this is weird. i’ve always liked this pic…
…because it is grotesque and uncomfortable. that twisted, charred thing in the casket is the remains of russian cosmonaut vladimir komarov. he was burnt alive when the parachute on his space capsule failed to deploy on re-entry to earth. the capsule got hotter and hotter as it re-entered earth’s atmosphere but it’s presumed he was actually cooked to his final state when the capsule hit the earth. that’s a long time to cook, and i imagine a good chunk of that thing there is melted debris from his craft, making it some kind of a cronenberg-esque part man, part machine corpse. there are recordings of his final transmissions as he plummeted towards his death where komarov can be heard cursing the people who put him in such a botched, piece of shit space ship. what a horrific event.
i’ve also always loved this pic, it’s probably my fave ever:
it’s obviously super famous, perhaps most recognized by my generation due to rage against the machine using a pic from the same incident on the cover of their self-titled first album. the guy burning is a monk named Thích Quảng Đức who burnt himself alive in protest against the south vietnamese government’s persecution of buddhists. Đức simply sat down in the middle of a busy intersection, had another monk pour gasoline over him, and then struck a match and lit himself on fire. he sat still and burned to death peacefully.
the political story behind this is important but that’s not what impacts me. what impacts me is the incredible display of the potential of the human mind. this man was able to focus himself so sharply so as to peacefully sit through possibly the most agonizingly painful death possible. that’s incredible. i think it’s a definitive exhibition of the almost supernatural mental abilities we all probably have deep within us. it says to me, “there is a vast untapped power inside you,” and that hits me in the guts. it’s beautiful.
now, i noticed immediately that both pics are of burnt/burning people, and i thought that was odd. i thought, “i don’t think i have a ‘thing’ about burning people.” but then i remembered that i have also followed the story of jacqueline saburido consistently for about 15 years.
in 1999, jacqueline was in a car with friends when they were hit by a drunk driver. two of her friends were killed instantly and two escaped with minor injuries but jacqueline was trapped in the car as it burned. she survived but with 2nd and 3rd degree burns to over 60% of her body. her life since has been surgeries, depression, physical pain, and public speaking about the dangers of drunk driving. often when i feel really sorry for myself and the stupid little problems i have to contend with, i think of jacqueline. i’d love to reach out to her. if anyone is savvy enough to find an email address for her, send it my way.
so that’s three things involving burning people that have seriously affected me over the years. i wonder if that’s a coincidence or if there’s something about burning that i’m unaware of that resonates with me. i never thought about it till now. i think it’s weird.