DIY Funerals and the Quest for Authenticity

Boing Boing's David Pescovitz on the merits of burying your dead yourself As cyberspace becomes a "layer"...

Boing Boing's David Pescovitz on the merits of burying your dead yourself

As cyberspace becomes a "layer" on top of the physical world and we spend more of our lives online, a new-found appreciation emerges for authentic experiences, interactions, and goods. I think that's part of why so many people are embracing the of DIY culture, from Stitch and Bitch to Maker Faire.In many ways, authenticity is the flipside of the mediated experience. For example, the United States has seen a trending down in the average age of farmers. A new documentary film, The Greenhorns, explores this growing culture of young farmers driven by eco-motivation and the quest for authenticity. They're getting their hands dirty. For them, reality is still where the action is.Last year, my colleagues and I at Institute for the Future spent a day brainstorming with James Gilmore and Joe Pine, authors of the famous business book Experience Economy. Their latest book, Authenticity, is about what the demand for truly "real" things means for business strategy. It was fascinating to think with them about the myriad contexts in which questions of authenticity arise. What does "authentic" mean on a Bourbon Chicken Grill'N Dip label that boasts of "authentic food court flavor"? Or in Las Vegas, where the fakeness itself is authentic? Or in death?An article in the March issue of Smithsonian explores "The Surprising Satisfactions of a Home Funeral." The author, Max Alexander, lost his father and father-in-law in the same month. One received a typical American funeral. The other was a more DIY affair. Alexander, his wife, and her sister washed the body with water and lavender oil. He and his 15-year-old son made the coffin with Home Depot hardware.Alexander came up with the coffin design on his own, but he could have easily found existing plans. They're available on the Internet or in books on the subject, with titles like Do-It-Yourself Coffins: For Pets and People and Fancy Coffins To Make Yourself. You can even build a coffin from Ikea parts and give it some weird Danish name. The point though is that

going DIY, or DIO (do-it-ourselves), can give those in mourning something that is a natural part of many other cultures: a visceral, authentic connection to the physical reality of death.Death is very personal, both emotionally and physically. Fortunately, there's a spectrum of possibility when it comes to DIY funerals. Crossings is a Maryland-based information clearinghouse that advocates for "the integration of dying and after-death care back into our family and community life." Visiting the organization's site, I learned about green burials, the chemical nastiness of embalming, and the legalities of acting as your own funeral director.And while green is good, what DIY funerals really offer is personalization, customization, and the embodiment of emotion through an authentic experience."I suppose people whose loved ones are missing in action or lost at sea might envy the rest of us, for whom death typically leaves a corpse, or in the polite language of funeral directors, 'the remains,'" Alexander writes. "Yet for all our desire to possess this tangible evidence of a life once lived, we've become oddly squeamish about our dead... According to advocates, home after-death care is... more meaningful for the living."And meaning is where the quest for authenticity should ultimately lead, however you get there.David Pescovitz is co-editor of Boing Boing, a research director at Institute for the Future, and editor-at-large of MAKE.
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet