Saturday, 10 September 2016

Is suicide selfish? Discuss.


Everyone's an expert. Just show any sign at all that you are struggling to understand something, and twenty people wade in to put you clear on the issue.

'The more I find out, the less I know.'  This has nothing whatsoever to do with understanding, unless you count 'knowing your limitations' as understanding.

If I obliquely ask for your advice, I expect your opinions. If I directly ask for your opinions, I stand a greater chance of gathering useful advice.

'The older I get, the more fixed my opinions become.' This is another lie which only applies to blockheads, and there are plenty of those around. I need not bother to ask their advice, because I know what it will be.

When I was a youth, I used to test-run opinions by trying them out on adults.

So to my property-developer uncle, I would casually say something like, "All property is theft", then sit back and watch him become apoplectic with rage and indignation as he spluttered that he fought a war for me, fought against communism all his life for the sake of my future, and this is the gratitude I show him. I didn't learn much from this, but it livened up the duller parts of post-prandial Christmas.

Then when I reached a terrible age and realised that I really had no opinions of my own, I clammed-up completely.

In the early years of my sculpture course, a teacher would ask me what I thought about something and I would remain silent. By silent, I mean that I said not one word. I was quite happy to go off to the pub with my fellow students and discuss nothing at great length, but an adult who was supposed to be teaching me about it would be met with complete silence.

After a few months of this, they became worried for my sanity, and the Head of Department asked me to go for a walk in the countryside with him for a little chat.

The walk was excrutiating, because - having given up any hope of response to his questions - the Head began to fish around for words to put into my mouth, none of which came back out again.

In the end, he just lost his rag completely and began shouting at me. It was as if he had just wasted an hour talking to himself, and he told me so before storming off in a red rage. I wanted to explain, but just couldn't.

During the last days of art school, I temporarily destroyed my ego by taking a lot of LSD, and it took any opinions I had half-formed with it.

I really thought I would never get it back, and I really think now that I almost didn't. A line had been drawn on the road which, if crossed, would never allow a return.

Over about a year, I slowly came back to society and gradually wove a threadbare blanket of cosy opinions around myself, most of which were perfectly acceptable to my fellow humans, who - on the whole - accepted me back into their branch of humanity. The biggest thing I learned from this ghastly episode was that you must never, EVER, lose your sense of humour.

Then, as my confidence returned, I began testing out opinions again...

25 comments:

  1. I don't understand this post. The only thing I feel after reading it twice is that I should apologize to you for giving my opinion last night and early this morning on the subject of is suicide selfish. I don't think I should have done it. Sorry.

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    1. I had to see a nun before class everyday for a year when I was 15 in order to explain to her what was wrong with me. I used to sit mute for 30 minutes until bell went for class. Today I would have been referred to a psychologist. 30 years later when I went to art school I had to see my tutor to explain what was wrong with me yet again. I asked him out for a drink. I am used to it. I don't consider there is anything wrong with me.

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    2. Don't worry, I was not seeking any apology, and I am not attacking anyone with this post, though it may appear like that, I grant you.

      I am just as guilty as anyone else about being an expert, and I genuinely believe people still express strong opinions as mature adults, because they are not too sure about their own and need to test them like adolecents do. There is no shame in this, otherwise I wouldn't be admitting it.

      Seeing a nun every day for a mute 15 minutes could be considered penance rather than a cure of some sort. I hope it was a silent order.

      A recently ordained monk of the Trappist variety is shown his cell, and is let into it with the instructions that he may speak to the abbot but once every year.

      For the whole of the year, the novice monks gets rained on through a hole in the window, and when asked if he wants to say anything at the end of that year, he tells of the broken window and asks if the glass can be replaced.

      The next year, a rat comes into his cell and nibbles away at everything until it is destroyed, and at the end of the year, he mentions this to the abbot also.

      For the following year, he is so undermined by the cold, the lonliness and the isolation, that when he is asked if there is anything he wants to say, he finally says that he is having doubts about the monastic life, and requests to leave the monastery.

      "Thank God for that," says the abbot, "You have done nothing but complain since you arrived."

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  2. I didn't see a post on the subject of suicide, which Rachel mentions above Tom - but had I done then I would have said that because no-one contemplating or carrying out suicide is in a completely normal frame of mind then no I would have said - it is not selfish.

    As to today's post - how interesting that you can now talk about it in the terms you have done. It seems to me that perhaps you did not have an entirely sympathetic 'ear' amongst your tutors. Also my goodness me, you had a hard rite of passage from youth to adulthood - I hope it has stood you in good stead.

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    1. I often imagine what it must be like to be so desparately depressed that you can ignore the fall-out that your death will cause to your nearest and dearest, and I think that it is just that thought which prevents many people from actually going through with taking their own life.

      If you are on the brinks of being unable to provide for your dependent family through lack of money and know that your death will not bring a windfall which will see them through times of financial hardship, then is it not your duty to face the music and stay alive for their sake? By 'the music', I mean whatever deep depression you may find yourself in (though shame plays a large part in the innability to cope with financial failure), but I admit that I have never been so depressed that I cannot think of anyone else but myself.

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  3. Tom, I thought very differently about suicide before people I knew took their own lives. I am very fortunate to have a dear friend who survived.

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    1. I would not dream of condemning anyone who makes a descision about whether or not they want to live, but I would ask them to assess how much they are unconditionally loved or depended upon by others before they do it. The responsibility is part of the cure.

