to pull us into the vortex.

I’m not willing to withdraw my moral imagination from the fundamental equivalence of human life and feeling, and therefore I’m not willing to have my emotions dragooned into armies bent on colonizing the sympathetic commons. I acknowledge our duty of mutual kindness, and note that it is kind not to make demands on the kindness of others. For each dead person there will be a circle of immediately concerned others for whom that death will hold special meaning, for whatever reason, and we must let that be enough for us.

When someone’s grieving is not the best time to say these things. But someone’s always grieving. So maybe these things should just go unsaid. For better or worse that’s not my style, so I’m going to click ‘publish’ now and take my lumps.

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22 Responses to “Death”

  1. there is much of this I agree with w/regards to how we treat one another, the corporatization (I hate made up words) of sentiment, and even the public performance of ideas or rituals one does not agree with. In a way it is like when Obama valiantly refused to wear a flag pin b/c it did nothing to change the course of this nation nor support our troops or anything else it supposedly symbolizes and then, realizing his ability to actually impact change, finally acquiesced.

    That said, I don’t think that writing about my own sense of loss at my space is a “form of tyranny.” (wordpress automatically creating a trackback that implicates you in a different way then my just citing our conversation as a jumping off point, might be tyranny but I have no say in that.) I named no names, and the one person I reference did write something and what she wrote actually proves the point that some spaces are likely inappropriate for some forms of expression which is the point many are now making in response. I recognized a huge disparity that was largely racial in breakdown and it highlighted a larger concern that has been eating at me for much longer than Franklin’s death, as I say in the post, I’ll own that but the fallout is a beast of its own making.

  2. Thank you, Susurro! I linked back to you because our conversation and your further thoughts stimulated my thinking, not to target you. Like you these are ideas I’ve lived with for a long time, waiting for an occasion to come out.

    I hope I’ve said clearly enough that feeling our own feelings is right and good and proper. Where trouble arises for me is when others are supposed to participate. It may just be a cost of doing community, and as such I pay it gladly all the time. But I wonder if we could do better by each other.

    The Obama example is right on point.

  3. yeah, I’m not really into the group hug model myself. no harm no foul.

  4. Are we perhaps forgetting here the anthropological maxim that mourning is not for the dead but for those who must go on living. To celebrate a life well lived is to provide a model for others to follow, as well as to affirm the relationships that we continue to share with the survivors?

  5. It’s: someone who did the job right, and with a feeling. It’s: they’re gone and this gives one a responsibility. It’s: an ancestor now, someone who lives in the house differently than before, but who remains and reminds you, if you ask, how not to get engulfed by pettiness or drudgery, and keep your eye on the ball. Many non world famous people take on this role but JHF also does.

  6. Yeah. I know how much I’m leaving out. But what we normally do, and why, is not my part of this conversation. I’m trying to suggest an alternative, and perhaps an opportunity.

    If nothing else, the old death rituals like so many others may or may not fit our times. I’m speaking here for the kind of low-context culture Durkheim began to address in Division of Labor. Our society is highly articulated and culturally plural. Does that make any difference for how we handle our lives, and deaths? I’d be as excited by a Viking funeral as the next guy, but those days are gone.

    John, re: affirming relationships, I know you’re right but literature is full of the perverse consequences of that view as death is turned into a fetishized terror. Again, I’m wondering here if this is necessary.

  7. John – in a way that was what seemed to be missing, not the random obligatory obit but rather a celebration of what a certain life meant on an individual-collective level (to individuals and collectively to the discipline/s). At the same time, when ritual becomes obligation devoid of real sentiment or a mimicry of those who are actually mourning in order to retain ones place as fictive kin, that is more hollow than silence.

    Carl – anthro definitely does make room for cultural difference in life/death rituals or lack thereof but when multiple cultures co-exist under an overarching cultural structure then doesn’t the question become more about the privileging of one over the other and for what reasons?

  8. “A celebration of what a certain life meant on an individual-collective level”: Something like this, perhaps.

    ———-

    _Why to this liberal “conservative” isn’t a dirty word_

    My father died last week. From Vietnam to George Bush our politics
    were poles apart. I am liberal, globe-trotting, cosmopolitan. He was
    conservative, a man who had found his place and didn’t like to leave
    it, except for family reunions and trips with my mother or close
    family friends. This is the eulogy I wrote for the church bulletin
    used at his memorial service.

