Perpetua’s Garden – a great Idea

Charles Cowling

The really interesting thing about logic is what it makes people do–where it takes them. It starts with a Question which begets an Idea which resolves itself into a Certainty, fortifies itself with Conviction, draws up a Strategy, then acts with Singlemindedness. This is a human thing, it’s not the way the world works, nor does it reflect the way people actually are. Muddle is the word that best characterises creation and its creatures—sometimes joyous muddle, like love; sometimes bloody muddle, like genocide.

To believe that every question has an answer is brave and optimistic. To assert the primacy of the head over the heart is the function of intelligence. So, while the animal part of us celebrates mystery and creativity, the analytical side shuns chaos, seeks answers, desires order above all things. Dammit, we need to make sense of things!

Natural burial is a great Idea—a multi-use site, in itself a holistic memorial. Individual memorials? I shall never forget Ken West uttering just one word in answer to that: “Vanity.” My feelings exactly. But when it comes to doing what I played my part in doing yesterday, removing lovingly placed and expensive flowers from a grave in a natural burial ground, wow, that takes some Conviction, let me tell you—for all that those who put them there knew perfectly well that they had agreed not to.

Thomas Friese is an ideas sort of man, and he has an Idea. He rejects the natural burialists’ rejection of individual memorials. “This,” he says, “is a short-sighted aspect of its conception, which forgets that a cemetery is not merely a place to dispose of dead bodies but to memorialize and honor human lives. A majority of society will not accept no memorialization; widespread acceptance will thus be impaired.” In response to James Leedam of Native Woodland Natural Burial Sites, he asserts: “We want a cemetery that blends into and is friendly to nature – this means that we must accept that the human cultural aspect is curbed: that the flowers get eaten [by deer, say] (or we use artificial ones) and that the stone memorial is forbidden. That flowers get eaten and must be replaced is a small concession to nature’s cause which we can easily accept; but not being allowed any kind of enduring memorial means the line has been drawn too far on the side of nature and human culture has lost its place altogether in the cemetery.

I’ve been following Thomas for a while. I like him enormously. He’s very, very bright. This doesn’t make him right, but it certainly makes him worth listening to. I swapped emails with James over Thomas’s penultimate blog post and agreed: one of the big questions in all this (if you’re going to have ‘em) is how long should a memorial last? Thomas has an answer to that, of course.

Just as he has no hesitation in declaring that the purpose of a cemetery is “To defeat death, of course!” There’s another interesting Idea. Not so interesting to Christians, for whom a funeral has always proclaimed victory over Death. But those of us who believe that death brings us face to face with the Great Perhaps would possibly hesitate to be so categorical. Thomas makes his case with great and attractive cogency.

I have long wanted to know the full extent of Thomas’s Idea—his Perpetua’s Garden initiative. He’s been keeping it under his hat presumably because to disclose it would expose him to the danger of losing it. This is the problem all inventors face. But he is now willing to share it with chosen folk who are willing to sign a non-disclosure form. If you are interested in discovering “a potential answer to the space problem, one which would allow decent and enduring memorialization and the creation (not just the conservation) of green spaces,” contact Thomas through his website.

You won’t beat me to it.


The Great Perhaps?

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