Anonymous graves and the meaningless of life

12 Dec
2009
Typical anonymous ash-scattering common grave in Switzerland
Anonymous ash-scattering grave in Switzerland

Browsing through landscape architecture magazines in search of promising architects and architectural ideas for perpetual cemeteries in the 21st century, I at least found exactly what Perpetua’s Garden must never become!

In Germany and Switzerland, recent demand has led to the creation of various forms of Gemeinschaftsgraebe, that is, common areas, usually plain flat lawns, where ashes are scattered or buried with no individual grave markers.  At best, the names of the individuals whose remains lie there are inscribed on common plaques or pillars at the edges of these featureless lawns, along with the other unrelated people whose remains lie equally randomly there.

Often the scattering is completely anonymous, so that no-one except the cemetery register and the surviving families know who is buried there.  In one example, urns were deliberately buried randomly under the lawn, so that survivors would not know even more or less where on the open expanse of lawn their loved ones lay.

I cannot deny that I find this personally abhorrent. It is an unsurpassable symbol of the heights that nihilism can reach, that there is no higher meaning to life beyond a one-time physical existence. No,  that there cannot even be a hope of a higher meaning, be it only the memory of others. Therefore we should make an active effort to erase all memory of a life lived, loved and suffered through. No individual physical marker, no name or image or symbol to stir the memory of future generations. No, these individuals are dead and gone in the most absolute way possible.

To counter a possible objection…. Hindus also scatter their ashes and leave no sign of their existence once their physical existence is over. But they actively believe in reincarnation, that is, an aspiration to something beyond this physical temporal life. Those buried in these anonymous graves on the other hand actively believe in the meaningless of anything beyond this once-only purely physical existence. There’s is an attitude of hopelessness, the Hindu’s is full of hope and belief. There is no comparison to be made between the two.

For the record, the anonymity and hopelessness illustrated by these Gemeinschaftsgraebe is the perfect antithesis  to what Perpetua’s Garden will be.

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