    “Our father was a rock. My brother Dan says that to Pop everything was
    black and white— and Pop was always absolutely sure that he knew which
    was which. My mother just called him hard-headed.

    “That didn’t make him the easiest of fathers for a smartass kid eager
    to move in his own directions. But part of that rock was the
    rock-solid belief in family. And while his sons did a lot of things
    that he didn’t understand or accept, and we were never able to change
    his mind, his support was unwavering.

    “He was a man quick to anger when he thought that his rights or
    property were being invaded, but also a man of huge generosity. He
    taught his sons the pleasure of giving. I can’t begin to count the
    people who visited the McCreery’s and went away with corn or tomatoes
    or watermelons or whatever else happened to be in season. And what a
    grand gift that was to his children.

    “Our father was a romantic. Through seven years of engagement and
    sixty years of marriage, no couple was ever more devoted than he and
    Mom. On their sixtieth wedding anniversary, I snuck a picture of them,
    taken through the kitchen window. There they are, both in their
    eighties, locked in a passionate kiss.

    “The romantic in Pop also loved nature. He didn’t just love growing
    things and sharing their fruits. He loved just sitting quietly,
    absorbed in observing the world around him and admiring their natural
    beauty. I remember once, asking him why he liked going fishing so
    much. He replied, “Well, if I just sat and stared at the water, people
    would think I was crazy.” Just a few months ago, the last time I saw
    him, he told me about sitting at the end of his pier one evening, his
    fishing pole in his hand. A great blue heron flew across the creek and
    sat beside him, barely an arm’s length away.

    “Pop was the most rooted man I’ve ever known. I heard an old friend
    say just the other day that the thing about Jim McCreery was that he
    knew every inch of his place, every plant, every animal, phylum,
    genus, and species. In a world where more and more of us seem to spend
    most of our time skittering over the surfaces, he had found his niche,
    his personal bit of paradise and knew it in every detail.

    “As I sit looking at old photographs, I see the dashing young man who
    won my mother’s heart. I know that he fenced as well as playing
    football and singing in the church choir. I just heard recently that
    my grandfather once caught him and mom skinny-dipping, so perhaps he
    wasn’t as strait-laced as I grew up thinking he was.

    “I look up from the desk where I’m writing and see a picture of the
    USS Enterprise and think of the ships he helped build in his forty-one
    years in the shipyard. (I remember, too, the excitement of being taken
    to see some of them launched.)

    “I sit in the house that he and his father’s and brothers built when
    the house that was on the place when he bought it burned to the ground
    just a few months later. I sit in a room that he added to that house
    when my maternal grandfather, who had loaned him the money to buy his
    place, was diagnosed with cancer and came to live with us. I remember
    Mom telling me how he had put aside his own dream of going back to
    college and becoming an engineer when that happened.

    “I think of the churches he helped to found and grow, the trees and
    the bamboo he planted, the grandchildren and the great grandchildren
    he adored. His was a life well lived, an example to us all.”

  9. Susurro, I think that given a convention of memorial, the historians should have produced that for Franklin. I doubt we’re all my kind of weirdo. Or to follow John’s point, we should have produced it for ourselves, to understand who we are and add Franklin’s charisma to our identity myth.

    That we didn’t certainly reflects the problems of marginalization, credentialing and legitimation of professional Black intellection you address in your analysis. And we’re also not a very coherent ‘we’. More than any other discipline of the humanities, except perhaps literature, we’re separated into insular little subcultures based on specializations of time, place, topic, and method. For example, my tribe is “modern European intellectual and cultural history, late 19th-early 20th century” but I’m a little wifty (and professionally suspect) because I don’t also specify a country. When I was in grad school, I was the only Europeanist who hung out with the Americanists. I doubt any of my classmates would have heard of JHF, or more than a couple other Americanists for that matter. When I talk about recovering from my eurocentrism, this is some of what I’m talking about. I know you work cross-disciplinary so I’m not telling you anything new.

    I agree about cultural difference and privilege. All the more reason to be suspicious about claims on our performative sympathy, and even more so the escalation of those demands. Another Obama example: during the State of the Union address, the standing ovations accelerated past appreciation, through political theater and right into self-parody. I loved Barack’s speech, but those suits were popping up and down like prairie dogs on meth. As for the question of what is to be done when cultures overlap and power is unequal, what are your thoughts on that?

