Monday, March 27, 2017

Moment o'Mori

It's been a weird week.

I read/listened to Lincoln in the Bardo, the trippy new novel by George Saunders. Well acclaimed by, well, everyone, it tells the story of one night in the very real Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown where Abraham Lincoln's 11-year-old son Willie was temporarily interred following his death in 1862. Legend has it that Lincoln visited on several occasions and unlocked the crypt to hold his son again. Saunders' book takes up that tale from the perspective of the ghosts who haunt the place, confined by their own unresolved concerns to the Bardo, a Tibetan "intermediate state" of the dead. In some ways, the novel is kind of Spoon River Anthology meets Mad Magazine, But I found it ultimately to be a very moving meditation on life, and yes, of course, death.

(Oh? And did I mention? The audiobook has a cast of 120, with Saunders himself, David Sedaris, and Nick Offerman as the main ghosts, but also Susan Sarandon, Julianne Moore, Megan Mullally, Bradley Whitmore, Ben Stiller, and Don Cheadle to name a very few.)

Fresh off of that cheerful literary experience, we watched the movie Collateral Beauty where Will Smith portrays a dad not coping well at all with the loss of his young daughter. In that one, Helen Mirren, Kiera Knightly, and Jacob Latimore play Death, Love, and Time, respectively. With nice performances by Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Pena, and the amazing Naomi Harris that keep the schmaltz level low, this film exceeded my expectations and pushed me to mull [again?!] about life, and of course, death.

(The other movie we saw this weekend? Logan! Spoiler alert: The X-men are finished and Dr. X PLUS the 'immortal' Wolverine both die! Fans of the series-- you see the connection, right?)

And then today, in a lesson I have taught many times, where I give my students the chance to consider how, among the many Arlingtons there may be in the nation, our Arlington is special, one child raised his hand and said, "It's the only one where the dead outnumber the living!"

I had never thought of our most famous landmark in quite that respect, but I checked his calculation, and it's true: Arlington Cemetery has over 400,000 burials to our 207,000 citizens.

That is special, indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Hahahahahaha! That is awesome. I haven't seen any of the movies or read the book - but your description, and the title Memento Mori, totally intrigue!