Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Modern Ritual of Scattering Ashes: BBC4's "Feed me to the Wind

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BBC4 - Feed me to the Wind

The modern ritual of ash scattering is the subject matter of Amanda Mitchison's BBC4 radio documentary "Feed me to the wind", which takes a candid look at the bathos-filled ritual of ash scattering. It is interesting to note that in the UK most people are cremated rather than buried - I kinda thought there would be more space there, but seems the space for the living, let alone the dead, is limited everywhere.

Some useful facts one might take away from this program are (1) that cremated human remains are nutrientless and almost toxic for plants (so they should be mixed in and not dumped in great concentrations over a beloved shrub or plant) and (2) cat litter is a pretty close analogue to the texture of human remains.

The story of the family that was trying to scatter their mother's ashes when the wind blew back and all of it got on their unfortunate pooch is utterly priceless.

At the end of the documentary, the search for the "definitive" ritual is brought to a surprisingly sensible conclusion - she asks people to describe how they want to be interred when they have passed on and reminds everyone that it should be the individual's prerogative to decide on their own farewell rituals. The stories, methods and rituals are numerous and all quite different; some more practical than others, but still, all the responses were lovely in their own ways.

I guess this documentary fascinates me because it is intrinsically about dust; about the physical quality of our existence, that persists even when it has been reduced and whittled down into dust. There was an Hindu guru who spoke of water as a great medium for scattering ashes because water flows and one finds it easier to let go without a singular physical spot upon which one might centralize one's grief... So here lies one whose name was writ in water...

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