Memento mori: Dutch university DIGS GRAVE for students to reflect on life & death

Memento mori: Dutch university DIGS GRAVE for students to reflect on life & death Radboud University in the Dutch town of Nijmegen offers a novel solution for those struggling from everyday challenges of student life and anxious uncertainty about the future – a ‘purification grave’.

The project uses “memento mori” – Latin for “remember you will die” – as its motto, offering a unique glimpse to what comes after death. The “purification grave” is – quite traditionally – an open hole in the ground in the garden behind the student church. It is equipped with a yoga mat and a pillow – basic necessities to make yourself comfortable and meditate: below you there’s earth, above – the sky.

The grave experience can be booked for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to three hours – students decide for themselves how long they want it to last. And since the authors are offering something real, not a 21st century app-imitation version, telephones and books are prohibited during the session.

RT’s Ruptly news agency spoke with the initiator of the project and students of the university.

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The author of the idea John Hacking, who works at the student chapel, thinks that the creation would help the youth appreciate the beauty of life and realize its transience: “The end of life, death, is a taboo, difficult for students… Death is very difficult to talk about, especially when you are 18, 19, 20 years old.” He also believes the experience is a tool in getting away from consumerism: “What you see in society, people are empty inside sometimes because some kind if nihilism. Because what do you have to do? Consume, work, nothing else, no other meaning.”

Ajuna Soerjadi, one of the students who tried the “purification grave” experience, describes what she felt when she was inside: “When you think about death, you automatically also think about life. That is because you realize that life isn’t endless and that we are all going to die at one point. It makes you think about what do I want to do in life, and what do I think is the most important, what does my heart feel, what does my mind want to do.”

According to some students, the project is so popular they have to be wait-listed. “Me and my housemate were planning on going a week ago, a week and a half ago, and we found that there is a waiting list to actually get into the grave, so it’s quite popular, so we didn’t get the chance yet,” says one of the students Sean McLaughlin.

Radboud University also offers services of students’ psychologists and an option of “crying room” during exam seasons.

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