News
 International
   Global Views
   Asia-Pacific
   America
   Europe
   Middle East & Africa
 National
 Embassy News
 Arts & Living
 Business
 Travel & Hotel
 Medical Tourism New
 Taekwondo
 Media
 Letters to Editor
 Photo Gallery
 News Media Link
 TV Schedule Link
 News English
 Life
 Hospitals & Clinics
 Flea Market
 Moving & Packaging
 Religious Service
 Korean Classes
 Korean Weather
 Housing
 Real Estate
 Home Stay
 Room Mate
 Job
 English Teaching
 Translation/Writing
 Job Offered/Wanted
 Business
 Hotel Lounge
 Foreign Exchanges
 Korean Stock
 Business Center
 PR & Ads
 Entertainment
 Arts & Performances
 Restaurants & Bars
 Tour & Travel
 Shopping Guide
 Community
 Foreign Missions
 Community Groups
 PenPal/Friendship
 Volunteers
 Foreign Workers
 Useful Services
 ST Banner Exchange
  America
Meditations
The Dialogue Buffet at the Death Café
By Martin LeFevre
Contributing Writer
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

A billion stars go spinning through the night

blazing high above your head.

But in you is the presence that

will be, when all the stars are dead. —

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Recently a friend invited me to participate in a “Death Café” dialogue on zoom. I figured it would be either a morbid experience, or a subversive one in a culture that keeps mortality on the fringes of consciousness until an often-isolated end. Curiosity and timing prompted me to log on. I’m glad I did.

You won’t find a Death Café in the alley behind Starbucks. Though tea and cake are usually served when people meet at someone’s house, there is no fixed location. About 6000 Death Cafés have been held worldwide, and physical venues include restaurants (and cafés), a cemetery (for those whose cup of tea is best served with a slice of morbidity), and a yurt (whether in Oregon or Mongolia).

A Swiss sociologist and anthropologist, Bernard Crettaz, organized the first “café mortel” in 2004. Then a UK web developer, Jon Underwood, “developed” the Death Café model in 2011. The idea spread, and Death Cafés have now been held in 66 countries.

What is the purpose of a Death Café? The rather anodyne idea is “to educate and help others become more familiar with the end of life.” More incisively and persuasively in my view, “the official objective of a death café is to help people make the most of their finite lives.”

The web developer Underwood, being English, has made tea and cake an important feature of both physical and virtual Death Cafes, in order “to create a nurturing and supportive environment.”

During the hour and half to two hours of a Death Café, people discuss their perspectives on death, their experiences grappling with their own and loved one’s mortality, as well as their fears and insights.

Needless to say, there are many different ideas about what death means. In the forum in which I participated, the ten women and three men were open with their views without being too attached to them. I found that to be one of the most remarkable features of the dialogue.

I also found, as the literature states, that participating in a conversation that confronts our mortality “revives and an awareness of and appreciation for shared humanity.”

One lady in this Death Cafe, Susan, has pancreatic cancer that had spread to her liver. In an almost jocular manner, she told how that was actually better than cancer in the pancreas alone, which often kills within a few months of diagnosis. She spoke briefly about chemo, and emphasized that she’s still alive after a year, without pain.

“I’m not afraid of death,” Susan said convincingly. You don’t seem to be afraid of disease either, I commented. She replied that cancer can be a gift, since she’s received a great deal of love from friends, adding, “I’ve had the chance to hear lovely things people told me they would have said at my funeral.”

When we were asked at the end of the hour and half to characterize the conversation in a word or two, I replied that it was surprisingly joyful. However down one is, and I was quite down that day, paradoxically, talking about death increases one’s appreciation and enjoyment of life.

As a philosopher, I did find one of the threads disturbing, even as it was meant to lessen despair over the current state of the world. Janet conflated “planetary death” with natural death, and spoke of “the post doom, no gloom movement,” something I hadn’t heard of before.

It should be self-evident that man’s destructiveness has nothing to do with natural death. Man, a sentient, potentially sapient species, has begun the Sixth Extinction in the entire history of life on earth. That has nothing to do with death, just the destructiveness of the human species.

In short, confronting our individual deaths is a totally different thing than confronting our collective destructiveness as a species. We have to do both, without confusing and conflating the two.

In deeper states of meditation, when the mind is completely silent, the actuality of death draws near, without fear. One emotionally perceives the existential truth that life and death are inextricable. Death is our biggest fear because humans have separated it from life since our distant ancestors first became aware of it.

Does a creature have to separate death from life in order to fear death? Clearly yes. And it’s very doubtful any other animals — even the brightest animals on earth like orcas, elephants and crows — have a fear of death. No other animal on earth separatively lives in terms of an illusory ‘me’ that desires permanence.

In the silence of mind, when thought/time ends and the actuality of death draws near without fear, there’s the feeling that awareness existed before the universe, and permeates it. Also, that our awareness persists and rejoins the cosmic awareness, to whatever depth we attain it during our finite lives, after we expire.

If so, death is the infinite ground of creation - of all energy, matter, life and love.



Related Articles
    Human Beings Can Meet This Moment
    Nagasaki and the Incorrigibility of Man
    There Is No Evolution of Consciousness
    Imagining ‘Umwelts’ Is Unnecessary
    Expansion or Negation of Self?
    Intelligent Life, Meditation and Transmutation
    The Source of Evil Is Not a Person or a Nation
    Higher Thought: Threshold and Impediment to ...
    Is Universality a Western Idea?
    What Is Your View of Human Nature?
    Defeating Evil Without Violence
    A Recipe For World War
    Beyond Thinking Machines
    There Is No Such Thing as "Personal ...
    Time Is a Tremendous Illusion
    Breakthrough Infection, or Inflection?
    Requiem for a Meditation Place
    Fragmentation and Wholeness
    Did Evolution Go Wrong With Man?
    The Urgent Indifference of Enlightenment
    Death Isn’t After Life; It’s Inseparable ...


Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue. lefevremartin77@gmail.com

 

back

 

 

 

The Seoul Times, Shinheung-ro 36ga-gil 24-4, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea 04337 (ZC)
Office: 82-10-6606-6188 Email:seoultimes@gmail.com
Copyrights 2000 The Seoul Times Company  ST Banner Exchange