Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hostel, Pt. 3

Welcome to lovely Varanasi, India. Hope you aren't planning too long of a stay. Two weeks, tops.
Ah yes, Varanasi, one of the holiest cities in the Hindu religion. Consequently, elderly Hindus who believe themselves to be at death's door flock to the city, hoping to die within its borders, and have their ashes spread over the Ganges. The belief is, if they can achieve this, they will be able to escape the circle of rebirth and attain moksha early.

This has led to a number of hostels through the city establishing an interesting limit to the length of stay. Once you check in, you need to have shuffled off of this mortal coil before two weeks have elapsed, or you're forced to return home. In fact, there aren't even any medical practitioners to try to make sure that things go smoothly. Instead, there are simply priests attending to the sick and dying, easing their passing. In a culture that reveres death almost as much as life, it seems almost fitting.

And yet, it also seems foreign. Whereas Western culture fears death, and even goes out of its way to prevent it for as long as possible, the notion of an entire city practically devoted to the process of dying seems strange. Sure, we have Florida, but not everyone expects that their visit to the Sunshine State will last a mere two weeks. And we all know that there's no way we'd be able to get Grandpa back up to Montana once he made it to Tallahassee.

But maybe the concepts being used in Varanasi could be brought into our culture. And we could find ways to apply it to other things, as well. For example, According to Jim would have been cancelled long ago, if it hadn't been allowed life support for all that time, or been encouraged to just hang on for a little longer, instead of dying quietly in its own time. George Lucas would never have revived the Star Wars movies, letting them return in their new life as Firefly. And Robert Jordan may actually have to finish his "trilogy".

Then, of course, there's Keith Richards. But, well, we all know that the man has somehow preserved himself far beyond his usual life expectancy. Medicinal marijuana, indeed.

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