SHOW NOTES: S02E10, "The Secret"
Welcome back! This week's episode involves a Thai Buddhist funeral, which is definitely the most complicated funeral we've seen on Six Feet Under so far. (We're still a little confused about why the Fishers seem so comfortable with these traditions but seem to have never met a Jewish person before... but okay.) Jenna told you a bunch of facts about Thai Buddhist funerals in the episode, but here are a few more interesting ones:
- When the monks chant for the deceased, they all hold on to a sacred string or ribbon that runs from their hands to the casket; this is how the deceased receives the blessings. A sacred string is also tied around the ankles and wrists of the body.
- Often, a young male family member of the deceased will be ordained as a novice monk in order to participate in the funeral ceremony. Even though he only does this for a few days, he still has to shave off his hair and eyebrows.
- Thai Buddhists do not perform cremations on Fridays because the Thai word for "Friday" sounds too close to the word for "happiness."
- Mourners leave "flowers" made of wood shavings under the casket before the body is cremated. Before the casket goes into the crematorium, all ornaments are removed from it, the lid is taken off, and a coconut is cut open and poured over the body.
- After death, a person's body is not supposed to leave its home via the "usual route" that the person walked every day. Sometimes a hole is cut in the wall to create an unusual route, but more frequently the steps of the home are covered in banana leaves to make the path different.
Here's a picture of monks chanting at a funeral—note the sacred string.
In this episode, Nate claims to be a scholar of Eastern philosophy because he has read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a "novelistic autobiography" by Robert M. Pirsig (a white guy) that was published in 1974 after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. Robert M. Pirsig died in 2017—you can read more about him and his book in this NPR article. This article also links to a less-than-fully-complimentary review of the book published by the New York Times in 1975, but unfortunately the transcription software they used was a bit glitchy and sometimes cut out in the middle of key sentences.
Also on a literary note, Claire gets in trouble in this episode for handing in (illegal) photographs of bodies instead of the paper she's asked to write for English class in response to The Spoon River Anthology, a collection of poems by Edgar Lee Masters from 1915. The anthology has been adapted for the stage—here's a full production performed by the Encore Players Community Theater in Trumansburg, NY in 2015. It'll give you a nice taste of what these poems sound like.
We learn more (too much?) about how Margaret and Bernard got together in this episode—Margaret was Bernard's patient. Bernard tells Nate and Brenda that they waited a proper interval after terminating therapy before they got involved romantically, to which Margaret giggles and confesses that NO, THEY CERTAINLY DID NOT. We were curious about what the actual ethics of a doctor sleeping with his patient were, so we consulted the American Psychological Association's website. The ethics are complicated, apparently, because there's something of a tug of war between the principle of "do no harm" and allowing the patient autonomy. However, the consensus that psychologists should not "engage in sexual intimacies with former clients/patients for at least two years after cessation or termination of therapy" and shouldn't do so even then except in the most extreme circumstances. So... that's a fail for the Chenowiths. (We are not shocked.)
See you next week for another truly bonkers episode of this show.