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 The importance of funerals?

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Aaron
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PostSubject: The importance of funerals?   Sun Dec 02, 2007 12:03 pm

What do you feel is the importance of a funeral? Why do we feel the need to get together after someone dies?

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Uriah

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PostSubject: Re: The importance of funerals?   Sun Dec 02, 2007 1:51 pm

That's a very interesting question. I think fear has a lot to do with it. Fear of death, fear of the unknown, and fear that life is meaningless. In other words, I think there is an innate fear that there is no afterlife, that our present lives here on earth are all there is, and humanity seems to invent rite and ritual when the mute, ineffable, nature of human existence in confronted. It is a search for meaning, and an attempt to make mythology real.
A play-act of sorts, in the same way that marriages and coming-of-age ceremonies are as well. They help to foster a living mythological context for cultural cohesiveness. In mourning the dead, the family/tribe/society comes closer together, thus strengthening, and bolstering their collective mythological/cultural ideology.


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PostSubject: Re: The importance of funerals?   Sun Dec 02, 2007 2:29 pm

I guess funerals are a part of, what, the rites of passage, which include, birth, significant birthdays like, what 13, 40, 65, etc, marriage, even mortgage burning. Certain societies have more, some less, I guess.
Funeral is somewhat unique I suppose in that the celebrant is not there. Although one could argue that the celebrant at birth is almost as unaware of what is going on.
So I think Uriah succinctly nailed that aspect of it.
Beyond trying to put meaning into it, however, I think these rites of passage also acknowledge an uncontestable fact that we are social beings as well as individuals. So the birthdays and marriages (and divorces) that are celebrated inbetween are perhaps more obvious than funerals.
Because like I said with the funeral, the celebrant is not there. But what is still there is the intertwining of the life of the deceased celebrant presumably with each one of the attendees, be it a small intertwining or a huge intertwining. So a funeral, even in the absence of the deceased celebrant, recognizes the (hopefully loving) effect the weaver of that web has had upon us (but not always) and the importance the web has played and will aways play in our lives.

And just as a practical importance, aside from both Uriah's and my take, is the practicality of grieving togerther in that one spot in that one time. Sure, the grieveing will be continued in direct proportion to the closeness of those to the deceased. But at least it's acknowldged. Otherwise those closest and most loved to the deceased would be forced to endure "mini funerals" for days and weeks as they met common friends. With this rite of passage, we acknowledge the death. And that perhaps clears the way for those in the web of the deceased to begin to start to move on.
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PostSubject: Re: The importance of funerals?   Mon Dec 03, 2007 10:35 am

I agree with Uriah that myth and meaning making are a very important component of funerals and ceremonies in general.

Helium really touched on what I was thinking here...
Helium wrote:
I think these rites of passage also acknowledge an incontestable fact that we are social beings as well as individuals.

I very much agree. Through the process of socialization we share and receive a part of ourselves with social groups, culture, and especially family and loved ones.

I think one of the main reasons that we like to get together with the deceased one's family and loved ones is because it gives us a last chance to say goodbye and share in the inter-subjective aspect of that person's being that continues to live on after death.

Also, it works the other way around. When a loved one dies a part of us that we have shared with them dies with them. I think this is a part of the reason we grieve in the first place. That and we miss the source of new inter-subjective experiences.

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PostSubject: Re: The importance of funerals?   Mon Dec 03, 2007 5:44 pm

Aaron wrote:
What do you feel is the importance of a funeral? Why do we feel the need to get together after someone dies?

Strong emotions seem to be inherently social. Both joy and grief motivate us to share the feelings with others. When we are forced to hold it in, we often feel like we are about to explode or implode. So, from a technical perspective, a funeral is just a ritualized and formalized way of reducing the internal emotional pressure by spreading the load. However, the "importance" of such a pragmatic event is a matter of personal, social, and cultural values. Perhaps it's a show of solidarity to convince God that the deceased is worthy of special consideration in the afterlife.

Deists may lack some of the conventional values of our culture, but they are still human behind that steely rational mask. Funerals are for the living.
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The Paineful Truth

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PostSubject: Re: The importance of funerals?   Tue Dec 04, 2007 12:10 am

I think funerals represent our attitude toward enlightened self-interest. We attend both to honor the dearly departed (sometimes), and also do so in hopes that others will do the same or us. However phony our motivations are as attendees, so shall we reap phony mourning. On the other hand, those that insist on the painful Truth during their lives, will often be judged poorly by those in their own time (i.e. Thomas Paine).

Bottom line, funerals, as with other forms of public accolade, are often poor expressions of an individuals true accomplishments. Few want to speak ill of the dead for fear being similarly damned.
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PostSubject: Re: The importance of funerals?   Tue Dec 04, 2007 4:02 am

While what you've all said may be true today, let's not forget the origins of these rites.

Before modern medical science, it wasn't that easy to know for certain that a person was dead. It seemed prudent to wait a few days before burying the poor sap, just in case he might not be a goner. But one can't just leave a helpless comatose person lying there alone - he may end up being dinner for a predatory animal. So, relatives and friends took turns sitting by the body. This had the added advantage of having someone there to help, if the "deceased" woke up. That's why it's called a "wake".

Of course, the body might start to smell if the burial was delayed too long, so another practice common in the British Isles was to bury the corpse with a bell. Once again, people took turns sitting by the grave in case the departed woke up and rang the bell. Then it would be their responsibility to dig him up.

Today, no one shows up at a funeral with shovel in hand, but that was once the tradition! Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The importance of funerals?   Tue Dec 04, 2007 9:21 am

Well, you've made my day.
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