Spontaneous Shrines

"We who build shrines and construct public altars or parade with photographs of the deceased will not allow you to write off victims as regrettable statistics…They are, I believe, the voice of the people." –Jack Santino

4 months of blogging, memento mori, and what other people are saying about shrines!

It’s been about 4 months since I started writing this blog about spontaneous shrines, and I’ve learned a lot in the process!  I didn’t really know much about blogging (at all) before I started and I can tell there’s still more to learn.  What with the holidays, getting back into the groove of life after finishing my Master’s thesis and grad school, and catching the annual winter cold, I haven’t been posting as often as I’d like.  But– my New Year’s Resolution (Chinese New Year since it’s closer than the January 1st one) is to throw myself back into the world of shrines!

As a blogger, especially about a topic like shrines which is very “grassrootsy,” I find it really helpful to read up on what other people are saying about the subject.  It helps me understand these memorials better when I can read what different types of people think when they happen to pass one.  From now on, I’ll be re-posting some of the entries I’ve read from other bloggers.  In their own words, they can tell you what their reactions are to these small yet powerful memorials.

I came across this 2008 post by blogger Quinn McDonald.  Quinn points out the ways in which shrines function as memento mori, which means roughly “remember that you will die” or “remember your mortality.”  I’m interested in the point Quinn makes about the crosses–the obvious shrines–making passersby uncomfortable.  Here is an excerpt from the post:

“Roadside shrines are outlawed in some states–considered a danger, a nuisance, a distraction. I’ve seen the markers encouraged by the state–blue squares that look like parking signs, with small writing. You drive past, not looking, not thinking. Those signs that are easy to ignore don’t make us uncomfortable. The roadside crosses do. They stand in mute reminder that we can die at any time, at any place, even in a straight stretch of road on a sunny day.

I like the mystery of it, the unanswered questions, the symbols of love. It creates a small well of wonder, into which we dip our cup of curiosity and come away tasting only uncertainty. We need those shrines to remind us of the frailty of life. I bet those crosses make more people drive carefully for a few minutes than a discreet road marker. The road marker says. . .something. The cross says, “I died unexpectedly, you can too.” It’s a powerful message.”

Thanks for reading everyone!  If there are any shrines or posts you’d like me to share on this site, feel free to contact me and let me know.

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