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This topic is a continuation of:

Aging - Aging

The window of opportunity?
A few people in the aging thread have raised the topic of choosing when to die rather than allowing oneself to succumb to the decay of age until one is a burden on one's loved ones and no longer has the power to make such a choice.

When the topic was first raised (in this thread, anyway, I think) in James's post I had been studying the Stoics and knew that the ancient Stoics believed that it was possible for "a wise man [to] dispassionately end his own life if he determined that it was (again, emphasis on "dispassionately") not worth living."  At that point it made sense that such an evaluation would be possible.

However, upon Tom raising the issue again in his post and again in his newer post (ah, how I love showing off my mastery of inserting references to other people's posts :) )  I started rethinking.  (It's been a year since I was in the class; it must be time to change my mind . . .)  ANYWAY, I am wondering if it is possible to dispassionately evaluate one's life. 

When I was in the throes of being suicidal, one of the arguments I found to be the MOST stupid and inane and ignorant was the one that went, "But what if tomorrow is the day that everything changes and you stop being sad?" or something like that.  I found myself thinking, "really, do you think that this depression, the one that is so ingrained in my being and has been for the last ten years, is just going to magically go away and my life will become hearts and rainbows?"  And if the issue driving a person to consider ending her life is a physical disability of some sort, it seems even less likely to right itself. 

Now that I am healthier, though, I realize that it's not so much that the pain goes away, but that things come up that make the pain worth enduring.  I don't think I could dispassionately evaluate my life if I WANTED to, because the things that give my life value are the unpredictable, immeasurable, uncountable things.  And I have found happiness in places I thought were doomed to be dark for eternity. 

I know I am coming at this with about 20 or so years less experience of the aging process than people I have heard or read discussing this issue, but on the other hand, that means that I statistically have longer to suffer than they do. :)  My question, then, is a two-parter:

(1)  What is it that really drives people to consider killing themselves to put themselves out of end-of-life related misery?  My sense is that people who consider these options are not always dealing with terminal illness, but rather the decline of the body and mind that comes with age, and possibly also some disgust with the world around them.  I want to know more about why death seems to be the solution.  (I am not asking this in the rhetorical, I-know-the-answer-and-am-waiting-to-pounce-on-you-when-you-get-it-wrong way; I really want to hear the thought process people are facing.)

(2)  Is it really wise, or logical, or sensible to plan to kill oneself "before the window of opportunity closes"? It seems like this approach involves killing yourself before you become suicidal - before life gets so bad that you really want to die but can't.  In other words, one is taking an eternal, irreversible step to ward off a harm that may or may not come to pass, based on assumptions that life will be so bad that NOTHING will be enough motivation to endure.  I have a feeling that nobody would willingly make such a profound choice based on such tenuous foundations on behalf of someone else; so why would one be willing to do so for oneself?
I am, I hope, far removed from needing to make that sort of decision, so perhaps I am not qualified to comment.  But one of the greatest love stories, in my opinion, was that of Sir Edward and Joan Downes, she dying of cancer, he of old age (but the window wasn't yet closed for either).  They both were frail and debilitated.  They chose to die as they had lived, together.   Bravo and encore!
 
As Steve Jobs put it, 'death is the greatest invention of life' (or words to that effect) that it cleared away the old for the new.
 
Why should we fear it - one writer observed that it can only be a few moments of discomfort and then it is done.
 
I'm not being fatalist.  We find ourselves on this planet attempting to leave it a better place than we found it.  When we have done the best that we can do, and perhaps have had some time to relax and watch others trying in our stead and to take some of the pleasures of life that are available to us, when we have done all that, surely there is nothing left to do, to hang around for?  And when it is time to go, I want to know it and be able to go on my own terms.
 
But for those who despair at life and its sometime cruelties, or suffer loneliness or discomfort, I would argue that if you have not done all those things I have written of, it is not the time for you to go.  So stick around, you have no idea what is around the corner or what is going to happen the next day.  You may be surprised and pleased by what you find.
Death is such a natural thing.  We make all kinds of important decisions during our lives but the death choice-the taking of the matter into our own hands is a kind of an unthinkable/mortal sin/taboo.  Sometimes its just sensible; the problem is that when the sensible time comes you may be surrounded by family, doctors, do-gooders who want you alive for some purpose of their own and aren't taking your reasons into account at all.
Fatalism isn't a bad thing.  Life really is fatal. Always has been; always will be...nothing unusual about it.