  10. Thank you John, that’s lovely.

    My maternal grandparents both died recently, and I spoke briefly at each of their memorials. They also lived lives of integrity and had good runs. For the occasion we got together as a family, connected with their friends, shared pleasant memories. Some people didn’t come and that was alright too.

  11. Funerals are, like all rites of passage, moments at which the social deck is shuffled and new cards dealt, but always in a way that affirms the rules still hold, the game goes on. They are also theater, social dramas that may include large elements of soap opera, low comedy as well as tragedy. And, as Victor Turner pointed out, the symbols in play tend to be ambiguous, conflating broad fans of often contradictory meanings around their cognitive and sensory poles. They are liminal moments and, thus, difficult for structural theory to account for without sounding thin and heartless.

    They can, however, make good film. For a classic example see [the quote is from Wikipedia]

    —–

    The Funeral (お葬式 Ososhiki?) is a 1984 Japanese comedy film by director Itami Juzo.

    The film shows the preparations for a traditional Japanese funeral. It mixes grief at the loss of a husband and father with wry observations of the various characters as they interact during the three days of preparation.

    The Funeral was the writing and directing debut of Itami Juzo, and was an enormous success in Japan. It won five Japanese Academy Awards, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor (Tsutomu Yamazaki). It was nominated in a further five categories and also came first in the annual Kinema Junpo critics’ poll.
    [edit]Plot

    Shokichi Amamiya (Otaki Shuji) is a difficult 69-year-old man, married to Kikue (Sugai Kin). He dies suddenly of a heart complaint, and it falls to his daughter Chizuko (Miyamoto Nobuko) and son-in-law Wabisuke Inoue (Yamazaki Tsutomu) to organise the funeral at their house.

    Among other things, the family have to choose a coffin, hire a priest, hold a wake, learn formal funeral etiquette and hold the service itself.

    During the three days of preparation, various tensions within the family are hinted at, such as resentment of a rich but stingy uncle, Inoue’s affair with a younger woman, and possibly an affair the dead man himself had with a female croquet player.

    After the service, the long suffering wife delivers a dignified speech to the family regretting that the hospital would not let her be with her husband as he died.
    ————-

  12. “More than any other discipline of the humanities, except perhaps literature, we’re separated into insular little subcultures based on specializations of time, place, topic, and method.”

    I am reminded of David Schneider’s research on America kinship. When he went around asking different groups about their most important relationships, the Poles mentioned the Polish mother, the Italians mentioned the Italian mother, the Jews mentioned the Jewish mother…. Isn’t the fragmentation of disciplines into insular little subcultures endemic in today’s academy (the result of the information explosion and the inability of anyone to keep up with more than a tiny fragment of what is being produced) and acute throughout the social sciences and humanities (because the collapse of the old grand narratives, careerism and obsession with academic freedom have removed the common ground that math, physics and chemistry courses provide for the hard-scientists)?

  13. John, I’m always amazed and delighted by the resilience and dignity humans can muster up in difficult circumstances. This feeling remains but is tempered when the difficulties are self-created.

    What you say about death being a liminal, polysemic and polymodal moment is true. The large variety of approaches to it suggests that all of them are in a larger sense optional. I suppose I’m arguing for stoic minimalism here (you’ve heard this before), although mostly I’m arguing against ritual imperialism.

    Also a good point about the thin heartlessness of structural approaches. But they can help with demystification or just to enrich context, so from Wikipedia I’ve also just learned the following:

    “Funerals in Japan are among the most expensive funerals in the world. The average cost of a Japanese funeral is about 1.5 million yen (USD 14,000) according to a 2003 study by the Japan Consumer’s Association, though other sources state 3.8 million yen. This cost does not include mandatory additional services such as about 380,000 yen for the wake, or 480,000 yen for the services of the priest. Overall, the industry has a revenue of about 1.5 trillion yen with about 45,000 funeral homes. In 2004, 1.1 million Japanese died (2003: 1.0 million), a number that is expected to rise in the future due to the increase of the average age in Japan; see demographics of Japan. Funeral Business Monthly estimates that there will be 1.7 million deaths by 2035, and revenue of 2 trillion yen in 2040.

