I guess George Carlin was right when he said that you can joke about anything. And, after listening to him long enough, ideas rise up, so here I go. Do not read this unless you can stomach the idea of dead bodies.
Dead bodies. That’s a fascinating subject. In most cases they are buried: away to the churchyard, down, and then sod on you. But what if you don’t want that, or are not allowed it? Say you’re an infidel in a religious land, or just a plain contrarian.
Well, you could give your body to science, or to medicine. What do they do with the parts that are left over? Are they buried? “And now we give to rest the remains of Randolph Carter, minus his heart, lungs, kidneys, spleen, bladder, genitalia and most of the big muscles on his strong, sinewy arms… May those parts of him that remain rest in peace.”
Or are the remaining remains thrown away? “Gee, Bob-Joe. Them hospital throwaways can have shiny things innem — sweet mother of all that is holey! We’ve got a leg in here!”
Or cremated? And what is it like, anyway, to work at a crematorium? “Me? Work? Oh, just in the, um, waste disposal business, I think. Details? Um, oh, I… I burn dead people. Are you satisfied? What about the kids? You want some juicy stories?”
Do crematoriums charge you by unit, or by weight? Or are you not supposed to ask? And is there a book somewhere about these things? Please tell me if there is; I am much too well-behaved to pester a professional. Besides, they might get angry and conk me over the head with a shovel. “Gee, a curious guy, you say? Never seen noffink here. Now sorry, must go back to shovelling them coals into the oven.”
And the ovens… What do they run with? Coal sounds rather medieval. Could you wish for birch logs, just for that good ol’ traditional Nordic cremation? And is there a law against having your own cremation done privately? “In this my final will, I lay this burden on my best friends Bob and Joe: that they should, when I am dead, gather a pile of wood no less than ten feet high, and on that pile lay me —”
What are the laws on handling dead people like? I should consult the legal grimoires on this. Can you donate your skull to a friend? And if you can, who handles getting the icky surface stuff off it? “What are you doing in there, Frankie?” “Just fulfilling the will of an old friend… Say, give me a spoon!”
How about a leg? Say you want to be buried, but want to give your aunt your leg, encased in plastic. Can you do that, or will the undertaker walk in and say: “Give me the leg, ma’am. And don’t mess with us, we’re experts in disposing of dead people!”
How about art? There seem to be no protests against bone galleries and catacombs exhibiting the bones of people that are long dead. Say you want to freeze your body in carbonite and put it up in the National Gallery? Object 42, titled “He watched too much Star Wars”. Is that legal or not? Can they sue your agent? Whose property is your body when you die? If it’s not buried, does your significant other inherit it? And can it be sold? If not, why? I could cut off my hair and sell it. I could give away a kidney and I could conceivably cut off my genitalia, nail them to a Playboy and become a millionaire artist celebrity.
But what about my body, my whole dead body? It’s not mine anymore — I’m dead, I have no self and no possessions. Well, I could come back and possess my own body. Then I’d have a possession. But if I don’t — whose property am I? The wife? As said in the will? Do I revert to a church or to the state? Who can claim me, and to what purpose? “As his last will was ambiguous on the matter, we are hereby gathered here to dispose by orderly auction of the remains of the late John Q. Public — and we have ten dollars from the seedy-looking gentleman in black! Keep them offers coming! You don’t want him going for ten dollars to that necrophile-looking man in black, do you? Twenty dollars from the widow!”
Ah, necrophilia. I knew I would get to it eventually. If you’re an adult, you can give Bob your consent and have sex, and it’s all nice and legal. Likewise Bob can sodomize a meat grinder without committing a criminal act. An act of self-mutilation, maybe, but that’s not criminal.
I hope it isn’t. Is there a book on the subject?
Anyway, back to necrophilia. Sex with consent is legal, and sex with the unliving is legal. Is bonking your corpse illegal if you write down your consent before dying? “I want in death what I did not have in life — I am free to all who come!”
That was a terrible pun. I’m sorry about that.
“He said it would be okay, constable! Stop hitting me!”
“Well, let’s hear him about it! Do you want me to stop hitting this man, Mr. Poor Dead Guy? Huh? No? Then it’s Kick-a-rama Time!”
But seriously. There seems to be a bit of an unclear situation here. Suicide is okay — hell, there are some people I’d even recommend it to. But help a man to kill himself, and people act like you’re a lunatic. We don’t shun butchers, though they kill animals without asking if they want it. And soldiers! What about soldiers? They don’t ask if the enemy wants to die — in most cases it’s pretty clear the enemy doesn’t want to die, and they shoot anyway! So why shouldn’t it be allowed to kick the chair from under a friend that’s asking for it? Could be euthanasia, but it could be just for kicks — pardon the pun — too: some people are bored to death.
Suppose you’re terminally ill and want to go out with a bang, so you download a last message to Youtube and then let your best friend shoot you full of lead. He’d do it if he was a man — it was your will, his duty as a helping friend, and men want to shoot at living things anyway. Would the police come for your friend?
Sure they would. Polices are prudes, just like the most of us. Why can’t we talk rationally about things like this? Or, failing that, can’t anyone recommend me a book on the subject?
I began this piece with warning off the people that can’t stomach things like this, and that’s probably the only part of this stuff I haven’t covered yet — eating.
Suppose your cut off your finger and eat it. That’s not illegal, right? Gross, especially if you have dirty hands, but surely not illegal. Suppose you gouge out a few pounds of fat and fry a sack of french fries with it. Can you go out to the market and sell it? I mean, straight-out sell it as “French fries friend in human fat! Three platters for the price of two! Free veggies!” Is that illegal? Why aren’t things like this taught in schools? It would keep the pupils awake.
For several days and nights running, I think.
Are there standards for human parts sold as food? Do you have to know if it’s free of infections and contains only ten percent of fat? “Buy Humargarine — it’s closer to you than you think!”
Suppose you arrange to buy human parts for science, but are forced to sell them as snacks instead because you’ve got no funding. It’s health food — hey, it was healthy when it lived! Three time national boxing champion! What, if anything, are you exactly guilty of? You owned the body when the lab shut down. You’re not poisoning anybody. What’s the crime? Unforeseen reduction of a man into mince? Making Spam out of Sam? And what to do with the food? You can’t experiment on Pickled Peter.
Does a policeman get training on subjects like these, or are they just supposed to arrest anyone that does things to dead bodies? I think this subject deserves a great deal of thinking and research.