"We live in a world of 'I eat you and you eat me'". Susun Weed
Have you ever eaten a transcendent meal? Your body flooded with pleasure from your olfactory and taste senses sending, shivers of bliss through your flesh? Once, in Great Britain after a week of camping in cold rain and eating really tasteless / over salted food (did I mention I was in Great Britain?) I was treated to a dinner made with love and care and fine ingredients. Served on warmed plates in courses. Growing up in a Mennonite community, where simplicity had been central, this was Babette's Feast. The homemade peach ice-cream that was for desert, garnished with mint leaves, held some kind of warmed and melting pie crust.
How much energy had been in that meal? From the life of the salmon and all it fed upon, to the photosynthesis of the asparagus and herbs, the butter, the cream, the peaches, bursting with the flavor only deeply loved fruits offer...these were no tasteless imitators, a salad of baby greens, oils pressed, spices dried and shipped great distances. So much sunlight. So much rain. Then there was the energy of the hostess, who served us in a way that was so foreign to me. Plates warmed. Courses timed and thought out. What a lesson in gratitude and in appreciation. Never had so much energy gone into a meal on my behalf. There was not thanks enough in me. I had done nothing to deserve such treatment. Such extreme pleasure.
As I have eaten, so too, will I be eaten. I will give myself back to those gardens, and peach trees, and salmon runs.
When it is time for me to be food, will I be over-salted, tasteless? Will I hold myself away from the pallet of the soil with chemicals? I want the earth that has swallowed my body to feel joy and quiver with pleasure in return for I have felt such deep joy and pleasure from my life which has been granted and supported in everyway by Her. It is the very least I can do.
Perhaps everything is well in its time. And perhaps our Mother, Lord of All, held us so tenderly that we misunderstood Her singing, and Her grief. We, as toddlers on the planet, have confused our Mother's endless Love as permission to indulge all our lower whims. And we have tried to hold ourselves away from the 'eat and be eaten' truth of the world. We, in this country to the west of the world, hold our bodies away from the earth. We say to Her: "Even now, after a lifetime of eating from you, suckling from you, I will not yield the coarse parts of myself to you. I will hold even my empty shell up, and away from your embrace. I will not be your food. This is how special you have made me feel. This must be what you want" Our small human way of seeing time imagines some victory in this.
Which is, of course, quite laughable. The coffin will be crushed. The embalmed body liquefied. In time.
But for a toddler, perhaps, this is age appropriate thinking. I do not want to create guilt around conventional western funeral practice. Or around anyone else's choices. We do the best we can with what we know. However, if we are a people who long to seek maturity and wholeness, then we can perhaps stretch our thinking. We are capable, I think, of willingly offering our empty bodies up the greater cycle of life.
In "A Will for the Woods" Clark explains how thinking about giving his body back to the earth is an important part of his feeling whole and peaceful as his death approaches. The film is a beautiful song of human paradox as the central subject both seeks treatment, yearns toward Life, and also has his casket made by a friend. Clark's wife shares this beautiful realization about Green Burial: "I thought we were doing it for the Earth, but I am finding it is healing for us" (paraphrase) "It is changing me, opening me, showing me a Love and a Peace beyond all understanding". https://vimeo.com/62452617 <--- I strongly encourage the viewing of this film which follows one individual through his fears and hopes for his death.
I want to be the best meal I can be. I want to be of service and of use to the whole of Creation.
Clark chooses a simple coffin, of untreated wood in a wooded setting, his body protecting the forest he is buried in.
And then there is this, the Infinity Mushroom Suit. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-mushroom-death-suit-is-the-latest-in-postmortem-ecofriendly-fashion This is a burial shroud that has been infused with mushroom spores specifically chosen from their metabolic propensity toward environmental pollutants. This burial suit will in fact digest and neutralize the toxins accumulated in your body. As top predators in our biomes, your fat cells and mine are the deposits for all the pollutants we have introduced into the environment. We are becoming, literally, the garbage we put into the air and water. How else can it be? These mushroom suits not only decompose the body quickly but they also neutralize toxins which would otherwise leach from your body back into the system.
How can I be the best meal I can be.
By first and foremost living a life of creative medicine. By asking in life, in each moment, to the extent of our abilities, how can I be of service? Our spiritual and emotional lives are being harvested each moment while we are still alive, and these meals to the Unseen are probably much more important than the final meal our bodies offer. Our hearts and our emotions are gardens. Always the Unseen is being fed by our thoughts, creative forces and destructive forces.
"For (wo)man is a ladder placed on the earth and the top of it touches the heavens. All (her) movements and doings and words leave traces in the upper worlds". Martin Buber.
Whatever your medicine is, be that. Live that. Love your family. Help your neighbors. Look for ways to build community. Because what really makes a great meal is the warmth and Love gathered into the ingredients. The story on the plate. A good death is one that brings people together, a family, a community, a world. Let us live a Life worthy of celebration. Marinating our spirits and our flesh in Divine Love.
I dream of a culture that feeds the placenta of it's newborns and the bodies of its dead to vast tracts of woodlands. That our stories of dying become stories of renewal. Our bodies the seeds for tomorrows growth. So that we are able to approach death with curiosity and wonder. Ready to cast off our physical bodies and let our energy transform.
"Oh wow. Oh Wow. Oh! Wow!"... the last words of Steve Jobs