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Archive for October 26th, 2019

Grave & Courtyard v2

We’ve had another meeting of the Death Cafe again – only six people this time, but still a good solid number.

The main topics we covered were ‘Is there life after death?’, the origins of the kind of toxic prejudice that ends up killing people and organising your own funeral.

Since then I’ve spotted an article in the Guardian that goes some way to explaining a phenomena that raises a wry laugh at most Death Cafe Meetings: ‘Why do people bury their head so deeply in the sand about death, so that the very idea of a Death Cafe seems hopelessly grim to them?’

The article in part reads as follows:

Warning: this story is about death. You might want to click away now.

That’s because, researchers say, our brains do their best to keep us from dwelling on our inevitable demise. A study found that the brain shields us from existential fear by categorising death as an unfortunate event that only befalls other people.

“The brain does not accept that death is related to us,” said Yair Dor-Ziderman, at Bar Ilan University in Israel. “We have this primal mechanism that means when the brain gets information that links self to death, something tells us it’s not reliable, so we shouldn’t believe it.”

Being shielded from thoughts of our future death could be crucial for us to live in the present. The protection may switch on in early life as our minds develop and we realise death comes to us all.

They go on to explain the exact nature of the study pointing in this direction before drawing an interesting conclusion about the world we live in now:

Dor-Ziderman added: “We cannot rationally deny that we will die, but we think of it more as something that happens to other people.” The study will be published in NeuroImage next month.

In the not-so-distant past, Dor-Ziderman pointed out, our brain’s defences against thoughts of death were balanced out by the reality of death around us. Today, he believes, society is more death-phobic, with sick people confined to hospitals and elderly people to care homes. As a result, he suspects, people know far less about the end of life and perhaps come to fear it more.

According to Arnaud Wisman, a psychologist at the University of Kent, this is further confounded by our culture of distraction:

His own work had found that in modern societies people embraced what he called the “escape treadmill”, where hard work, pub sessions, checking mobile phones and buying more stuff meant people were simply too busy to worry about death.

The next meeting of the Death Cafe will be at 6 pm on Tuesday 19 November at the Courtyard Theatre Hereford.

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