“When we’re dead, we’re even.”
This is something my father always manages to mention every time we are at a graveyard. At least two times a year, especially on Memorial Day, my parents and I travel to the local graveyard (w/ flowers) in order to honor those who are dead, given that none of our own family is buried here (they’re all overseas or out-of-state). Such a sign of respect comes from the appreciation of the fact that we are alive and together, something not everyone can attest to.
But I don’t want to have this post focus on this family “tradition.” Rather, it is the saying that I want to consider.
I find it odd how appropriate and wise it is. If you go to a graveyard, you’ll realize that everyone, indeed, is even — all are dead, in the ground, with plaques indicating their lifespan. Yet another similarity is the lack of any attention paid to them, which is a shame. Once someone is dead, it doesn’t mean that they should be ignored. Even if you’re of the opinion that death brings about the removal of the “person,” certainly that doesn’t give you the right to just ignore them. Wasn’t it Aristotle who mentioned that the death of someone isn’t really their demise (that is was other’s memories of them that kept them alive)? Regardless of which, it still seems correct.
But I digress . . . . . . . let me get back on track. As mentioned, everyone really appears to be even when dead. But what about us, the living? Aren’t we “even” or “equal” too? The difference in DNA between one person and another is truly minuscule — less than 1%, if not less than 1/10 of 1% — so we can’t be “different” by constitution as much as people might want to claim. We all were born in similar fashions, have desires, go to school . . . . . . . . and on and on and on. Why couldn’t that warrant us being equal?
I find it so odd that we celebrate our differences in instances where we should be proud of our similarities — whether it be as countrymen (and women) or as simple human beings. And, indeed, as I seem to be thinking, we are far more congruent to one another than we seem to want to claim. Even as philosophers, with all of our disagreements, why can’t we take a few moments to reflect on what we agree on? All these debates about minds, God, physicalism, ethics . . . . . . . aren’t they are in some sense distracting us from our equality?
I don’t know, frankly, what to make of all this save for the fact that we should probably start to pay more attention to our “even-ness” in the face of all the hubbub in the world. And perhaps — just perhaps — we might take the time, at a cemetery, to reflect and honor those who have come before us, who were also our equals, and to try to place that in the pragmatic context of our everyday lives.
Try it. I think you’ll be surprised at how much reflection you can get out of a place that many people usually avoid. And how similar we all really are, both living and dead.
George (“The Meager Weakling”)
P.S. – I’d be interesting in seeing what you guys have to say about this, so feel free to join in.