On “Giving Back”

The older you get, the more you receive impassioned pleas to include various organizations in your will. These pitches invariably appeal to you to “give back” something that you probably never got from them in the first place.

I have just scanned several such items of the “Begging” component of the three B’s (Begging, Bills, and Bullshit) that constitute a major portion of the junk mail that I have to pay Waste Management to haul off. With the spirit of giving back still fresh in my mind, I happened to view a television documentary about a people high in the Himalayas who “give back” to the world in the ultimate way.

The “Sky Burial” funerary ritual of this Tibetan and Mongolian sect is based on Vajrayana Buddhism and a belief in the transfiguration of the spirit and giving back to the earth. The bodies of their dead are chopped up by specialists (equivalent to our undertakers and autopsy performers, I assume) and fed to the vultures. The rite is performed at two adjacent sites, one for men, and one for women as the avian main course. After the vultures complete their work, the bones are crushed and mixed with a form of gruel and pelletized, the dining table is then completely cleaned off by the crows and jays. This is probably to eliminate the possibility of stray dogs dragging a tibia, clavicle, or skull into their masters’ huts.

No doubt, the surviving families take comfort in knowing that their beloved departed one’s final resting place is as buzzard poop deposited on crags and roosts high in the mountains as close to heaven as you can get on earth.

Some scholars speculate that the rite is not religious, but evolved over centuries as necessary due to the thin and rocky soil making interment in a normal manner hard work.

While devouring some lovely Lake Pontchartrain crabs recently, it occurred to me that here is an opportunity for me too to give back in a meaningful way. In consideration of the thousands of crabs consumed over a long lifetime, rather than cremate my remains, it would be a noble gesture to feed my mortal remains to the crab population of the lake.

This could be either of two ways. The first, The Ker Plunk approach would be to weigh the body down with concrete blocks and drop it from the stern of a boat at a location destined to become a genuine “man-made” fishing reef. Thus, after the crabs finish dining, the skeletal remains and cement blocks would become a “manmade” reef for juvenile speckled trout to find refuge from larger marine predators by hiding in the rib cage.

The second approach would involve chopping my remains into small enough pieces to fit into crab traps. This has the advantage of possibly selling them as bait for crab fisherman or bartering with them for the main course to be featured at a crab boil at a reception in honor of the deceased, me. A disadvantage to this approach is that some of the guests at such a reception may be squeamish and feel cannibalistic, since the crabs would likely contain some molecules of the not so dearly departed. The Ker Plunk approach appears to be preferred since it reduces this possibility by increasing the odds in favor of eliminating the middle man.

Enjoy the party.

Bob Viosca

Comments 1

  • I might stay away from seafood for a time after you’ve gone…. I’ll just keep my fond memories of your crawfish boils where you were very present and entertaining but not the main course!

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