Posts Tagged ‘death’

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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After yet again recently revisiting the period of my father’s death in a poem, it seemed only fair to republish a few poems from an earlier sequence that will help put that in context. I have missed some from that sequence that don’t relate to the grief, and some others that I’ve only recently republished.

Reading in the Park


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After yet again recently revisiting the period of my father’s death in a poem, it seemed only fair to republish a few poems from an earlier sequence that will help put that in context. I have missed some from that sequence that don’t relate to the grief, and some others that I’ve only recently republished.

Try the Emptiness

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Grave & Courtyard v2

We’ve had another meeting of the Death Cafe again – only 11 people this time, but still a good solid number.

The main topics we covered were assisted dying, suicide and, towards the end, reincarnation.

The latter was triggered by my recent reading of James G. Matlock’s book, Signs of Reincarnation. Give that I have dealt with this topic at some length already on this blog, why did I go back to look at it again.

Well, basically, I felt I would implementing a double standard if I criticised, as I frequently do, materialists for refusing to look at the evidence for a spiritual reality because they have ruled it out in advance as impossible, and I then refused to look at newly described evidence organised under a different model for a concept like reincarnation because I have decided I do not believe in. That would smack of hypocrisy.

So I bit the bullet and bought the book. We are hopefully going to have another look at that at a later meeting of the Death Cafe as I was only half way through the book when I brought the matter up at the end of the meeting.

I’ve now finished it and he has not changed my mind, but I respect his careful review of the most convincing evidence and his preference for letting the evidence shape the theory not the theory warp the evidence.

He summarises his basic position near the end of the book by stating (page 258):

The workings of reincarnation are often presumed to lie in metaphysical obscurity. In reality, as I have tried to show, the process is probably fairly simple, at least in outline. The stream of consciousness that animates a body during life continues into death, and persists through death, until it becomes associated with (possesses) another body, generally one not yet born. The consciousness stream is composed of both subliminal and supraliminal strata, the former bearing memories and various traits we may subsume under the heading of personality, the latter representing conscious awareness. Once in possession of its new body, the reincarnating mind customises it by adding behavioural and physical effects through psychokinetic operations on its genome, brain, and underlying physiology. At the level of conscious awareness, there is a reset, as the mind begins to interact with its new body and brain. Amnesia sets in, the subconscious blocking conscious memory of the past in what it considers to be its own best interests. The influence of the past is expressed behaviourally, however, and at times the subconscious permits memories to erupt into conscious awareness.

I must thank him also for pointing me in the direction of another model that seems at first sight to map more closely only my own perspective (page 233 – my emphasis):

The [Archetypal Synchronistic Resonance – Mishlove & Engender 2007] model emphasises the hidden nexus of meaning underlying seemingly disparate events and may have some utility in explaining unverified past-life memories, past-life regression, and past-life readings that tap into a client’s mind if these relate to deep psychological processes and psychic connections between people rather than to the memory of previous lives.

Matlock feels this model is inadequate to explain ‘solved reincarnation cases.’

The middle paragraphs of the second of two posts on reincarnation show how closely I t corresponds to the clause in bold.

Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick, in their excellent book Past Lives, have a whole section on this very issue. . . .[T]hey refer to (page 278) . . . the ‘Cosmic Memory Bank.’ They describe ‘field theories’ and refer to Rupert Sheldrake’s idea of ‘morphic resonance.’ They add (page 279):

If memories (information) are held in this way they would exist independently of the brain and therefore be accessible to another brain which ‘resonated’ with them.’

A model along these lines is still my preference, even though Mishlove is clearly a convert (page xiv), and even though I’ve ploughed through some of Stevenson’s work, as I indicated I would, and now Matlock’s sophisticated theory as well.

I may have time to explain that more fully later. For now, suffice it so say that I cannot see quite why the kind of affinity between a deceased consciousness and a newly generated one that the Fenwicks describe could not psychically impact upon a developing foetus just as strongly as a migrating soul might do. The only data that needs some explanation are the experiences people report of a soul in transit visiting them to declare where they intend to be reborn. Given that communications from a spiritual realm tend to be experienced in ways that are influenced by culture, that may not hole my hoped for theory below its waterline. I’lll be giving more thought to that as time goes on.

The next meeting of the Death Cafe will be at 6 pm on Wednesday 14 August at the Courtyard Theatre Hereford.

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Grave & Courtyard v2

After my meeting at the Death Cafe on Wednesday I thought I’d check how long I’d been attending. When I checked for my earliest post from May 2016 it confirmed what I had thought –  I’ve been attending for just over three years now.

After that first meeting, as an intro, I wrote:

It was a pleasant walk yesterday evening to the Courtyard. It was an obvious venue to choose in some respects. It’s accessible, and connected in most people’s minds with pleasant memories of films, plays and shows. Just the sort of place to attract people to an event.

There was a catch though. Who wants to go to a Death Cafe? Would the magnet of the venue be enough to overcome the unmentionable word’s repellent effect?

Well, it seems that it was.

There were nine of us turned up for the experience. Admittedly, it sounded from what was said that even those who tried had failed to persuade any of their friends to come along as well. Incredulity combined with revulsion seemed the order of the day for most people.

That was one of the topics we explored together. Why was our society so reluctant to talk openly about death?

It should some as no surprise that the same topic came up again at Wednesday’s meeting.

I wanted to post briefly about this last meeting for two reasons.

The first is that attendance has picked up again after a brief but extreme drop a few months back. There were fourteen people there, though one person only made it half an hour before the end. We discussed how we might be able to attract not only a bigger group but also some younger members. The two or three young people who did attend for a short while no longer come. Some Death Cafes in other places do report a higher proportion of younger people at their meetings. So, I thought posting about the Hereford Death Cafe again might just possibly strike a chord with some younger readers, if I have any of course!

The second reason is that a good friend recently shared with me a fascinating YouTube video of an interview with Peter Fenwick concerning end of life phenomena (see below). I was eager to share news of it at the meeting as well as pass round his book on the subject – The Art of Dying. I have barely started the book as yet, having only just picked it up from our local Waterstones after ordering it via the store, but I explained some of the ideas on the video.

When I had walked up to the till to order, I was confronted with a polite young lady asking how she could help.

‘I have a book to order with a very depressing title.’

‘What’s that?’

The Art of Dying, by Peter Fenwick.’

The young lady at the till showed an unexpected interest in the subject.

‘That sounds really interesting.’

‘It certainly looks it. His YouTube video covers a huge range of things, from NDEs to understanding what stages people go through in the dying process.’

‘I’m really interested in that kind of stuff,’ was the unexpected response.

‘Me too,’ I enthused. ‘That’s why I attend a local Death Cafe. We can explore this kind of thing quite freely.’

She was too deeply into searching for the book on her computer to bite on that hook. Better luck next time, may be.

Anyway, I thought it worth sharing the video which is well worth a look and flagging up the continuing existence of the Hereford Death Cafe, still at the Courtyard every month, usually on a Wednesday. The next meeting is from 6 till 8 pm on 10 July. A list of all their events including Death cafes can be found at https://www.st-michaels-hospice.org.uk/events/calendar/. Maybe see you there?

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I thought it would be useful to republish this as background to Monday’s and Thursday’s poems.

Caesarian Death v2

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