Fixable mental illness and passing tragedies of life (no matter how painful) are not what I'm talking about here. Depression and desperation in chronic illness and pain are not the issue either--although they may be, in some circumstances, something that an individual can no longer tolerate if the conditions cannot be controlled by the available treatments.

For me (I'm being strictly personal here), I can see a time when I may say 'well, my work here is done, my friends are gone and maybe it's time to shuffle off'.  If that happens and I'm still capable of shuffling on my own--I'll do it.

For all my professional life I saw people being kept alive, often in untenable circumstances and completely against their will because 'only god has the right to end a life'.  Well, who are we to tie a creature to this life when god or life itself is calling him or her away?  Who are we to add to an individual's suffering for no reason other than our own fear of death or fear of an entity who may or may not exist?

This is a topic that will never be resolved.  But death is not a bad thing, not when its timely and well-considered.  Again, my own feeling here is to hear a person's reasons, offer help or alternatives, and then possibly, a fond farewell.

It's true that my work was the business of life and death so it's not as much of a mystery to me as it may be to the general population.  I see it as natural and necessary and cruelty beyond measure when we deny death to a life that is truly at an end. 
Good Morning Gentle Folk,
I would truly like to comment here respecting both your wisdom and myself. Its probably just vain of me to suppose that you had my own dim views in mind in writing, but I will answer as though you did.  - No, Jackie, I am not forgetting that you started this thread. My oldest daughter is exactly your age. You have my attention.

It will be hard to integrate the several notions, fact, and stories that seem tome  to be relevant, so please accept my apologies in advance to the degree I fail, confuse and annoy.  First an anecdote:

It reported that Oscar Wilde, on his his death bed, looked about the room and said, "This wallpaper is atrocious. One of us will have to go."  

Next, Tom Kimmel' theory of everything:

Not to be too explicit yet, it is a speculation drawn by analogy to the finding that the negative through which a holograph is projected is fundamentally unlike a regular photographic negative. No matter what part of a holographic negative is covered the whole projection remains. Some resolution is lost, yes, but there is no particular section of the negative corresponding to a discrete section of the projection. I find this wonderfully suggestive of a cosmology that I can live with. Or die with with without so very much drum and streng. More on this later.  

Perhaps we might also consider that a distinction between the map and the place is rarely made and it is proverbial that men dislike asking for directions or taking them. Women are slightly better at this maybe because they  have significantly larger corpus colosi. The corpus colosum is the connective tissue between the right and left brains.  Also, perhaps because women moult, necessarily shed their skins of self perception in child bearing and menopause, twice more than men, they are crucially more adaptable. In any case the women in my life, like the Entwives, seem to have wandered off. More about women maybe, later.

These considerations, speculations and surmise are very much a part of my daily situation. 

John says stick around, you have no idea what is around the corner or what is going to happen the next day.  You may be surprised and pleased by what you find. And of course he's correct. At least about the the surprised part. Looking back, it seems that where I am is no surprise. Or shouldn't be. The world and I are arriving just where my old maps pointed. And even I am not so vain as to suppose the ills of the world are chiefly my doing. That so, I won't even say that I am getting just what I deserve. Mostly I have been as lucky as lucky as a widows son. I deny that I am feeling sorry for myself. Much of my loss was indeed self inflicted. But I do not think that is very important to me any more. It does not bother me that my part is over and that I must soon leave the stage. (Indians are off stage left, dammit!  Remember the Fantastics?) The truly galling thing is that the whole show is about to close. Or seems to me about to. What a stupifying waste. 


On my best days, when I am brought to tears, I know that I have loved and been loved. Most days I don't know this at all. Most days I feel more like a solitary attendant of an arctic weather station logging variations in the weather, watching the permafrost disappear.  Perhaps Jackie, is not a solution at all. But more an abloution. There is nothing dispassionate about it. 
Using some of the premises above, I think that my conscious, self aware, language using aspect of me is a pretty small and perhaps a trivial part of the much larger consciousness manifest in my brain. And on from there, that larger consciousness (my unconscious) is but a tiny portion of  much larger awarenesses. Some even suggest that the materiel world is really a function of such awareness/consciousness and not the other way around. This to me is an intrigueing notion. It also seems to me to be implicit in some interpretations of quantum physics. In the instant of NOW, the emergent world does yield to our expectations. 


OK for now?   Ok, the third grader, Johnny, asked the  librarian where he came from. She did her best with pictures, with circles and arrows and birds and bees until they were both exhausted and she asked 'Does that answer your question?'
He said, 'Well, the boy who sits behind me says  that he is from Ohio, and I just wondered where I came from.'  
So it goes. Sorry to have bent you ear so long. 
Cheers.
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