This is a brilliant and insightful exploration of suicide and our (Western) views on death and dying, reprinted from Elephant Journal, October 11,2014
Please note: This article addresses a very sensitive and emotionally triggering subject. Everyone’s views on death and suicide differ. Please do not take this personally if it does not reflect your own views. Any trolling comments will be disallowed. – CML
Is Committing Suicide such a Horrible Event?
From all the forms of death man possibly can die from, for most people, committing suicide will be the hardest to accept.
When a human being consciously and successfully stops his own life, ripples of dismay and disbelief move through his or her tribe.
What is death?
Beside assumptions and beliefs, no one can declare he or she holds the absolute definition of what the experience of death is all about. We cannot even be certain that death is an experience.
We relate to death as the “thing” that happens on the other side of life. We perceive death as the opposite to life and life as everything that death is not.
A man stands on one side of the river, yelling to another man on the other side of the river: “ How do I get to the other side?” The other man yells back “You are on the other side!”
We stand on the bank of the river of our existence on the side we perceive as life, looking to the other side where we imagine death is. The fog above the river prevents us from seeing the “other side”, which we judge as a less desirable side.
Is it possible that to some people being alive is being on “the other side”? (The less desirable side of existence)
Even though we have no clue what death is, from our point of view, life always has more value than death. People may live the most miserable life and yet it has much grater value than death. The reason we empower life in relation to death is because life is all we know.
We often are disappointed from people that decided to commit suicide—they “gave up on life” and left us behind.
They chose the unknown over what we perceive as certain. You may believe that we choose to come to this life; you may assume that there is a cosmic purpose or reason for our arrival to “life”, and yet, it is still only assumptions. So for this argument we can say that we arrive to this life with no choice.
Isn’t nice to know that even though we may not have chosen to enter life, we still have the choice to exit life if and when we wish to do so, and in a beautiful way? If most people commit suicide in a messy way, it’s only because this option is not available for them. Since the act of stopping your own life is socially unacceptable, as a result, often it is done quickly and in hidden ways.
Why does it make sense to have places such as hospitals, for new arrivals like babies, to enter life, but we do not have places where people that chose consciously to exit life can do it graciously? I am not talking about places for the terminally sick, when people have to get authorization from others that they do have a good reason to die “unnaturally”.
I am talking about places for any adult who chooses to die for his own reasons and without other’s approval.
We permit people of a certain age to drink alcohol, to have sex to drive a car and to carry guns for killing, but at no age we accept people to be adult enough to decide if they want to stop their own life, and if we find them in the act of killing themselves we always try to stop them from doing so.
How would you feel as an adult, if you are about to leave for a far way journey and someone is jeopardizing your travel because they do not want to be left behind? As mature adults we find it inappropriate when someone disrupts our personal choices, choices that have to do with ourselves. But we do not see anything wrong with interfering with people’s most personal and intimate choice: to stop their lives.
You may argue saying this is a tough choice to leave in peoples hands because there is no way back from such a choice. Who says there is no way back?
You may argue saying, no one died yet, changed their mind and returned to life. Maybe the reason for this is that no one that died found a good reason to return to life!
Bringing babies to life is as well a choice with no “way back” and yet how many people that are not suitable to be parents chose to have babies without thinking twice and how many others do not even choose and simply follow the evolutionary drive for reproduction?
And yet we completely leave this choice of creating lives in people hands.
You may argue that the reason for why the act of committing suicide is not accepted by society is because the only people that choose to exit life on their own terms are the ones that suffer great physical, mental and emotional pain, or all of them together.
Is agonizing, unbearable pain and suffering not good enough reason to exit life for the one that chose to do so?
Why do we insist to keep these people alive? Is it really for their own sake and wellbeing, or maybe it is for our own sake, the ones left behind?
We live in a great paradox; we are completely wired to survive. We have all the instincts and drives to prevent us from physical death. When we see a spider we react differently than when we see a rabbit. The reason is that we are programmed to sense that the spider might be dangerous to our life. The same goes with food that we do not recognize. We will be more suspicious of bitter food than sweet food.
We are wired to sense that bitter flavors may represent poison
This is the paradox we are trapped in, on the one hand we are fully programmed to always act in ways that will save our lives, as life is most valuable, but on the other hand, no matter how much we follow our internal survival program, and how much we will do anything to remain alive, we keep moving towards our inevitable death.
The reason for this attitude of “keep alive until you die” is that we are needed to live as long as we can fulfill our evolutionary role of continuing the race.
So death is part of life and vice versa. Who’s to say which of the two is more valuable?
Robin Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and decided to take his own life. We can choose to see that as a noble way to take responsibility for his own existence. Whatever reasons he had, he made a personal choice that is not different from a person that chooses, under the same circumstances, to live.
Being a master is to take full responsibility for your own existence by making authentic choices.
I hope that when my time comes to leave my physical body, I can make my own choice as how and if to stop my life, without any interference from others that may think they know better than me about what is good for me. This is the least an adult person can wish for from her tribe.
Life cannot be precious if death is not precious.
If we are paralyzed by death will be paralyzed by life.
We see death the way we see the sun at sunset. From our point of view the moment the sun disappears from the horizon there is darkness, but the sun is always there, in its full glow.