Thursday, November 30, 2006
It's hard not to be gripped by the American Way of Death - the embalmed and exposed cadavers, the vast 'memorial parks', the baroque euphemisms, the whole Loved One palaver. And there is something consoling about the fact that this culture has spread to the internet in the form of online memorial web sites. Here is an example, complete with music. Unlike most Brits - including, of course, Evelyn Waugh and Jessica Mitford - I don't sneer at all this as evidence of Yank vulgarity and commercialism. In fact, I think the American attachment to elaborate rites is preferable to our detachment. A very great book indeed - Philippe Aries' The Hour of Our Death - explains why far better than I can. But, in a nutshell, secular society, deprived of the rites of death, resorts to the lonely technological death, free of all consolation. The Americans have their rites, we have our tongue-tied, embarrassed friends and relatives, waiting in quiet desperation for the earliest decent moment to leave. Anyway, while I am on the subject, it seems death is a problem for bloggers and other online hoodlums. They take their passwords to their grave. Their virtual identities, their work, their lives are locked in the immaterial vault of the web. Like ghosts, in fact, or souls in limbo. We need a web Dante to visit them. Oh and Harvard says bacon sandwiches can kill you. Have a good one and, hey, let's be careful out there.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:22 am