Thursday, August 22, 2019
Meditating on Death in Paris
On a recent trip to Paris, I had the pleasure of visiting the Catacombs, where six millions Parisians are buried.
I thought it would be ghoulish, but it was rather reverential. The skeletons were placed there when the graveyards ran full. Priests blessed the bones and they were laid to rest. The bones were placed ever so delicately on top of each other, creating a restful pile.
Walking through the catacombs felt like the Buddhist tradition of sitting in charnel houses. Aspiring monastics sat with dead bodies to meditate on impermanence. They watched bodies disintegrate as a spiritual practice.
The whole experience felt otherworldly. I couldn't help but wonder who they were and how they may feel about their bones. Then again, would they even care?
I don't think meditating on death is maudlin. On the contrary, it's life affirming. We shouldn't be taking our lives for granted. We're all moving to being a pile of bones. Before becoming lifeless skeletons, are we leading the best lives possible?