On Death – A Curious Reflection

WARNING: Philosophical discussions and crude humor. As with any philosophical discussions, take it with a grain of salt. Do not go on reading if you cannot think clearly about the matter.

2-liner summary: A person should have the right to end his or her life. And that should be a carefully thought out decision.

SIDE NOTE: the word “right” is thrown around too much nowadays. The “right” to free speech, “right” to vote, “right” to bear arms, and “right” to ever increasingly creative “rights” are not inherent from the nature of an existing being, which we humans are. These “rights” are social constructs created and enforced among a society. People in a society agreed to not kill each other or let each other speak freely because these things help with co-existing and enjoying life. The only right we have as an existing being is to end our existence, if we have to ability to do so.

We constantly put every experience and emotion on a Life-Death scale. When the things on the Death side outweighs those on the Life side, we end our lives. One caveat: there is no way to change this decision later if we happen to regret it. Two assumptions: we cannot take any action to reverse being dead, and we can “regret” the decision to take our lives.

First thing first: quick dash over my basic philosophy.

There is no inherent meaning in life. Many living person, including me, choose to give life meanings of our own. Life was not given to us by some sacred entities. We have no obligation to do anything in life, either to some mythical beings, or our family, or any other beings. Being born is not a sacred gift. Giving birth is only one part of the reproduction process. Also, we never asked to be born. Life is not inherently better than no-life (a.k.a. death). We like life more than death because of our living experience. We are always surrounded by people who chose to live. If anyone wants to die enough, he would had already killed himself. So of course everyone currently living has a preference toward living.

Let’s work backward from the most extreme cases:

Zombie apocalypse. We can imagine and understand people with all their friends and family dead preferring to die rather than continue the struggle for survival everyday. These people have weighted a peaceful death more heavily than a life of constant pain.

Extreme medical condition where it’s painful to go on. Let’s make this worse. This person is in a coma where she has to be connected to a machine constantly running to circulate her body. This drains her family saving day by day. One day she happens to wake up for a brief period, fully understands what’s going on, and wish to die to save both herself and her family from the ongoing trouble.

If I haven’t convinced you, up until this point, that there are some cases where choosing to die is justifiable, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. These are purely affected by our feelings toward life based on our believes.

Ok, let’s love ourselves toward more iffy cases.

A person wants to die after getting heart-broken in a failed romance. This is justifiable if that person put all the meaning of his life in this particular romance. More often than not, another romance will quickly induce all the good-feeling chemicals in his brain. As with all other good things in life, they are all chemical inducing in our body and will most likely get triggered again by a similar experience.

A teenager wants to die because of bullying or loneliness. I am against this most of the cases since it violate the rule of being a carefully thought out decision. A teenager doesn’t necessarily have enough life experience to put them all on the Life-Death scale. To put poetically, there are so much beauty of life they have yet to see. Thus, their decisions might be biased. However, if the pain of living in the moment extremely outweighs any possibility of future, then it is justifiable to end one’s life.

***

“So why are you alive?” – asked a dear reader.

Or

“Go kill yourself, you filth! How dare you vomit those words about such a sacred topic!?! My daughter attempted suicide last month and we went through so much shit to get her out of it!” – asked an angry reader.

Now, I don’t advocate dying. I advocate respecting people’s decision to live or die, after they thought about it carefully. It is our responsibility as parents, family members, friends of suicidal people to make sure that they are aware of all the options on the table, of the consequences of their actions. But after that, we should not interfere with their decisions.

For me, I created a meaning for my life: to discover beauty and knowledge. This may change to something else or to nothing as we cannot be certain of anything. I have gone through an episode of depression in my teenage years before setting this meaning for myself. Because I know the decision to die is available, and that I’m consciously choosing not to exercise it, I can enjoy every single moments of life. I believe that only a life-not-forced, is a life-to-live.

If you chose to remain in the living world, go enjoy it to its full extent, you beautiful living creatures!

-Thien The Nguyen

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