Riverside Shrine

Since moving to our new riverside neighborhood, I’ve been in the habit of leaving small memorial tokens – leaves, pieces of bark, twigs, etc. – on this tree stump along the river pathway. Very occasionally, there’s been evidence that others are likewise leaving items on the stump, though their purpose is unknown to me. This … Read moreRiverside Shrine

“My Dead Mother, the Tree That Never Was: The Psychology of ‘Green Burial’ Practices”

Jesse Bering writes for the Scientific American on the psychology of green burial practices, especially regarding the psychological mechanism of essentialism: I’ll go out on a limb here and say that even if one doesn’t believe in some ethereal or religious version of the afterlife, it’s rather difficult to escape the cognitive illusion that the … Read more“My Dead Mother, the Tree That Never Was: The Psychology of ‘Green Burial’ Practices”

“Mourning and Remembrance Without an Afterlife Safety Net”

Columnist Lincoln Andrews writes for OnlySky on the secular memorial rituals he performs for his son, Josh: As a secularist, I don’t have the faux comfort of a heavenly reunion to fall back upon. As a realist, I accept that everybody, save the very famous, is forgotten within two generations. (Got a deep reservoir of … Read more“Mourning and Remembrance Without an Afterlife Safety Net”

“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”

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)