    There are a number of reasons for the high cost of funerals. First, prices in Japan are generally among the highest in the world. A bigger reason, however, is that the relatives of the deceased are very hesitant to negotiate prices of a funeral service, and also do not compare prices, as they do not want to give the opinion that they are cheap about their relative. This situation is abused by funeral companies, which sell rather expensive and often-unspecific packages, matched more to the funds of the deceased family than to the actual services provided. Often, aggressive sales tactics push the relatives towards expensive contracts. In many cases, there is not even the mentioning of a price until the funeral is over.”

  14. Right on, and again I think this is the local development of the logic of individualization and fragmentation of moral order identified by Durkheim in Division of Labor and Professional Ethics and Civic Morals. Durkheim explains postmodernism.

    Once individuals are disembedded from high-context traditional communities and set loose in the low-context networks created by the division of labor, the twin mischiefs of anomie and entitlement pop up. People lose touch with community and collapse into deregulation or perverse self-regulation. Careerism and obsessive academic freedom are classic entitlement effects.

  15. That funeral companies exploit survivor desire to do what’s “right” while grief and confusion inhibit rational calculation is a familiar problem and not just in Japan. A good case can be made that, like medical or legal specialists, funeral companies should also be regulated, death being one of those situations in which market rules are properly suspended. That said, to insist on Stoic, Judaic, Calvinist or Modernist minimalism could be seen as going too far. How far is it permissible to allow a bit of theater in the interest of catharsis and emotional healing? Do you know how to answer that question?

  16. “That said, to insist on Stoic, Judaic, Calvinist or Modernist minimalism could be seen as going too far. How far is it permissible to allow a bit of theater in the interest of catharsis and emotional healing? Do you know how to answer that question?”

    No, I don’t! I also don’t know how to answer my reciprocal question of how to protect minimalists from aggressive ritual overspill from the dramatists. I don’t think segregation is a very good answer. I don’t think allowing whichever group happens to be more powerful to get their way is a good answer, although that’s often how it works, as Susurro says. Taking turns is a nice idea, but may quickly seem beside the point. Or shall we work out new rituals together? Syncretism is also common, though also commonly forced.

    But if we’re going to work out new rituals, and not get power mixed up in them, now I think it would be cool to think through what we want to get done and whether big rituals are the best way to get there. As a minimalist, my intuition is that they’re not.

    The thing is, the ways we’ve always done things have all the advantages of evolutionary elaboration and also all the disadvantages. The chief advantage is that they work. The disadvantage is that they were the first thing that worked, and there’s no reason to think they’re the best. At this point we accept that patriarchy was a system that effectively divided labor and enabled social order, but we don’t think for that reason that it needs to persist.

    I always enjoy talking with you, John.

  17. Carl, I don’t have an answer to that without more thinking. In thinking about the overlay of a dominant culture on top of pre-existing as well as sub-cultures, I was actually thinking that the slippages – the places where dominant response implies one thing should happen and then it does not – are worth marking and reading through the lens of power. It is probably unfair to ask a medievalist to mourn an (African) Americanist true, but I think certain careers transcend our boundaries in ways that make the absence a little more suspect as you note.

    You are spot on about the Obama example. Much of the post-racial congratulatory performance was off putting for any discerning viewer. A similar parody in the face of the spectre of race (or any other oppression suddenly named) would be equally so.

    Where does the individual stop and the community begin? When is ritual a choice and when is its absence or performance a function of unequal power? Can we reconcile those functions with individual choice or cultural difference?

  18. I always enjoy talking with you, too, Carl.

    I will wonder, however, what exactly you mean by “aggressive ritual overspill.” Exploitation by funeral service providers? Being forced to bear with ritualized drama that the stoic would rather do without? Unnecessary mental anguish? Or perhaps an heir’s objection to the diminishment of an estate to some part of which the heir is entitled?

    I regard funeral industry exploitation as loathsome. I can also see how someone reacting against the tradition in which he or she was raised could feel put upon if the family insisted on full-bore funeral celebrations. On the other hand, I feel comfortable with Confucius’ maxim that a gentleman participates in ritual as if the spirits exist and does not worry about whether they do exist. I would have been seriously disturbed if my brother had wanted to sell off my father’s property to pay for a splashy funeral or erect an unnecessary–from my perspective–monument. Since, however, that was never at issue, I was happy to see both my father and mother sent off with the kind of rituals that, as pious but prudent Lutherans, they were expecting.

