Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Eros and Thanatos

Yesterday, the nation's newspapers were filled with obituaries for Six Feet Under. My favorite was in the Boston Globe:
A poignant, satisfying end for 'Six Feet Under'

Since there is no reason for me to rehash the story of love and death in Six Feet, I'd like to make some other observations, instead. I thought the next to last episode in which an Iraq war veteran, maimed almost exactly as Senator Max Cleland was maimed in the Vietnam War, was especially poignant. The soldier decides to commit suicide and the family of the soldier perpetuates the lies for which he lost his life. Claire's attack on the SUV-driving family is brilliant. Nonetheless, her Christian, Republican boyfriend comes to Claire's rescue when she needs it. Ball's insight into character and passion is as good as Shakespeare's. So too is his political acumen. His interplay of love and death, Eros and Thanatos, is equally brilliant: Jung and Freud haunt his dream sequences.

There is now, perhaps in part because of Iraq, a fascination with death. The Sept./Oct. issue of the Utne Reader features a cover story on death. Alan Ball is just one interview in a series of articles. I predict we shall see much written on the subject of dying in the year ahead.

The last scene of Six Feet Under is of Claire, youngest of the Fishers, driving from California to New York, as the future fast forwards before our eyes. The vast open road of the West is of course a metaphor for life itself. It could just as well be the view from the prow of a ship. It is the path, the Tao, the Way. And death is as much a part of the Way as love, sex, and adventure are. Claire lives to be 102, which is fitting, somehow. The artist lives longest and last.

Happy Trails.

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