Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Listening to Russian sing about being smashed apart....or something like that.

I'm taking a class titled "The Redeemed Body" this semester. Title vague enough for you? The class is about martyrdom and asceticism. As a backdrop, we read some Seneca on the noble death, suicide, taking control of the end of one's life, rather than allowing it to be controlled by outside forces.

During class discussion the other day, I realized the opinion I hold -- that there can be situations in which it is rational to commit suicide -- is considered weird. The people -- in my class, at least -- automatically consider any suicide to be the result of depression or trauma. Suicide could not, regardless of context, be a rational decision. To me, that's flawed enough logic to apply to today's world and even worse logic to try to apply to Roman philosophers.

Later, as I continued to turn the discussion over in my head, I realized that our culture (United States of America, contemporary) doesn't really even consider the acceptance of death to be a rational mindset. So much energy is spent trying to stop death, to live just a little while longer, even when the chance of a treatment working is slim to nothing. If a person has a near-terminal illness and decides not to pursure treatment, they are considered to be unbalanced and perhaps even in violation of the law, if they happen to be younger than eighteen. A simple acceptance that death is the human fate is considered morbid, not realistic. Part of this is based on my own experience of how people respond when they find out that I have no interest in heroic efforts being made to save my life should I be gravely injured or fall ill. (The answer is not well, and sometimes they then ask me if I'm suicidal. Usually, they just insist that as a young person, I have no right to an opinion on such things.) Part of this is based on reading articles about attempts by the government to force teenagers to continue with chemotherapy, when they feel that the slim chance the treatment will cure them is not worth the pain cause by the treatment. Part of this is probably rage at a system that thinks allowing a person to starve over a week or so once her body has forgotten how to eat and drink is somehow more dignified or humane than an overdose of morphine.

I'm not sure what to make of it. Or me.

No comments: