A Campaign To Make The Idea Of Death More Popular
29 May, 2012
The Six Feet Under convention has become the Joy of Death Festival.
The spirit of the Six Feet Under convention was based on the idea that learning about death is not depressing, it’s uplifting. The series attracted people who were intrigued by death and its impact on families. And it wasn’t depressing, quite the opposite, it was funny and moving.
Irvin Yalom, a Californian psychotherapist, wrote a book called Staring at the Sun, Overcoming the Dread of Death. He explains the paradox that ‘although the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death saves us.’
What he means is that denying death means we don’t or won’t change. He gives the example of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, who foresees his own death, and then resolves to change his ways. Let’s say you were reprieved from a firing squad? Wouldn’t that have a dramatic impact on how you lived your life afterwards?
An awareness of death helps us to appreciate the marvel of life and of being. Yalom noticed how cancer patients didn’t have to succumb to mind-numbing despair, they trivialised life’s trivial. One of his patients told him, ‘What a pity I had to wait till now, till my body was riddled with cancer, to learn how to live!’
Last year we had brilliant talks from Charles Cowling, Editor of The Good Funeral Guide, Sheila Dicks from the Salisbury College of Funeral Sciences and Embalming, Andrew McKie, former editor of the Daily Telegraph Obituaries column and Sarah Murray, FT journalist and author of Making an Exit. We had an exhibition of unusual coffins in Bournemouth Triangle, Crazy Coffins provided us with a ballet shoe and railway carriage coffin and we had guided walks around local cemeteries.
The convention was inspired by the spirit of the Six Feet Under series, but we were discovering people who hadn’t seen the series, thought they couldn’t come along. Since it ended in 2005, many younger people just haven’t seen it or heard of it.
For this reason we have changed the name to The Good Funeral Awards. We intend to put on a programme as life-affirming as last year. Death is something we all have in common. To learn how to die well, is to learn how to live well. Please do join us.