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We must return from whence we came. Matter cannot be destroyed. So physics tells us. There is only a finite amount of matter to go around. At this very moment, dear living person, some of it belongs to you. The atoms that make up your body— your liver, your hair, your brain, your fingernails— are all on loan from the universe.
While you are alive, the atoms have come together to make you. As soon as you are dead, they begin their dispersal back into the wide world. That is what decomposition is. It is the science of sending back everything the universe loaned you.
The universe will reuse it as it sees fit. Perhaps to help make an eggplant or an aardvark or perhaps even to make other, new humans.
Human beings have the somewhat unique misfortune of living almost our whole lives knowing that we are going to die. No matter what we create, or how much money we make, or how many children we have— we will die.
Our own decomposition is a horrifying thought because it means that we have to give up the control we worked so hard for. Our bodies are not flawless immortal temples. Like it or not, they are akin to the deer on the side of the road or a cut of expired beef.
We are simply an organism on this earth like all others, made to rot, to decay. If we work towards accepting, not denying, our decomposition, we can begin to see it as something beautiful. More than beautiful— ecstatic.
The ecstasy of decay begins as disgust and revulsion, the way we feel when we imagine ourself as a corpse. But disgust and revulsion turn to pleasure as we use that feeling to realize we are alive now. We will someday be dead, but today blood pumps through our veins and breath fills our lungs and we walk the earth.
Daily meditations on decomposition are nothing new. The Buddhists meditate on the ten stages of human decomposition of the corpse. The masters would even visit charnel houses to interact with the decomposing bodies themselves.
Medieval Christians had paintings of decomposing, dancing corpses lining the walls of their churches to warn the living their time would come. Natural burial means your body is placed directly into the ground with only a shroud or biodegradable casket.
It is how humans have been buried for thousands of years. The simple equation of body, dirt, bugs, bacteria, and decomposition. A few short weeks and you are nothing but skeleton, all other parts of you having gone their separate ways. Then we take those expensive caskets and bury them with a concrete or metal burial vault surrounding them, another layer of protection.
When making choices about what to do with your body, be creative.The table below presents an abbreviated geologic time scale, with times and events germane to this essay. Please refer to a complete geologic time scale when this one seems inadequate.
'The Whisperer in Darkness' by H. P. Lovecraft. P.S. I am making some extra prints of certain photographs taken by me, which I think will help to prove a number of the points I have touched on. Paul Kingsnorth is a writer and poet living in Cumbria, England.
He is the author of several books, including the poetry collection Kidland and his fictional debut The Wake, winner of the Gordon Burn Prize and the Bookseller Book of the Year Award.
Kingsnorth is the cofounder and director of the Dark Mountain Project, a network of writers, artists, and thinkers. A list of all the characters in Heart of Darkness.
The Heart of Darkness characters covered include: Marlow, Kurtz, General manager, Brickmaker, Chief accountant, Pilgrims, Cannibals, Russian trader, Helmsman, Kurtz’s African mistress, Kurtz’s Intended, Aunt, The men aboard the Nellie, Fresleven.
The harbingers of the future of all human good and evil have their hearth and home in the seeking eyes of every child. The most powerful manifestations of human good and evil, which impact all of humanity and even affect the universe beyond our earth, have their small beginnings in .
A Socratic perspective on the relationship between ignorance, human evil, and the examined life.