“To be human means above all to bury”, according to Robert Pogue Harrison in The Dominion of the Dead. Robert Macfarlane, in Underland, adds: “drawing on Vico’s suggestion that humanitas in Latin comes first and properly from humando, meaning ‘bury, burial’, itself from humus, meaning ‘earth’ or ‘soil’.” (Underland, p. 30)
They are almost correct.
The human life – the truly human life – does not stop at burial. In fact, it is at burial that the truly human life begins. When we die to ourselves, to our sin, and to life in the flesh, we enter into a new phase of living, a new creation. This new creation is ushered in by the Last Adam, the harbinger of life, who went into the tomb before us, bringing us into his resurrection life.
When we think about our lives, we need to stop thinking about burial as something that happens at the end of our time on earth. Instead, we look at our burial of baptism, remembering that as the moment that we truly stepped into the fullness of life. So, I suggest a change: To be human means, first, to be buried; to be human means, above all, to be raised into new life.