Above is the only picture I can find on the entire internet of Zion Cemetery in St. Louis. Although the picture is of poor quality, I can identify the cemetery as the one next to the subdivision where I grew up. We often played football or baseball in the grassy areas next to the cemetery and, in the summer, we would get drinks of water from the spigots in the cemetery. I have vivid memories of specific baseball and football games we played there. I also rode my bike in that cemetery, and first started jogging on its roads.
I remember my mom telling me not to step on the graves out of respect for the dead. To this day I obey my mother’s directives. If I accidentally step on one, I feel as if I ran over an animal with my car—squeamish. But for some reason I feel peaceful in cemeteries. I enjoy them. I like to read the headstones, especially the ones with pictures, sayings, or brief descriptions of the dead. I still enjoy walking through the cemetery in the neighborhood I live in now.
None of this makes much sense, especially since I hate death and believe it should be optional. Still, I like cemeteries. Perhaps this is because I am a philosopher, and Socrates said that to philosophize was to practice death. Or perhaps it is the congruence of life and death, of being and nothingness, that I find in cemeteries that transfixes me. All this life, all these dreams, all this caring for parents and children, all this love and sex, all this anxiety and anticipation, all this concern and consciousness … gone.
I don’t know what all this means, but I do know the dead are dead. And now it seems as if the dead had never been. Death seemingly makes life seem pointless. Still I like to walk in cemeteries. I just don’t know why.