Friday, November 13, 2015

Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris

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I recently saw a documentary film directed by the director Gay Dillingham about Timothy Leary and Ram Dass called Dying to Know, followed by a question and answer session where we talked about Life, Psychology, Psychedelic drugs, and Death.  The film really shows how people can foray in to the realm of experiencing death, in order to prepare for this most profound and absolute of transitions.  It is the Spirit that makes the journey, and perhaps the most important thing we can do in our lifetimes is to prepare for departure.

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Today, Friday November 13 there were a series of attacks on civilians in the magical city of Paris.  Without delving in to the horror, which followed suicide bombings in Beirut this week, and blasts at a peace rally in Ankara, Turkey a month ago, there seems to be a desire for people to inflict great pain on others to remedy some great injustice.  There is endless strife and conflict all over the world, and the media brings it all in to our conciousness.  I feel very sad that kindness just doesn't come naturally for so many people.  We violate each other, often out of revenge, or simply because of the power of the military industrial complex exerting its desire for profit.  We've been warring since the dawn of civilization, expediating death for tens of millions of people.  If you study the history of Paris, it is one marked by a history of tragedy, littered with death.  But the way we view death is an everchanging concept.  From experience I've learned to accept it, in part to pad the shock.  My Earthly body will end up in an urn someday and hopefully be sprinkled about the world in places I have loved in my life of travel.  As for my soul, I'm working to make sure its ready.

Bare trees framed in a broken stained glass window
They say the mind lingers for almost an hour after the body dies, transitioning to another realm, whatever that may be.

While mourning the shootings and bombings in Paris this evening I went back in to my picture files to a gallery of images I took at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in December of 2012, on my first trip to the French capital.  This was the first municipal and first garden cemetery in the city.  It was established by Napoleon in 1804.  Napoleon decreed that cemeteries be built in cities throughout his empire for health reasons as the old city cemeteries filled up.  During plagues and epidemics the bodies of the dead were often piled in public squares for lack of a place to put them.  These cemeteries outside the cities greatly reduced the outbreak of epidemics.

City of the Dead
A lavish bouquet carved in marble

Being a garden cemetery gives Père Lachaice the look of a village of the dead in a forest.  It is extraordinary for its ambience and monumental architecture, making it one of the greatest cemeteries in the world.  It seemed poignant today to revisit this touchingly macabre landscape, with its depictions of life lost and taken away.  While there is an overlying sadness, sorrow cohabitates with strange beauty and profound peace.

There are more than 1,000,000 bodies buried here, and thousands more in the Columbarium, where ashes are interred.

Here lies a gallery of my favorite images from that afternoon at Père Lachaise.

The grave of French painter Thèodore Gèricault

The gates of Sorrow

City of the Dead

French sculptor Jean Joseph Carriès

Moss Roses

The Belgian writer and poet Georges Rodenbach, breaking out of his grave



Jim Morrison's grave

A mossy cross

The Columbarian

A new arrival

Holocast Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

Porcelain Pansies are a popular tradition

Bird in a Cherry Tree growing from a rock

Gibert Becaud

Monument to the Dead by sculptor Bartholomeè

The stained glass window inside the above crypt

The grave of Oscar Wilde

Communing with the departed

Thanks for reading, Rest in Peace, Jeffrey

A mosaic I built several years ago…what the World needs now