One of the first online things I stumbled on this New Year’s Day was a reddit link to:
My first laughable thought: Why limit yourself? – have the coffee AND kill yourself!
But the topic of suicide is not a laughable one; it crosses the minds of many people when life’s problems seem overwhelming – and it happens more often around the winter holidays, when cold, darkness, and loneliness can add up to despair. As the article says:
“When every day many of us wake up to read about fresh horrors on our fresh horrors device, we might find ourselves contemplating the question as to whether, as Albert Camus supposedly put it, one should kill oneself or have a cup of coffee. If there is any philosopher who is famous for contemplating suicide, it’s Camus who, in a more serious tone, proposed that, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.”
“But there is a positive flip side to this coin: what makes a life worth living is being useful to others, trying to make the world a better place, our relationships with people we love, and our freedom as moral agents. So long as we have those things, even in limited measure, we stay. And the very fact that there is an open door is a guarantee of freedom for the Stoics. It’s the reassuring knowledge that, if things are really unbearable, you can walk out. As Seneca put it, liberty is as close as your wrists.”
I happen to write books about end of the world prophecies. Many times, in discussions with other people, the question arises: “Well if you believe the world is going to end soon, what’s the point of doing anything?” First of all, I could never be 100% certain of the timing hinted at by prophetic clues. And even if events unfold as I expect, some portion of humanity will survive. But my main thought is that death, whether close at hand or far off in the distance, seems as inevitable as taxes. Whether you believe in a wonderful afterlife or non-existence – our post-death experience will come whether we hasten it or not.
Before that day comes, there is a valid argument for making the most out of our experiences here in this life. To the atheist, this is all there is, so make the most of it. To those with faith in God – we are here for a reason – so live life accordingly. Seneca may be correct that in the worst cases, when there are no good options, freedom is as close as your wrists. But while there are still options, while there is still strength of will to achieve something better – that decision can always be postponed. Everyone reading this has chosen not to commit suicide 100% of the time it has crossed their mind so far. We all have reasons to keep trying, to help ourselves and others…
“Simone de Beauvoir, who was much less famous for her views on suicide than Camus, gives an example that shows the existential answer isn’t so far removed from the Stoic one – a fascinating case of philosophical convergence, two millennia apart.
In 1954, Beauvoir was awarded France’s most prestigious literary prize for her book The Mandarins, in which the main character Anne contemplates suicide. …It’s not only that she feels her life no longer counts, but also existing is torturous and her memories are agony. Suicide seems like an escape from the pain. Clutching the brown vial of poison, Anne hears her daughter’s voice outside and it jars her into considering the effect of her death on other people. “My death does not belong to me,” she concludes, because “it’s the others who would live my death.”
As the article concludes: “focus on appreciating and creating meaningful relationships, projects to pursue, useful things to contribute to others, and things to learn for yourself.” Have the cup of coffee – and instead of allowing yourself to get buried in the mundane and sometimes depressing burdens of life, try to consciously focus your mind on enjoying experiences and accomplishing improvements for yourself and others as long as you can.