I recall when my father passed away having to go to the funeral home to pick a casket. Suspicious of the whole commercial ambience, I insisted on seeing the least expensive model casket first. Astutely, they dragged in something that looked like an ill-cut cardboard box that would have been barely suitable for a dog. I got the message and chose a more expensive model.
But why do we spend so much on expensive caskets or coffins? We realize, after the moment, that it is absurd.
Do we also realize that so many of our other dwellings are also caskets? The big mansion that is obscenely expensive is one gigantic, unnecessary coffin. We won't keep it after we die. It is not even necessary for our happiness while we are alive and creates many headaches. Conspicuous consumption (nod to the great economist Thorstein Veblen) is as foolish in the course of our lives as it is in the funeral home's showcase of coffins.
And dwellings need not be houses. Our excessive attachment to ethnic identity, to our job titles, to our material possessions creates other coffins that we do not need to value so highly. We seem to go out as we have lived: in unnecessary pursuit of what is only superficially impressive and fundamentally unnecessary.
(image under fair use doctrine)