Suicide Isn’t Painless

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    Having essentially lost my 20’s to depression, and felt the pull of suicide many times during those dark years, I understand how someone can get to the point of ending his or her own life. But in the vast majority of cases, suicide is a mistake, as it would have been for me.

    And yet, a school of thought predominates in some circles in the USA that says suicide, even by a clinically depressed teenager or 20-something, is their decision, and we cannot say it’s a mistake. Like hell we can’t.

    A recent report from the San Francisco Bay Area confirms what I’ve been saying for years about this culture—that we’ve gone completely to the dogs. Its introduction warrants quotation in full:

    “An apparently suicidal man waded into San Francisco Bay on Monday, stood up to his neck, and waited. As the man drowned, police, fire crews, and others watched idly from the shore.”

    A spokesperson for the Alameda Fire Department said, “They’re standing there wanting to do something, but they are handcuffed by policy at that point.” They’re handcuffed by a lot more than political and rescue policy. As a resident said at a City Council meeting after the incident, “This strikes me as not just a problem with funding, but a problem with the culture…that no one would take the time and help this drowning man.”

    We need a complete redefinition of responsibility. Responsibility does not flow from being a fragmented dividual, but from being a whole individual. Responsibility does not transpire from individuality and free will, but from realizing that we aren’t separate from humanity, and learning accordingly and acting accurately.

    Each one of us has all of humanity enfolded within us, if only because we are the products of thousands of generations that came before us. Each one of us is also a unique signature of humanity, because no two people, even identical twins, have the same personalities and experiences.

    But if the separate self is an illusion, merely a construct of thought, then how can each one of us be responsible for our own actions, lives, and destiny? Aren’t we individuals, with free will?

    There is no such thing as ‘free will.’ The will can never be free, and the entity that stands apart and chooses is an illusion. Autonomy emerges from taking responsibility not just for one’s actions, but for everything within one, understanding that we’re an inextricable part of humankind.

    Ending interminable pain and suffering of a terminal illness is one thing; committing suicide to end what seems like interminable emotional pain and suffering is another.

    New Age thinking has so beset and besotted the culture that the reasonable attitude of “allowing others their journeys” (which used to be known by the much less grating phrase, ‘live and let live’) has been extended to include self-murder.

    Don’t people have the right to take their own lives if they choose?

    Our rights have nothing to do with it. Suicide, whether by someone caught in the throes of depression in a dead culture, or by a terrorist bomber in an overtly violent land, is only political in a pathological environment.

    I’m not talking about the birthright of all people to end their lives with dignity. But rather than have an ongoing dialogue about end of life issues, we get strange figures like the physician who promoted and conducted “assisted suicide,” Jack Kevorkian (a k a “Dr. Death”), who died of natural causes last week. As one of his prosecutors said, “helping people commit suicide in the back of a van is not dying with dignity.”

    North American culture is a dead sea, yet each person is viewed as his or her own isolated ecosystem. That willful misapprehension increases the enormous pressures on young people, both from the culture of darkness, and from adults close to them who hold individualistic worldviews that blind them to what young people are experiencing.

    When a young person kills himself or herself, it isn’t the parents’ fault, though they inevitably feel that it is. They have to face and forgive their own blindness however, so they can heal, and some good can come out of a life cut tragically short.

    Socrates pointed out a long time ago that an honest and self-knowing person does not choose, but acts according to what is accurate and true. He or she cannot do otherwise.

    Clarity about one’s true choices is destroyed when the confusion of the chooser is upheld. We face choices every day. But the deeply entrenched and unexamined idea of the chooser is false, because there is no chooser that stands apart. Indeed, the very notion of a separate entity means that one’s perceptions are confused.

    Just because we can kill ourselves doesn’t mean it’s OK to do so if we so choose. Not only do we leave terrible suffering in our wake, we just come back anyway, and start from where we left off.

    There are a few people who still care. One can work through things, and be a clearer and stronger human being for having been forged in the crucible of a culture and world like this.

    Martin LeFevre

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