Friday, January 1, 2010

Starting something New about something Old

This first day of a New Year brings my attempt to start a blog about endings ... death.

"Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die".

In this blog you will find articles about various items in my thanatos/taphophillic collection: books, post mortem portraits, artifacts, and oddities I find elsewhere that are worthy of your attention. I will highlight items from my own collection(s) with the idea that the very examination of symbols of our mortality is enough to prepare us for the end. Why do we collect? What of ourselves do we leave for others to collect and therefore remember?

We begin with a book that says it all.

The Philippe Ariès book, The Hour of Our Death is one of the definitive texts on the subject, written in 1977. (This cover is of the 1981 Oxford University Press edition) Here Ariès traces the human understanding of death within culture from the earliest Christian times to the modern day. All aspects of how we treat the dead, the trappings and symbols of death, the afterlife, and our tangle of beliefs in the mysteries of the process of ceasing to be are researched and discussed here with a wealth of authority and skill.

For anyone wishing to pursue thorough research of the concept of physical death and its place in our culture, this is the book from which to start the journey. Others will be suggested in later blog entries. Please stay tuned.

Another aspect of this blog is to periodically send you on a journey to a website that opens more doors to the subject of death and remembrance, the odd and macabre, collecting and archiving, and how we might leave a trace of ourselves in the world we will someday leave behind.

Step One: Have a safe and Happy New Year.

and Step Two: For an introduction, be sure to visit: Thanatorama.

In this French site (with English subtitles) an inter-active audio-visual presentation will guide you through the immediate "afterlife" where you are the recently deceased. It is a fascinating journey through the cultural constructs of the funeral: embalming or cremation, and rites of burial as practiced in France today. Extremely well done. BUT be forewarned. There are images of actual corpses here...nothing gross or disrespectful, but very informative and worth the journey.

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