Notes from Viking: funerals and Abrahamic religions

In Vikings, a pre-Christian Scandinavian society is shown as burning the dead in a funeral. This is similar to how the Hindus and quite a few other cultures did it.

They even hint at how burying the dead was a sign of insulting them.

Most modern Abrahamic cultures—Christian, Muslim and Jewish—bury their dead. I’m guessing the modern, Christian Scandinavians bury their dead too. Made me wonder.

The Abrahamic religions started in the middle east in arid, often desert, land. Wood from trees must have been at a premium, so funeral by burning would’ve been expensive. Maybe that’s why they chose burial over burning.

Later, these religions spread to other areas with no paucity of wood, but the religious norm—burying not burning—went along. Even areas where there was plenty of wood, but relatively little accessible land ended up burying the dead instead of burning them.

Coming back to the Vikings, burning made sense for them. Wood was, and is, relatively plentiful in Scandinavia. Moreover, the ground would be frozen hard through long winters, making digging for a burial hard. But once Christianity came in, the new socioreligious norms quickly overturned old wisdom.

It may be the same in parts of southeast Asia where the pre-existing religions—Hinduism, Buddhism and native religions—would’ve burned their dead. Yet, after the adoption of Islam, most societies turned to burial. Despite plenty of thick tropical forests for wood, and expense of clearing land (or lack of it on islands) for burial.

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Letting go..

There’s no trying new things without letting some things go.

There’s no new life, if there’s no death.

There’s no bandwidth to explore new books, genres, TV shows, people, if we’re not ready to abandon the ones that turn stale, or we grow out of, or finished.

Bandwidth is finite. Cognitivo capacity is finite. Time is finite.

A core constraint on growing, changing, exploring, is our reluctance to let go of some of what we have and are.

Create space by letting some mediocre stuff go. Then fill it with something new, untested, unusual. If it fits, great. If it doesn’t, chuck it and try again. Something new, untested, unusual.

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain - on life vs lazy
Anthony Bourdain – on life vs lazy

Some people leave a mark.

I have never met Anthony. I have never seen any of his TV shows. I have just read one of his books – Kitchen Confidential. I gave it 3 stars.

And yet, I’ve found him hard to forget since I finished the book. He has a way, with words, and a personality that makes him hard to forget. He should not be likeable, it’s hard to sympathise for him, he’s often an asshole, and very much proud of it. Yet, he’s also appealing, and often, surprisingly, likeable.

I guess his charm comes from embodying the hard bits of our lives – the grime, the slime, the hard knocks, the sweat, the wrong calls – and taking them on the chin (or dishing them out), casually. Like most of us do, yet refuse to accept that we do.

There were parts of his book where I wanted to punch him in the face, and ask him to shut his hole, and write something useful. There were other parts that I didn’t want to end. And then there were a few that I bookmarked for frequent return.

He seems my kind of screwed up guy. A guy I would love to know. A guy I would even love to hate to work with.

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Death, by decade.

Dying in your thirties or forties?
“Tragic.”

Fifties?
“Such a shame.”

Sixties?
“Too soon.”

Seventies?
“A good run.”

Eighties?
“A life well lived.”

Nineties?
“Hell of a ride.”

Axe and Wags indulging in a bit of smart, cynical, light-hearted banter, probably mixed with a hint of gallows humour, while standing at Wags’ future burial spot – Billions S03E04

Mama

My grandmom. She passed away today.

She had 93 long years. She lived a happy childhood – second of 5 sisters and 1 brother in a happy household. She married happily, to a handsome man, in to a rich family. She lost almost everything in partition, turned into a nearly penniless refugee far away from home, her families split across states. She brought 5 children into the world, but lost her husband and the eldest to the country I live in. They needed to earn to get the rest of family up off their knees. She raised her kids, educated them, got them married, moved towns, made a new house, had grandchildren, saw them grow up, move out. She had her husband return home, to finally live with her, after 30 years. She, they, fell in love again. They lived a few happy decades, again. Then he cheated her again, dying in his sleep while she was terminally ill. She was always the stronger one. She survived, she strived, she smiled, and kept her huge family together. She’d been ill for over 8 years. She’d been first declared “about to die” 5 years ago. He’s been gone 7 years.
Her eldest left too, slipping away from her while in this cold land halfway across the world. She couldn’t see him, in death, like in much of her life. Yet, she lived on. She didn’t fight anything anymore, but she never understood giving up either.

Today, finally she left us. Long after most of her body had given up. Long after many of her senses had stopped working. Long, long after the doctors thought she would go. Long after we went from dreading her death, to celebrating her life.

They’ll be happy together, up there. Sharing jokes, scheming, gossiping, hugging when no one’s watching.

Thank you, Mama! For being the strongest person I’ve known. And for being that, living like that, with a beautiful smile and an unparalleled spirit. For saving me from dad’s beatings, and papaji’s scoldings. For spoiling me with your pinnis and paronthis. And for that ₹100 and mishri you quietly placed in my hand every time I left home.

Enjoy, wherever you go, Mama. And give papaji a kiss on the cheek from me.


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Morning notes…

Starting with the sad.

Pal passed away last night :'(
Smiley was old, and had done a long and loving stint making the world happy. Pal was just getting started. He was young, handsome, joyous, huge, and lovely. I’m sad. Can’t even fathom how Joanne and her family are coping.

I’m missing Pal :(
So, Chewie is getting extra hugs, treats and kisses today.

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