So here I am, enjoying my sixth rendition of All Saint’s Day here in The Philippines. The last five years found me travelling to the family grave plot to keep those who have passed company on this day, the day where spirits can purportedly walk in daylight. This year found me home, alone with my wife and daughter enjoying the festivities at hand without me while I get over the last leg of a nasty case of conjunctivitis.
Filipinos are a very spiritual and quite often superstitious people, which is one of the many traits that they enjoy with almost every other living (or dead) inhabitant of planet Earth except in most situations the US. While the idea of a large, united family unit was lost to many Americans around the time that LSD was mass produced, the atomic family is still very much a part of the culture of the rest of the world. I can’t help but digress from work and study today in order to ponder the world’s tenacity to cherish and sometimes worship those who have passed.
Death, when you look at it closely, is a very complex process. In fact, I can’t conceive a reasonable exponent to illustrate the sheer number of ways that someone could die, I suspect that the possibilities are infinite. No matter the catalyst (a piano falling on you, a train wreck that severs you in half, a blast of some kind , etc) our bodies always shut down in some kind of order. If one thing stops working, another soon follows and an orderly chain of predictable events ensues. It is therefore natural and convenient for us to stop contemplating just how someone died, beyond taking measures to avert a similar tragedy in the future. Given this, we also want to know why someone died (from some sort of verdict handed down by our ethereal court of choice) and what mystical force decided that it was time to initiate such a motion. This has birthed wisdom since before Christ, yet we still believe in mystical forces.
Today, thousands upon thousands of people today gather around headstones and wonder ‘why’ someone died, beyond the chain of events that put them in the ground. Or, perhaps, they just gather.
I look at history like a movie, it can be watched again and again and you can even change the actors. I look at death the same way, the finale is the same but only the plot changes. I don’t buy into fate and that kind of stuff, I could live a very long life in some kind of bunker with a completely sterile atmosphere and live a very, very long time. I don’t want to do that, it would be quite boring and I would, in effect rob my kid of talking about my life to her children’s children.
This brought me to contemplate a very simple question, what is the measure of a life well lived? The answer became obvious, anything that entertains generations that follow and draws the ones you produced and/or raised to your grave on All Saint’s Day
As to why you died? The coroner will decide that. However, if you get lucky, I mean REALLY lucky, you would have managed to live a life worth remembering. Then, of course, your great great great grandchildren will pick out parts of your life into anecdotes that are designed to honor the life you lived while entertaining the crowd, while a select few will tell them about the life you tried to live.
Sadly, here in The Philippines .. looking out my window and at the news, I see people sitting at graves because they feel compelled to do so because of tradition, but their head is completely consumed by a PSP and not the dozen people around them. Where did conversation, and the real meaning of this holiday go? I guess going through the motions is better than nothing, but that leaves a grave (no pun intended) outlook for me 100 years from now
My wishes? Bury me in a secret place that I designate. If I manage to gain and keep the respect of my children into their adulthood, they should have a grand time finding me through clues that I left It may take 20 years to find me, but that is 20 years that my descendants get together and talk. Otherwise, it is likely that I was very much alone, and should be forgotten as such as I influenced nothing. By the time they find me, someone else should be hidden in the earth.
Kids, leave the PSP’s, i-bads, pods, players, netbooks, laptops, etc at home. This day is to remember where you came from, however boring it might seem for now. If you are bored, the adults amongst you have done a very poor job.
At some point in your life, roots will matter, which is the heart of this holiday.