‘Being the Smoke’: One Man’s Choice to Be Cremated Under the Open Sky

Ruth Graham writes for the New York Times on Dr. Philip Incao’s cremation at Crestone, Colorado, currently home to the only outdoor funeral pyre in the USA: Dr. Incao’s ceremony began with family members and friends laying juniper branches and flowers on the body. Incense burned in a terra cotta pot tended by a volunteer, … Read more‘Being the Smoke’: One Man’s Choice to Be Cremated Under the Open Sky

“Burying the Dead Monuments”

Professor Elizabeth Scarborough muses on potential futures for discarded monumental statues: Monuments are objects designed and created intentionally to remind us of something worth honoring. According to J.B. Jackson, “A traditional monument, as the origin of the word indicates, is an object which is supposed to remind us of something important. That is to say, … Read more“Burying the Dead Monuments”

“Inventing Farewell: Poetry as a Mortuary Practice”

I taught a course last semester, at Brandeis University, on elegy and contemporary death practices. This humanities practicum was entitled “Inventing Farewell” because every modern generation must re-invent its relations to the dead. It was a pedagogical experiment. The students in this workshop read contemporary poems to discover what they have to offer a modern … Read more“Inventing Farewell: Poetry as a Mortuary Practice”

“Befriending Death, Embracing Life”

Hospice worker James Jarrett writes for the Spiritual Naturalist Society: For Spiritual Naturalists, spirit is not something apart from Nature. In fact, the origins of the English word “spirit” have to do with breath. We see this connection in the word “inspiration”. When a new baby is born their first task is in fact a … Read more“Befriending Death, Embracing Life”

Tributes to Robin Williams at the “Good Will Hunting” Bench (Boston Public Garden, 2014)

In the days and weeks following the tragic death of actor/comedian Robin Williams in August of 2014, many Boston-area fans paid tribute at the site of one of Williams’ most iconic scenes. His Academy Award-winning performance as therapist Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting (1997) included a moving scene in which Maguire quietly confronts his … Read moreTributes to Robin Williams at the “Good Will Hunting” Bench (Boston Public Garden, 2014)

“The Shrines on Boulevard Voltaire”

In 2015 Ian McEwan wrote for the New Yorker on vernacular shrines commemorating the victims of the terrorist mass shooting at the Bataclan Theatre: In the land of Voltaire, on the boulevard named for him, a general absence of religious belief hardly detracts from the seriousness of the shrines; why bend to a god that … Read more“The Shrines on Boulevard Voltaire”

“Oscar Wilde’s ‘Confraternity of the Faithless'”

My new article for OnlySky Media, Oscar Wilde’s ‘Confraternity of the Faithless’ discusses Wilde’s notion of “agnostic ritual” and its modern interpretation via the Oscar Wilde Temple art installation/secular ritual space: Inspired by the Aesthetic Movement of the late 19th century and subverting traditional Catholic iconography, the Temple evokes a kind of alternative reality in … Read more“Oscar Wilde’s ‘Confraternity of the Faithless’”

The Toxteth Day of the Dead

One of several distinctly English responses to the Dia de Muertos ethos – see also the Glastonbury Festival of Death and Dying – the Toxteth Day of the Dead is an initiative by musicians/culture jammers KLF (a.k.a. the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, the JAMs and the Timelords, among others). Here’s a BBC audio documentary … Read moreThe Toxteth Day of the Dead