The planet seen from extremely close up is called the ground. The ground can be made loose by the human hand, or by using a small tool held in the human hand, such as a spade, or an even larger tool, such as a shovel, or a variety of machines commonly called heavy equipment. We bury our dead in the ground. Roughly half of the dead are buried in boxes and half of the dead are buried without boxes. A burying box is an emblem of respect for the dead. We are the only species to so envelop our dead. An earlier more minimal way to envelop the dead was to wrap them in cloth.

Besides burying the dead in the ground, we bury our garbage, also called trash. Man-made mountains of garbage are pushed together using heavy equipment and then pushed down into the ground. The site of this burial is called a landfill. The site of the dead buried in boxes is called a cemetery. In both cases the ground is being filled. A dead body in a box can be lowered into the ground using heavy equipment, but we do not consider it trash. When the dead are not in boxes and there is a man-made mountain of them we use heavy equipment to bury them together, like trash. It is estimated that everywhere we walk we are walking on a piece of trash and the hard, insoluble remains of the dead. Whatever the case, the dead and the garbage are together in the ground where we cannot see them, for we do not relish the sight or smell of them. If we did not go about our burying, we would be in danger of being overcome.

Also buried in the ground are seeds, which we want to see when they emerge from the ground in their later form, that is, as plants. Plants rising from the ground are essential to life. To bury a seed is to plant it. When a seed is planted and not seen again, those who buried it are made sad. The anticipated plant of the wished-upon seed has not materialized. It is dead, remains buried. Heavy equipment is used to plant large expanses of ground with seed. When a whole field of shivering grain rises from the earth, there is a growing sense of happiness among those who buried it. Happiness is also present when a tree emerges, or a tree that will bear fruit, or leafy green edible plants that were formerly planted. When flowers arise from the ground, colourful and shapely in an astonishing variety of ways, the living are made especially happy. Not only are flowers admired for their outward beauty of form, their scents are capable of overcoming us and therefore prized. Nothing, it seems, makes the living as happy as a flower. Flowers are among the most anticipated things on earth. For this reason, we separate the flower from the ground and present it to another to hold or to look at. After a while, the flower which has been separated from the ground dies, and we throw it in the trash. Flowers are often planted where the dead are buried in boxes, but these flowers are never cut. That would be horrible. Whoever did such a thing would be considered a thief. Those flowers belong to the dead.

 

Photograph © Jessica Mullen

The Second Night is Ending
Justin Jin | Interview