The traditional model for the mourning of the dead has been set in concrete for millennia. The Anglican model was described 250 years ago in Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Here he describes death in a small village community where the burial ground is at the centre of village life and where every death has meaning for the community. Ceremonies honed by time helped family members and the community to acknowledge the death and start the process of recovery.
Fast forward a quarter of a millennium and the shape of society is so different. Our communities are huge and contain unknowable amounts of people whose lives and deaths are inconsequential to us. We couldn't give a tinker's cuss about the thousands of Australians who die weekly. As the life expectancy has rocked up into the eighties, most of us who die in the affluent west will do so at a great age in care, invisible to the outside world. We have become less practised at mourning (which is not bad thing). This deskilling of ritual and mourning has been exacerbated as faith has moved from the centre of Australian life. So death is now less frequent and less mourned, for the death of the aged inspires far less grief than the death of the young and the old rituals are now forgotten and seldom rehearsed.
There is a ritualistic vacuum that calls forth both uncertainty and innovation.
Read it all.
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