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  4. My speeling is bad tonight - I've just got back from a wedding party. A wonderful wedding party. A celebration of life and future life.

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    1. Celebrating what is joyous sounds great to me! Hoping that today's newlywed couple will enjoy future decades together and will be able to find ways through rough patches.

      I don't share very much personal stuff about my own life experiences. What I wrote in a comment here about my chosen historic time might give a hint.

      But you know what, Tom...I am still looking forward to every day I am given.

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    2. The bride already has a little boy by a previous (and rotten) relationship. For some reason, this boy has taken a shine to me since before he could talk. He suggests to his mum that they go to the pub to find me, which is a good excuse for her. He spenat a year or so thinking that I lived there!

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  5. How interesting. Rachel's post went straight to my heart. This speaks to the more pragmatic aspects of being Rachel. I could not put this on my own blog; I may come back and delete it from this.
    My granddaughter, Laura, is the victim of severe sibling abuse; years of being shunned and sent away as worthless. My intervention was close to useless. This past spring she was molested by a fellow student, as she had become the classic victim, and she decided to take her life. Obviously, she was intercepted in time and we are working on he mental issues.
    To Tom's observations: everyone has an opinion of what is wrong with her, and a stronger opinion on how to "cure" her. She is under the care of a fine pediatric hospital, and I am satisfied with our results--but a long way to go.
    Much of my time is divided between her care and work, because I am not independently wealthy. And, far too much of my time was spent defending her and myself from friends and relatives who treat her (and me) according to their ideas of producing results.
    I am thankful for friends who want to understand and help. I was stunned to find long time friends, and relatives, who turned their backs on a child because she wouldn't just "suck it up" and get on with it.
    I had a brother who killed himself because of drug induced paranoia; I understood his decision to die because he could never be "himself" again. But for a little girl not be be given the opportunity to get past bullying and live happily is unthinkable.
    Everyone, please stop judging. If you can't or won't help, just step aside.

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    1. Joanne, I saw your comment just after doing some replying myself. Yes, when you have been touched closely by complicated situations and wish to "make them better," but somehow cannot do so, or not to the degree you wish, you can find yourself with a much deeper understanding. I've not stated this well, but just wanted to let you know I think I understand your comment. xo

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    2. I sincerely hope young Laura can get the help she needs and deserves, and can one day realize how much she matters. Having you to love her and believe in her is an important first step. I'm sending a virtual hug to you and her, both.

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    3. And I wanted to add...it makes me so sad to hear how her relatives think she should "suck it up". What is wrong with some people?! I'm so sorry.

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    4. You are obviously a great Gran, friend and carer, Joanne.

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  6. There have been rather a lot of suicides around here, all for very different reasons, and by very differing age groups (from 14 to 50's). Some one could understand; others not. Even writing this has upset me.

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    1. There seems to be more in rural communities. I'm sorry this has upset you, Cro.

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  7. To Joanne. I had thought there were some 'gaps' in your posts and something more was going on than you were saying. Peter experienced many of the same attitudes with friends and family but the exceptions to this helped to save him, and believe me there were many exceptional and unexpected people who gave up their time for him. For Laura being so young it seems worse - what has she ever done to deserve it- nothing. I can only say that I hope she is able to respond and see the love you and some very special people are giving her as well as the doctors. X

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  8. I find it difficult sometimes to know when to speak and when to stay silent. If I stay silent someone may get hurt? If I speak, someone may get hurt as well! I have opinions about lots of things, but not all of them come from experience and not all of them are called for. But I do believe we need to try our thoughts against other peoples, so that we can find flaws or benefits. When you remained silent, Tom, it irritated some, people without opinions is a threat to some, just as people with too many is a threat. Wise it is sometimes to remain silent until someone really asks. Even if they already have made up their mind, which they mostly have, it gives them a chance either to reconsidder or become sturdier.
    But when it is such delicate and painful subjects such as suicide, silence and listening in care and love is probably the best for those who are in grief. For those who actually speaks of their urge and plans to end life, I really have no clue what to say. How can I? What is right, what is wrong? Everything I say sounds blunt and pointless, the only thing I really can express, I suppose, is the pain I experience from the very thought of loss. If suicide is selfish I couldn't say. Maybe life is just too much to handle?
    Maybe things happend that I really can't cope with. The urge to escape is far too strong. I don't know, but love, care and listening in silence could be a good start . But any opinion I might have must really be asked for, hopefully the Lord will make me wise enough! Anger is sometimes inevitable, you can't blame that feeling either. Guilt is the toughest, you can't argue with guilt, it must be experienced and healed by grace. Carefully, carefully. These are my opinions, some of them have their roots in experience.

    And Tom, so good to know you reached out and tried your thoughts eventually!!! Such important questions here!
    And the sense of humour hasn't escaped me....!
    It does help in desperate times.

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  9. Suicide is dying of one's disease in this case depression. If you die of liver disease or cancer it is not selfish. Suicide has touched my family and although it is greatly difficult for those left behind, I have neve considered it selfish.

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    1. That was a very personal and touching comment, it connects to others I have heard close to me. No, how could it be selfish, it's obvious when you explain it like this. Thank you for sharing!

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  10. I've read ll the comments, but I have now moved on and don't want to get back in that frame of mind. Thanks anyway.

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