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Going underground

September 27, 2013

It seems the dead are taking up too much space! In our cities burial plots are a premium, and is some places. Relatives are forced to make the decision to bury their loved ones in cemeteries miles away from their homes and communities.

Whilst 70% of Britain’s prefer to cremate their dead, there is still a vast number of burials. This number, due to immigration and religious belief may increase. Muslims for example belief that we are from the earth and we must therefore return to the earth, therefore burial is the preferred manner of disposal/storage of the dead of their community.

/so, what is being done? Well, in London, the somewhat alarming and brave decision has been made to reuse old graves. The graves are excavated and any remains are placed in a container and buried below the existing grave, thus giving a recent corpse room to rest above. Whilst somewhat ghoulish, this approach seems quite sensible, unless we change the law and make cremation compulsory, we must find a way to deal with the conflict between the dead and the land.

However, it does throw-up some interesting questions. Some people make a huge effort to be interred with their loved ones, they feel it is important for their earthly remains to be close to the person they loved in life – death echoing a lifetime of devotion. If we are to bury people above strangers, does it not devalue this need for closeness? Or, are the bones already in the ground too old to care? If so, at what point did they stop caring?

Surely the philosophical question is concerned with the nature of remains and how much, and for how long, do the individual’s essence or spirit cling to what remains.

There is a massive conflict in ideology here. Some people believe the remains to be sacred, never to be disturbed, and others believe that the remains can be destroyed by fire because the soul of the individual transcends the flesh.

The fact is we’ll never know who is right. But what is certain is that we need a far more pragmatic approach to death before houses, shopping centres and car parks are dug up in order that Great Aunt Veronica may lay comfortably in her coffin.

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