Death has had interesting press today. Not that it is not featured everyday, but there were a couple of items on the BBC news site that caught my attention. One was German soldiers in Iraq who have had their photos taken kissing skulls and posing beside piles of skulls. Apparently there is a battlefield 2km from their base, so that makes it OK. More than that, is the lack of brain cells that would posess someone to have their photo taken, in Iraq, with skulls. They must be using some powerful toxins out there. The notion that you would want to kiss a rotting skull is another point that appears to have been glossed over, but I suppose if you need people to kill other people because you disagree with that they do, (for the west they are soldiers, but the muslims are terrorists), I suppose getting picky about who they are comes pretty low on the list of issues.
On the other hand, the Parsis, a religious sect based mainly in Mumbai, (who are wonderful embroiderers amongst other things), have issues with their chosen after-death solutions.
Parsies see Death as the temporary triumph of Evil over Good, and once dead, they leave the body in the Towers of Silence. Huge stone buildings, where the vultures pick the bodies clean. Vultures have gone into serious decline. Their numbers have plummeted. Apparently due to road kill, aeroplane kill and pestcides in their diet, so the bodies are not being eaten. An elderly female Parsi heard about this and got a pall bearer to take photos of the piles of rotting, half eaten bodies in the Towers. Despite solar panels to heat the bodies and aid decomposition they have to come up with a new method of disposing of the bodies that does not compromise their beleifs about the elements.
I was quite struck by these two stories in such sharp contrast with how we in the west deal with Death. The sterility and fear that hugs it all the time. And then the Hollywood preoccupation with violent killing and death that has no consequences, endelss images of which have made us somewhat blase about the daily stabbings, shootings and murders that go on around us. It is all so polarised, and I cannot imagine that things will change.