Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Pope's Funeral

Although critics may decry the wall-to-wall coverage of the Pope's funeral, for sheer pomp and circumstance it can't be beat. To paraphrase what Che Guevara sang in Evita,

Oh what a circus
Oh what a show
When they're bringing your curtain down
Demand to be buried like John Paul II

And I don't really mean that in a cynical way. This is rivetting TV, because of what it says about what people think about death. I've mentioned on this forum and elsewhere that it's still true that in the West we tend to suppress death. This is good medicine for that.

To what degree, I keep saying to myself (I don't remember the coverage before the 1980's on this)is this a "traditional" service and how much of this was made up for JPII?

There is certainly a great deal of praying for the man. I had critical words about him, but I have to say, my bar for sainthood is rather low. If I ran that church (and I don't of course), I'd saint him even though, in my opinion he does bear command responsibility for the pedophilia scandals, but I'd note both items in big neon signs. So if it were me running his funeral, I'd cut down on the "Lord have mercy" stuff. Look, God, whatdaya want? You sent Jesus- or at least JPII believed so. If you don't let folks like that into Christian heaven, you aren't much of a loving deity are you? I had the same feeling for my dead relatives when I was a Christian...I just can't understand this begging god stuff when there's a manifestly devout dead person as the center of attention. I personally see very little benefit in it. Of course, others' mileage might vary.

Three other observations:

1. When I was a kid, I remember the prayer "Eternal rest grant unto him and may perpetual light shine upon him" (or with some other object of the preposition.) Now, for the first time last night it hit me: How could I actually get any rest- let alone eternal rest- if light was perpetually shining on me? Just asking. But I suspect the real answer is, "It doesn't matter, it's chanted in Latin and sounds cool." I can deal with that, I guess. We Buddhists like our chanting too- heck we even mangle the languages as we go from Pali to Chinese to Japanese to English.

2. As a real reminder of death, check out the shoes of the fisherman. No, I don't mean the movie, I mean JPII's shoes. The assymmetry of his feet say more about the impermanence of life than all the pomp and ritual you'll see this week.

3. Those pillows his head was resting on- I had the same ones, I swear, on a sofa I used to own. It's really amazing where things turn up.

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