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How do you make the decision to live or die?

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You weight enormously higher the possibility of your future action, experience, joy, and contentment—however vague your sense of them now—over present pain and loss. The actual explicit decision for ending one's life comes up when there is something very wrong in one or very wrong for one. Even if you can no longer remember what is happiness, you still know what life is. Even if you are too young to have yet experienced the larger struggle and happiness of adult achievement and romance to come, you have had at least some glimpse of them. Remember to love yourself or work on getting to where you can. You have before. You still know what life is, and I urge you to choose it.

You are correct, I think, in supposing there are situations in which the correct decision is to end one’s life. These are situations in which there is prospect only for great pain in the remaining course of a terminal illness or injury. Mostly they are situations for old people. As I recall, Arthur Koestler and his wife committed joint suicide as one or the other of them was dying of cancer in old age. There was nothing wrong in that choice for their life situation. Sometimes one honors one’s life by ending it.

But generally suicide is disrespectful of one’s life and love, and one should hold on tight against all the pain and loss, bracket the despair and work towards its unraveling, as in my first paragraph. I had a brother who worked as a wildcat in the oil fields. One night he went around to where a rope winding on a large spool had become tangled. As he tried to untangle it, he became caught by the winding rope. It carried him around, winding the tight rope over him. Normally, in this type of accident, the rope eventually crushes the man and kills him. But in my brother’s case, it severed one of his arms, and he and it fell off the rotating spool. He picked up his arm with the one remaining, walked around to where the other workers were, and told them to put it in ice. I think of him that night if I need a little courage.

There is something I have seen save the life of a man eighteen years old, who was suicidal. He read The Fountainhead.

Edited by Boydstun
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I think an unambiguous example of when choosing death was rational was Guy Fawkes on the scaffold. He had maybe 5 minutes of life left to him, during which he was to be drawn and quartered. He got the chance to leap from the scaffold and thus kill himself. Ironically, according to Christian theology he committed a mortal sin in doing this, thus damning himself to hell for eternity.

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If one is a position where he's not sure whether he would rather live or die, how does he make the decision?

Presuming he isn't trying to avoid a fate worse than death, of the kind referred to by 9th Doctor, I believe his first effort should be to eliminate depression as a contributing factor.

What criteria do you think would need to be met to justify the decision not to go on?

Being of sound mind and body, I can't imagine not choosing to continue living. The right to life however, isn't a mandate to live. Therefore the only criterion I can point to is the same criterion every social action must meet; ones death cannot infringe on anothers life.


@ Boydstun,

Your brother's courage and conviction are truly remarkable. I will think of him in times of trial too.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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  • 2 weeks later...

You simply live until you physically die. It helps to focus on envisioning past negative experiences and behavior patterns concurrently with the knowledge that you have perceived and learned from those past experiences and grown the possibility of creating a positive future through this understanding.

Edited by [email protected]
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If one is a position where he's not sure whether he would rather live or die, how does he make the decision? What criteria do you think would need to be met to justify the decision not to go on?

On an intellectual level, the inability to act to achieve any values. On a psychological level, being overwhelmed by suffering, and being enable to achieve any happiness. On a physical level, being in debilitating pain.

The two aspects of man's decision making (intellectual and psychological) are of course connected, the achievement of values means happiness, not achieving them means suffering.

Debilitating pain is also phsychological suffering, both directly and because it prevents a person from acting to achieve values.

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