Fall Event Highlights
Philadelphia Death Salon
In October, the EBF attended the “curated intellectual gathering” phenomenon known as a “Death Salon”, most recently held at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. Death Salons “bring together intellectuals and independent thinkers engaged in the exploration of our shared mortality by sharing knowledge and art.” Co-founders Caitlin Doughty (of Ask a Mortician fame) and Megan Rosenbloom were both strongly influenced by Becker’s The Denial of Death, which served as the impetus for the creation of the Death Salons.
The event featured two days of talks ranging from the morbidly specific, i.e. “Los Angelitos: The Rituals and Art of Child Death in Mexico” to more general presentations on the role of death in culture. One of the most interesting presentations was from a former nurse who now teaches a world-famous “death class” at Kean University. Attracting academics, artists, funeral directors, end-of-life caregivers, and many other “death geeks,” the Death Salon served as a temporary gathering place to further the aims of the death positive movement, namely, to change the silence and secrecy around death.
Also in early October, the EBF co-sponsored Simon Fraser University’s public conference, “Death, Ideologies and Cultures: The Legacy of Ernest Becker” in Vancouver, B.C. The conference kicked off Friday night with keynote speaker Sheldon Solomon on his new book, The Worm at the Core (written with Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski).
Jack Martin delivered an exceptional biographical presentation on Becker’s years in Vancouver, expanding on his January 2014 paper Ernest Becker at Simon Fraser University (1969-1974) published in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology. The 100+ attendees also heard from EBF community members David Loy on Buddhist reflections on denial of death and Patricia Kwok on death with acceptance and dignity.
The EBF hosted a cocktail reception with conference speakers over cocktails and canapés at Bambudda Restaurant in Gastown. We were honored to be joined by Marie Becker and son Max Becker.
Swedish Hospital Symposium
On October 9, Sheldon Solomon spoke at Swedish Hospital’s 12th Annual PsychoOncology Symposium, “The Fifth Vital Sign—Fear” to an audience of nearly 100 attendees. EBF Board Member John Wynn also gave a well-received lecture on fear in clinical settings and presented a relevant patient interview. The program included a presentation from Swedish’s Palliative Care team and a number of workshops. Videos of the presentations are available on Swedish Hospital’s website (on the left, click on “Oncology,” then “PsychoOncology,” then “2015 PsychoOncology — The Fifth Vital Sign: Fear”).