This is going to sound weird, but it’s serious. I have a friend who is a very intelligent, beautiful and articulate young woman. She is also a conceptual artist. She has now announced what she calls her “ultimate artwork”—she intends to sign a contract with a company that will cremate her body after she dies and compress her remains to form a diamond. She is selling the rights to this diamond, made of her body . . . Needless to say, I was horrified when I found out. What can I say to change her mind from doing something from which her soul and body may never recover for worlds and worlds to come?
I have respect for your friend. She seeks immortality. She wants to transcend the limitations of a finite worldly existence and leave a lasting impression on the world long after her time here comes to an end. These are noble ambitions. But she is going about it the wrong way.
The Jewish mission is not to become a diamond after you die, but to discover the diamond within yourself during your lifetime; not to make your lifeless body into a work of art, but rather to make your life itself into a work of art.You have a soul, shimmering like a diamond
Within your body, you have a soul, shimmering like a diamond in the deepest part of your identity. Your body temporarily encases your soul for the duration of your lifetime on this earth. The body can be either a hindrance to the soul by concealing its light, or a vehicle for the soul’s light to be fully expressed. It depends on how you live your life.
If we live a life of hedonism and selfishness, if our body and its cravings become the focus of our existence, then the diamond that is our soul gets buried beneath the body’s layers of physicality, and its light is prevented from shining. But if we live a life of purpose, doing what is good rather than what feels good—a life in which the desires of our soul overpower the demands of our body and we fill each day with acts of goodness and holiness—then the light of the soul is not dimmed by the body. On the contrary, the body becomes the vehicle for the soul’s light to shine. By refining our character, bringing light to those around us, and maintaining the purity and innocence of our soul, we become a living, breathing diamond, a divine work of art.
We are truly immortalized by the good that we do in our lifetime. Whether or not we see it, our every act of goodness and holiness makes an eternal impression. Even the most trivial act of goodness impacts the world for the better, and the positive energy we create through our good deeds resonates throughout the world for eternity.
Even if you have been neglecting your soul, it can always be polished and returned to its original shine. For a diamond may become covered in layers of muck, but beneath it all the diamond always retains its luster. As long as you are alive, you have the power to change, to uncover your soul’s power and let it shine.
To make a diamond out of a dead body is no great feat. To make a diamond out of yourself while you are still alive—that is a taste of eternity.