The truth is a hard thing to arrive decisively at in any situation due to the inexplicable complexities inherent in all our lives. But what happens to the truth when we are confronted by the finality of death, when we are forced to acknowledge a world forever minus the person we knew and have only the past from which to arrive at conclusions?
That happens when people die- the argument with them drops away and people so flawed when they were drawing breath that at times they were all but unbearable now assert themselves in a most appealing way, and what was least to your liking the day before becomes in the limo behind the hearse a cause not only for sympathetic amusement but for admiration. In which estimate lies the greater reality- the uncharitable one permitted us before the funeral, forged, without any claptrap, in the skirmish of daily life, or the one that suffuses us with sadness at the family gathering afterward- even an outsider can’t judge. The sight of a coffin going into the ground can effect a great change of heart- all at once you find you are not so disappointed with this person who is dead- but what the sight of a coffin does for the mind in its search for truth- this, says Philip Roth (via Nathan Zuckerman in American Pastoral) I do not profess to know.
Since as of the status quo it seems inevitable that we all shall take our leave from the stage of life I think it could do wonders if we take it upon ourselves to, while we have the time and ability to interact, drop the resentment felt for the flaws in others and perhaps give less weight to this great mystery of the truth about one another. If instead we expend efforts in enjoying the quirks that other people have to offer and ignore the nonsense involved with all the negativity we can bring to the table then rather than searching for the truth, for the greater reality we can embrace a present reality to recall with a smile, ftw.
HBO’s series “Six Feet Under,” which aired its five seasons from 2001-2005 opens each episode with the death of someone whose funeral is taken care of by the show’s main characters, the Fisher family, in their LA funeral home. This backdrop for the drama provides a framework within which death illuminates the relationships, hardships, victories, and really the lives of the characters in a darkly humorous and rather thought-provoking manner. When confronted with the lowering of coffins and final goodbyes on a daily basis the effects of death upon the minds and recollections of those planning and attending the funeral, the Fisher family’s personal struggles to grapple with life in productive and destructive ways, and the emotional as well as physical implications of being “six feet under” are analyzed to a degree unavailable to most people in their daily lives.
I am currently at the beginning of season 2 and am looking forward to the series finale- touted by critics as one of the best and most tear-inducing of all time- even as I want to slow down before the entire story unfolds. I believe that through this phenomenal creation by Alan Ball (True Blood, American Beauty, Towelhead) and the portrayal of the Fisher family by Peter Krause (currently on Parenthood), Michael C. Hall (currently on Dexter), and the rest of the talented cast will provide further insight into what death does to our perceptions of the truth, what living is all about, and other recondite conclusions.