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Coke or Death

Sort 256 deals with grave issues.

by Dear Jon
February 24, 2004

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Dear Jon,

Is Coke II still being made? If so, who's drinking it and where is it sold? If not, why is the original Coke still being touted as "Coca-Cola Classic?"

Soda Jerk

Dear Sod,

Actually, “Coke II” is just an urban legend.


Dear Jon,

What is your opinion on graveyards? It seems to me, the vast majority are filled with gravesites no one visits anymore. Do you consider them necessary in today's society, or are they just a waste of prime real estate?

Not Dead Yet

Dear Yet,

In our culture this is a great question. The burial of bodies “six feet under” is generally an inefficient means of disposal. As a culture we have lost most of the meaningfulness of this method. The burial of bodies once had great religious and superstitious significance.

The religious significance is that, for Christians, there is an expectation that bodies will be raised from the dead at the “Last Judgment.” In the meantime, those who have died are in a blessed state with the Lord and are therefore a constituency in “the communion of saints” which consists of the entire Holy Christian Church past and present.

I get all this from the Apostle’s Creed which I memorized in Eighth Grade for my Confirmation. Any of you with similar experience will recall my references. Those of you who attend mass twice a year will also recall these references if you actually start paying attention to the liturgy. This is no proof of any special scholarship or training on my part.

Graveyards behind churches once brought to mind the communion of saints. Times were different then, when people actually belonged to community, and faith was an organic and natural part of life.

When faith is organic and natural, of course, the superstitious will always tend to piggy-back on the religious. For many, the belief was that, since the resurrection would be of the body, then the body should be buried intact, even dressed in nice clothes. Ridiculous, of course, but I do have a tuxedo in my closet, just in case. Anyway, this superstition maintained that cremation would elementally destroy the body, making resurrection impossible. For many Americans with nominal ties to Catholic or Reformed churches, cremation is not an option. For many Americans, the religion is almost completely erased, but the superstition remains.

Like the Egyptians, therefore, who built for themselves enormous monuments, Americans look for expensive coffins and ornate headstones. When all is said and done, though, the headstones are not visited. We prefer to forget the dead.

Anyone who watches television has learned that in Japan, ancestors are venerated, but their presence remains in the family home as ashes in beautiful urns and vases. Thus their own “communion with the saints” is closely tied to family, but does not require burial plots, expensive headstones, gilt coffins and funeral clothes.

Being fairly religious, I actually believe the Apostle’s Creed; I also have an understanding of what is supposed to take place at the resurrection that makes me very comfortable with the idea of cremation. I would personally prefer donating my body to science, as did my late grandfather, or being cremated and set in a mausoleum, as was my uncle. As you can see, I am not surrounded by superstitious relatives. However, if by some freak fortune I am buried by superstitious relatives, I hope it is in a cheap pine box. Really. I will not care if I am occupying the “Cadillac” of coffins, and on any visits others happen to make to my final resting place, they will not be able to see how nice my coffin is anyway. So what, really, is the point?

Still, there is something to be said about graveyards and headstones. While it is true that most of the living forget most of the dead, it is also true that there are some for whom the solace of graveyard visitation is the only balm for grief. I have a friend who makes regular visits to the grave of his companion, who died young of cancer three years ago.

Graveyards are also good for historical and genealogical study. Somehow, seeing a “place” where one’s ancestors are interred, creates a connection to that place. I do not subscribe to ancestor veneration as do millions of devotees around the world. I do, however, respect that my life is an inheritance, of nurture and nature, of genetics and training, passed down through generations. Having a sense of where we come from helps us find our integrity, and having a sense of where we are going, which graveyards show us in no uncertain terms, helps us keep our humility.

Thought for the Day:

Next to the “real thing,” what else is there to know? Here is the truth about Coke II. Under the heading New Coke, it debuted on the market with Bill Cosby’s endorsement 20 years ago. Of course, it was a public relations disaster because it was a vastly inferior formula to the “real thing.” Within a few weeks Cosby was back in commercials, endorsing “Classic” as the appeasement to put down the public outcry.

A bunch of rumors circulated around the break-out of the New Coke. One rumor was that the Coca Cola Company parodied the Pepsi formula in order to prove how superior its original product is, thus curtailing the momentum of Pepsi’s growing market-share. I heard a rumor that this rumor was debunked by the CEO of Coca-Cola, in recalling the New Coke experiment, who lamented that he wished he had been smart enough to have devised such a scheme. Another rumor, which may also be an urban legend, is that Coke II is what gets distributed to wait-service restaurants at reduced costs from the Classic product. This last really might be an urban legend.

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