Dear reader – hello. It occurred to me that you might labour under the delusion that I spend far too much of my time haunting public toilets, and that this is an unhealthy preoccupation.
Fear not. I also spend a lot of time in cemeteries.
Cemeteries have a way of getting under your skin. . .of teaching how we look after, or don’t look after, those who came before us. I was astonished to discover this last trip to Europe, that in Germany, unless a grave is special for some reason, that local authorities in some places leave them for 20 years, and then, unless something is paid for their upkeep, disappeared. How the remains beneath are dealt with, is unclear. If you think there is a life after death, and that this is somehow retained in the bones of the departed, what do you think they think, to see the marker of their time up above calmly removed and tossed aside? I shudder to run down this line of thought.
There is more of course. There always is. Some cemeteries have a wonderful aroma of decay, just as they should. They give off a bouquet of passage, of “this is all part of the grand scheme of things”, and it is not at all a measure of forgetfulness, but of respect of how life is, and how death too. Another time, when it seems appropriate, I’ll do a post with some photos “cemeteries and graves of the world”!
In Gotha, in the German state of Thuringia, I chanced on an isolated grave built by its occupant, one Hans Adam von Studnitz. He put it in his backyard awaiting the time he would need it. Studnitz – go on, google him, you know you want to – never married, had no children, but had friends I guess, and was the director of the theatre in the nearby castle/palace. Studnitz died in another place in 1778 but his body was brought back to Gotha and interred in his remarkable tomb.
Here it is!
And here, the casket behind the iron bars, skew whiff as per your unworthy correspondent:
Until Studnitz hit on his inspired idea, pyramids were not the done thing when it came to graves in Europe. They were common enough as we all know in ancient Egypt, but a backyard in Gotha? Studnitz was well ahead of his time, and no one thought to repeat the feat for another generation. It is still far from popular.
Studnitz’ marvel was neglected until early this century when it was restored and is in a quiet street near a high school. It is no longer a backyard but a wee park, and students congregate by it during breaks and before and after the school day to smoke and play around. If you want to shoo them away, just turn up with a camera. . .
Gotha is a significant city in European history, even in world history. It is the home turf of the royal family that now occupies the British throne, and several others. The Brits changed their name to Windsor during the first World War to make their sympathies clear.
It is also the burial place – somewhere else in the town – of the founder of the Masonic-affiliated fraternity Illuminati, and we all know what symbol they used to show they were in touch with the throbs and gestures of secret universal urges. Go on, google them too and see what turns up!
Yet more! Gotha is the place where a supposedly Marxist political party hammered out a programme during Marx’s life. Marx wasn’t impressed and wrote a critique that was published after his death a decade or so later. You, dear reader, can easily find this then-private despair on the part of Marx using the wonders of the search engine: Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme. It’s waiting for you.
I chanced on the Studnitz pyramid while searching for the hall where the programme was negotiated. It is still there, but shows the moribund state of the impulses that for so long sustained it.
On a weekday – closed. The fellow in the photo was smoking and waiting for someone as he had something to pass on.
Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, who spent time as a child elsewhere in Thuringia, wasn’t impressed by the whole socialist project as it had degenerated to his day:
…I always thought socialism was a temporary nervous disorder that was basically harmless but in reality it’s a deadly disease. I mean the socialism that prevails today….a spurious socialism that relies on shameless pretence. Today we don’t have socialism anywhere in the world, only the mendacious, simulated variety…today’s socialists are not real socialists but devious dissemblers. This [20th] century has succeeded in dragging the honoured name of socialism in the dirt to such an extent that you want to throw up. The inventors of socialism, who actually believed in it and thought they’d established it for all times, would turn in their graves if they could see what their unspeakable successors have made of it…
Where was I? Oh, pyramids! The last word in this line must be reserved for American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who was not at all impressed by the Egyptian versions. This from Walden, the masterwork of the supposed nature-loving pacifist:
“As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.”
Thanks for reading.