Art of Dying Volume One | Page 61

opportunities from being realized. Death Activism could take the form of simply learning about death—and its symptoms and stages. Basic human support, kindness and solidarity help anyone facing death. The knowledge will eventually be useful to everyone! Other forms of Death Activism could be volunteering to improve care for the dying. It is also useful to lobby locally and nationally for increased investment in palliative care and bereavement services; and for more enlightened legislation in support of a person's right to die with dignity. Death Activism can also address JON UNDERWOOD Jon is the founder of Death Cafe. He is 43 year old, married with two children and lives in Hackney, East London. Jon is also a student at Jamyang Buddhist Centre. Jon works on projects about death. These include:  Death Cafe, offering group directed conversation about death over tea and cake. Funeral Advisor with the Natural Death Centre, a ‘Trip Advisor’ for the funeral industry.   Find Me Help with Dying Matters, UK’s most comprehensive directory of services for dying people, their families, carers and friends. JON UNDERWOOD WWW.DEATHCAFE.COM • [email protected] how we live. Research shows that problematic feelings about death play a significant role in generating troubling human behavior. This perspective stems from the work of Ernest Becker, an American academic who died in 1974 and later won the Pulitzer Prize for his best known work, “The Denial of Death.” Becker’s views are that humans’ unique cognitive abilities place us in an awkward psychological position of knowing that we’re going to die. In this context we are fundamentally unable to deal with the idea that life could be meaningless. Humans have a pressing need to create systems of meaning in which we are personally significant. Becker called this ‘culture.’ Fast forward thirty years from Becker’s death and interest in his work has grown, largely due to an academic school called, “Terror Management Theory” whose proponents have tested Becker’s theories. Some tests involve raising a subject's death awareness through flashing the word ‘death’ on a screen twenty-six times a second, influencing their subconscious mind. The results, in over 500 experiments worldwide, are startling. When reminded of death, people fall back onto their cultural world views and prejudice, embracing racism and homophobia. They become favorably disposed to bombing fictitious rogue states. When reminded of death, where people, often strangers, share experiences, thoughts and feelings about all aspects of death and dying, often for the first time in their lives. In just five years, over 3,000 Death Cafes have taken place in 36 countries. A profound revelation of these events is the genuine affinity generated when death is discussed. It is my hope that this format will continue to awaken a positive change in attitudes toward death and dying. Our history is rife with conflict people want more money and more and oppression. We face a future of role as a death-denying symbol. and social challenges. We are creating expensive goods, establishing money’s Work to change cultural attitudes towards death is also Death Activism. I consider my projects, such as Death Café, to be an example of shifting cultural thoughts about death to inspire more positive perspectives about life. Death Café is a casual “tea and cake” format daunting economic, environmental more advanced tools for killing, making humanity a threat to itself. We could become the first species to disappear through self-imposed extinction. I would argue that Death Activism can preserve life through transforming the fear of death. Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change with the desire to make improvements in society and to correct social injustice. WIKIPEDIA VOLUME I | 61