  19. Hi Carl,

    Both Diogenes and David Hume got here first, as you may know. Here’s Hume’s retelling of the Diogenes anecdote from “Of Moral Prejudice”:

    Diogenes being askt by his Friends in his Sickness, What should be done with him after his Death? Why, says he, throw me out into the Fields. “What! reply’d they, to the Birds or Beasts.” No: Place a Cudgel by me, to defend myself withal. “To what Purpose, say they, you will not have any Sense, nor any Power of making Use of it.” Then if the Beasts shou’d devour me, cries he, shall I be any more sensible of it? I know none of the Sayings of that Philosopher, [says Hume] which shews more evidently both the Liveliness and Ferocity of his Temper.*8

    http://www.econlib.org/library/LFBooks/Hume/hmMPL41.html#cc8

    Hume’s essay seems to be about the value of prejudice (almost 50 years prior to Burke’s Reflections), and the dangers of philosophers who, as “pretenders to wisdom” insist on a Stoic hankering toward “perfection.” And Edmund Burke anticipates the “anthropological” argument in his own notebook entries about this episode, to argue once against the philosophic vanity that would strip naked the “dishonourable circumstances of our humanity.”

    I guess my point here is that the Burke example shows that Burke knows very well the political stakes of these kinds of ceremonies and uses of public affect. The Obama example shows how his use of public sentiment puts his left supporters’ teeth on edge. I must say that Prof Susurro’s questions are literally rhetorical questions, meaning questions of rhetoric and power, and I feel better when Democrats understand (and make use of) the power of rhetoric and persuasion than when they do not.

    Best, DM
    [lurker who has been enjoying the discussions here for some time]

  20. I was raised super-Protestant, with NO rituals, because of the horrors of the funeral industry, the falseness of having to appear to grieve for people you hate, and the arrogance of grieving someone you know or someone famous when there are other people who also die.

    So, freed of rituals and virtuous, people walked around like characters in a Bergman film, sometimes for years or forever. It was a secret that they were grieving and so on, because it would be narcissistic to grieve, although not to act out as a result of repression.

    When I was 25, my mother’s Christmas present to each of us was membership in a funeral society. You die, someone makes a call, the society comes and picks you up, cremates you, and scatters the remains far out at sea, beyond the islands. It was virtuous, economical, and green business, and it is good to plan ahead.

    My father, apparently, secretly wanted a funeral or memorial service but this was considered a sin, something that showed his working class roots, something to look down on, something that would lose us class standing if it were carried out.

    The first time I had a friend, as opposed to a family member die I went to the funeral and it was my first funeral and a funeral parlor was involved and all, and I loved it — you were allowed to state grief and say good by and it was so freeing. Of course behind the scenes there was all this family bickering over arrangements, as there is at weddings and so on, but it was a wonderful healing ritual for more than just the death. And it was a kind of famous professor so people came just because they were interested in him, and that was fine, too.

    So I love funerals and obituaries. Everyone’s. That’s the other side of it … I am sure my mother’s family’s attitude isn’t just about their suicidal tendencies but is also about having been subjected to too many icky funerals in the 19th century.

  21. Cero, your comment reminds me that any good idea becomes noxious when it’s dogmatized. This connects, I think, to Dave’s point about the philosopher’s will to power through a Stoic hankering for perfection. My stoicism is with a small s, I hope that helps; but the danger is clear, and insofar as I have anything at all to say how other people oughta live, present.

    Dave, great to see you. Thanks for unlurking and with a bang, too. My dad has been known to remark that when he dies we should just bag him up and toss him out with the garbage. Mom’s plan is a little more ceremonial. She would like us to cremate her and put the ashes into a big snow globe with ancient Pompei in the foreground and Mount Vesuvius in the background, so that when it’s shaken she can rain destruction down on the city.

    I had a notion it would be practical and meaningful to have myself rendered down into fats and ashes that would be used to make Carl memorial candles and soaps for all my family and friends. The smoke dissipating and the suds swirling down the drain would be a touching reminder to my loved ones of the way of all flesh.

    I really like the Hume/Burke contrast, just as I really like both Hume and Burke. I find Hume the better to think with, and Burke the better to live with.

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