Photos of the Day: Remains to Be Seen

Photos of the Day: Remains to Be Seen

A somewhat benign perspective about the dead, or being in the presence of the dead and about cemeteries, is that ” great cemetery feels like a world unto itself: a kind of theme park of the departed, where everyday life is left behind at the gate. A certain mood overtakes you when you visit. You are simultaneously overwhelmed by the sense of being surrounded by the dead, and seduced by the beauty of the place. This creates a special flavor of melancholy, the inevitable feels present and one’s own life all the more fleeting, as in Memento Mori, Remember that you are mortal.”

There is, on the other hand, a more malevolent perspective about the dead and cemeteries. This viewpoint is based upon more internal motivations, which associate death with or as the outcome of our aggressive drives. Here, ideas about the departed are permeated with a fear of the presence or of the return of the dead person’s ghost. It is a fear that the dead will return to inflict retaliation for past grievances that it holds against the living.

It is exactly this fear that leads to a great number of ceremonies aimed at keeping the ghost at a distance or driving it away. Specifically, in cemeteries the headstone is placed upon the grave to weigh it down as an attempt to prevent or block the spirit of the departed one from rising up.

Remains to Be Seen

A Short Film by: Jeff Scher

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No Time: Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

No Time: Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

No Time

In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side under a smooth slab of granite.

Then, all day long, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down.

Billy Collins

U. S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003

Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

During an interview focusing upon our perceptions of the dead, Collins touched upon his portrayal of death in the poem No Time:

“The underlying theme of Western poetry is mortality. The theme of carpe diem asks us to seize the day because we have only a limited number of them. To see life through the lens of death is to approach the condition of gratitude for the gift, or simply the fact, of our existence. And as Wallace Stevens said, Death is the mother of beauty. Only the perishable can be beautiful, which is why we are unmoved by artificial flowers….

We visit graves because they give the illusion that the person is somewhere, in some place. But like a mandala, the gravestoneitself is a focusing device. The treatment of the dead as if they were still alive is ancient. The Egyptians would entomb you with your favorite food, flowers, even pets (poor dears). In that way, maybe we are all in some form of hopeful denial.”

No Time: Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

Animation by: Jeff Scher

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