Back in the day, there were no heart rate monitors or machines that could detect brainwaves. You listened for a heartbeat, maybe put a mirror under someone’s nose; but after they had failed those advanced medical tests, you were pretty confident it was time to put them in the ground.
Some cultures burn their dead, but the practice of burying the dead goes all the way back to the neanderthals. Again, there were no crematoriums back then; and the last thing you wanted the village fire to smell like was the roasting dead flesh of your fellow villager…so they started burying folks. We would call this a ‘green burial’ or a ‘natural burial’ in modern times, since there were no chemicals added to the corpse before they put it in the ground.
These aren’t the only ways to get rid of dead bodies, of course. In the years since the first grave was dug by human hands, different cultures have come up with all kinds of ways to get rid of their dead. Although green burial is legal in all fifty states, not everyone can have a space burial or a ship burial; and you’ll definitely have trouble arranging a sky burial in this country…but we’re not here to talk about the different ways of burying dead bodies.
We’re here to talk about resurrection.
The examples we generally think of when this word comes up are not people who clawed their way out of their tombs to walk the Earth looking worse than when they went in; but we’ll also leave the great messengers out of this discussion, as well as any argument about the legitimacy of their individual resurrections. We’re talking about normal people coming back to life, and walking among the living once more.
Even after advanced equipment started reading things like brainwaves, people still kept coming back to life after being declared dead. They still do, in fact. The reason it almost never happens is not because the tendency to resurrect has changed; it’s because we relieve the body of all its fluids and replace them with chemicals before we put it in the ground now. All chances of coming back to life surely drain out of a body along with its blood, and nobody wants a messiah walking around stinking of formaldehyde anyway.
Oh, yeah; we were going to leave them out of this.
Most people have heard of the different systems that were developed back in the day to make sure those that got buried alive did not remain entombed until they expired. The most popular version is a string that is tied to the corpse’s finger on one end and a bell on the other. If the person moves, the bell rings; and they get dug up. Popular folklore tells of a system of this sort that was set up by a gravedigger who discovered fingernail marks on the inside of several coffins when they were dug up to be buried elsewhere in the cemetery.
Others say this is an urban myth, or an amalgamation of stories with similar elements that have been told all over the world. Either way, the thought of one person finding one set of fingernail marks on the inside of a coffin is enough to make me squirm…and that has definitely happened. Whether it was grave relocation, or an exhumation for an autopsy, or whether it was that village in Indonesia that digs up its dead annually to clean them up and give them fresh clothes; fingernail marks on the inside of coffin lids have been found too many times to mention.
I used to think the term ‘dead ringer’ came from the bell tied to the finger practice, but a lot of research into the meaning and the power of the ringer wised me up on that one. The comparison is not being made between someone you thought was dead and someone standing before you alive, after all. In this case, the word ‘dead’ is used to mean ‘exact’; it’s a term from horse racing, where a slow horse lowers expectations and is replaced by a faster horse that looks just like it at crunch time. ‘Ringer’ is a harder one to explain, as it traces its roots entirely through the mysterious slang history of the English. Like many slang terms, the meaning is accepted without ever being very well explained; common use turned the word ‘ringer’ into another meaning for ‘duplicate’ somehow, and so a dead ringer is an exact copy.
Which is still wrong, if you think about it. If it’s an exact copy, you don’t get better performance out of one or the other; they’re the same thing! It may be more accurate to call it a ‘zombie ringer’, since it isn’t quite dead in the exact sense of the word.
Don’t worry, all my zombie books are just about zombies; and all my ringer books are only about ringers. I understand as well as the slang-makers that ‘dead ringer’ caught on while ‘zombie ringer’ never even came up, and I can see why as well as they did.
It just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The point is…even with modern medical equipment, life and death both remain mysteries in many ways. In order to take that magical element out of it as best as we can, we cancel it out with science wherever possible. Rather than let resurrection continue to be common, like it used to be, we prevent the dead from coming back to life by draining their blood and replacing it with formaldehyde.
It’s akin to offering a service like abortion without taking into account that most unwanted babies used to just get left in the woods to be eaten by predators or scavengers. The average life span goes up wildly when those pregnancies aren’t completed or counted, and people don’t come back to life when you fill them full of chemicals.
Thank God for civilization, right?
And speaking of God…don’t send any more messengers, okay? We won’t give them the opportunity to come back to life, and prove that they came from you. We’ll drain their blood, replace it with chemicals and put them in the ground…and that’s where they’ll stay. We’ve got a messiah-proof system here, and it’s worked pretty flawlessly so far.
I won’t apologize for bringing this back to God, or for feeling free to address the creation of the universe with a liberal splashing of levity. In fact, I’ll be going one step further in bringing science and spirituality together next week. See, I don’t think you can separate one from the other if you want a clear picture of the way things work. In my opinion, the study of science and the study of spirit must walk hand in hand if either discipline wants to stand a chance of surviving things like objective scrutiny and the test of time.
We’ll talk about that next week, in a post called…
‘The periodic table is a map of creation!’
Thanks for reading!
All the best,