August 8, 2009
Death seemed to be having a bit of a swim in my memepool yesterday. Besides John Hughes untimely demise, there was a deeply moving and thoughtful piece by Terry Pratchett, brilliant author and Alzheimer's... I don't know the word. Not victim, not yet. Not patient. Sufferer? Anyway: he has it, it's going to get worse, and he wants the option to, like Holmes, willfully jump off the edge locked in mortal combat with his Nemesis, rather just lay, and wait, and wait, and wait, becoming less and less of the person everyone who loved him loved. As he puts it:
I am enjoying my life to the full, and hope to continue for quite some time. But I also intend, before the endgame looms, to die sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod - the latter because Thomas's music could lift even an atheist a little bit closer to Heaven - and perhaps a second brandy if there is time.According to the article, there is a legal judgement pending in England on Debbie Purdy, an MS victim who wants to travel to a clinic in Switzerland and end her life on her terms, and her husband, on if he will be subject to persecution for assisting her.
Oh, and since this is England I had better add: 'If wet, in the library.'
(So apparently the movement is missing a good word for what it advocates. Apparently "euthanasia" has taken on a tone of "involuntary"; "physician-assisted suicide" has a rather ugly taint about it as well. Pratchett likes "mercy killing".)
So I read this shortly after reading slacktivist railing against the right setting up straw demons to be knocked down. He quotes the Christian Worldview Network
Please e-mail this program to EVERYONE you know! Topic: Ron Meyers interviews Brannon Howse on Obama's national healthcare that will euthanize America's seniors and the disabled through the rationing of healthcare, make someone's intrinsic value based on the State's definition of whether or not they are productive human resource, require doctors to break their Hippocratic Oath in order to be able to make a living and continue practicing medicine, force seniors on Medicare to go through "end of life counseling" every five years so they can be brainwashed into the liberal's "duty to die" propaganda ...And this is what the right claims national healthcare would be about.
I think it does harken back to old issues of "why do we live?" I think everyone needs to work out their answer for this. For a certain fundamentalist outlook, the answer is simple: because God says human life is sacred... (and to be on the safe side, we should adopt as wide-ranging a view of "human life" as possible, which informs their stance on abortion.) (Does John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends", add any nuance to the ironclad rule?)
Beyond the religious aspect, we live because of the old animal dread of not living. Nothing gets the guts riled up like the sudden fear of death, and that goes way below the intellectual and maybe even spiritual intellectual levels I'm going on about here.
My current favorite intellectual reason for living is that life is interesting... like the Alice Walker quote from quotes about mortality page:
"Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it."Or maybe Annie Dilliard puts it a bit more romantically:
"We are here to abet creation and to witness to it, to notice each other's beautiful face and complex nature so that creation need not play to an empty house."(Incidentally, just to reassure people, it's not like having to think of reasons not to commit suicide is an issue for me! I have no instinct that way, at all... this is just me abstractly pondering the classic issue of existentialism. I mean hell, one easy argument is enjoying my loved ones (friends, family, Amber...) a lot and wanting to maximize my time with them. From a more intellectual point of view, it's not good if a person considering taking their own life for whatever reasons doesn't at least consider the horrific impact that even has on the people they leave behind...)
But I've gotten offtopic. "Right to Die" is a complex issue, especially in cases where the person can't express their wishes, or there's some kind of tiny chance of recovery -- but I think when a clear-eyed preference is stated (but again with a caveat: "and the person doesn't seem to be despondent or depressed to an unwarranted degree") -- those wishes should be respected.
Here is some of the Thomas Tallis Pratchett mentions...
That is Beautiful.
http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=haught_29_5 - see, Bush knew we HAD to go to Iraq to stop Gog and Magog - JEEZ!
http://snacksandshit.com/ - funny rap analysis, unfair sometimes. My favorite so far. The "file under" postscript for each really makes it work; there's some valuable comedy lesson there about that kind of stinger/echo.
An object lesson in my office landline phone: I generally keep it muted, but if it gets unplugged, it rings for calls again. It takes more energy to be silent sometimes.
The Soviet cosmonaut Georgy Grechko, while in orbit during the Soyuz-17 flight, relaxed by reading the Strugatskys, making theirs the first science-fiction novels to be read in space.
http://armorgames.com/play/4309/this-is-the-only-level - this is the only level, interesting study in game mechanics. Hated the meta stuff.
"For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love."
--Carl Sagan, this months quote for the new http://loveblender.com/ Digest
"Whatever Works" - pretty good, actually. Larry David's Woody impression was solid and I always dig that existential stuff. Plus, funny.