You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats dead bodies. Some cultures revere them. One of my favourite films Departures is the story of a young man who returns to his small hometown after a failed career and takes a job as an assistant to a nōkanshi — a traditional Japanese ritual mortician. The respect shown to the departed by the nōkanshi as he prepares them for burial — washing, oiling, dressing, honouring — is truly beautiful.
It has the imposing title, The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection. More often than not it’s just referred to by the shortened form, The Disciples or Les Disciples. You won’t find it in the Louvre or the Met or the National Gallery. It hangs tucked away in an old railway station in Paris, now the Musée d’Orsay, on the left bank of the Seine. It was painted in 1898 by a relatively little known Swiss artist named Eugène Burnand. He was something of an old-fashioned realist at a time when all the cool kids were embracing modernism. The Disciples didn’t make a splash when it was first hung. Burnand’s style was already considered passé by the 1890s.
It is one of the most famous depictions of the trial of Christ. And the detail of each character is impressive. Pontius Pilate is there, brittle with stress and apprehension, his brow furrowed, his arms awkwardly crossed, sitting in judgement of Christ.The chief priests and elders surround Pilate, badgering him for a verdict in their favor. The baying crowd, held in check by a Roman centurion, lean around each other to catch a glimpse of the accused. One man throws his hands in the air and cries, “Crucify him!”
When I was in school in the 1960s we were all made to read a book entitled, The Dreamtime: Australian Aboriginal Myths in Paintings (1965). That book was dedicated “To the Brown People, who handed down these Dreamtime Myths.” Those “Brown People” — the original inhabitants of the nation of Australia — were presented to us as a simple, primitive, childlike people. Their stories were quaint. Their children were cute. They lived aesthetic lives as hunter-gatherers in the wild interior of our country.
Lawn is a monoculture, but every law in the nature handbook tells our planet to strive for biodiversity. Biodiversity is life; monocultures are on the verge of death, which is why lawn can’t survive without an elaborate life-support system of phosphate-based fertilizers, garden pesticides and herbicides. And because you keep feeding and watering it, lawn’s root system is pathetic. Without deep roots to break up the soil, the ground eventually degrades and turns into dirt (hence your need for fertilizers).