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Passions in Poetry

what is wrong with suicide

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since 04-26-2000
Posts 118
Amherst, MA, USA

25 posted 06-05-2000 02:21 PM       View Profile for 7   Email 7   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for 7

I personally was not arguing the belief that suicide is OK. I was simply defending the rights of those who do think so.

I think I'm going to stop replying here because every time I get involved in opinion topics... there's this odd phenomenon that happens when it becomes personal; it feels like I am being accused of being a bad person. There's this terrible feeling when I see certain words directed at me on the screen that proclaim a great deal of disgust or anger... it causes this miniature explosion in my heart and I chastise myself for ever speaking, for ever giving people access to my vulnerabilities. So, I'll do my best to explain myself here, and hope that there are no grudges held... because really we are all just trying to teach what we believe is helpful and good, and that is nothing to be angry about.

I don't think it's OK, but I don't think it's wrong. There is a fine line between morality and feeling. I don't think we were judged by a higher power, and therefore I think that people's right and wrong are all different. Only you can decide your morality.

BUT, I will say this again, just because we don't all agree on right and wrong doesn't mean we shouldn't respect each other. So if someone thinks it's not wrong to murder people, then that's their right to believe it. But it's when you begin to interfere with people's lives and feelings - all morality aside - that's when I would try to stop it. So, the reason I said that if someone is considering suicide that they should get help, was me stating my belief that it will hurt people and I do not want that to happen. Suicide is not something I support, but I support people's opinions, provided that they don't act on them in a way that interferes with my belief system.

It's really quite complicated, and I could go much deeper into it, but I can tell my babbling is not welcome in this particular topic. I will step back, as I often find myself doing once I begin repeating myself. Some people just can't be convinced, and that's OK. But is very important that we all get along, so I truly hope I have not offended anyone by stating what I believe are rational thoughts.

Truthfully thine,
since 04-24-2000
Posts 114

26 posted 06-05-2000 07:35 PM       View Profile for rene   Email rene   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rene

dp, you have really annoyed me here. dod i say you were just words on a screen? did i say suicide is ok? no i didn't and don't ever presume to twist my words against my ideas. what i said was to ME you are just words on a screen, which you are. i don't know you , i have no contact with you except these words on this screen, i actually have no interest in you except these words on this screen which is why i am spending my time writing in a fourum instead of joining pen pal clubs. if it offends you that i have no interest in anybody personaly well, that really makes no difference to me, it is my personal choice to think that way just as it may be yours to feel some personal connection to each member of passions. so no, i do not think you are just words on a screen, i know that to some people you are a person with whom they share feelings, experiences and all the same things i share with the people i know. but when have we ever done anything but displayed and read each others words on each others screens? that is why to me you are just words on a screen.
did i say suicide is ok, no i didn't, did i say that i think it is ok in some specific circumstances? yes i did, maybe you would benefit from reading my post again.
also did i not say that it was obvious from your previous posts that you were not in the specific circumstance where i would find it ok for you to commit suicide, i said that you seemed to have emotional dependants who would be affected by your death. then i actually affirmed you as a human by acknowledging the gift that god is said to have given just to humans- free will. i said that in the end it was your choice because i would not be so arrogant as to tell another person what is right or wrong for them, i would only share my opinion.
Lost Dreamer
Member Elite
since 06-20-99
Posts 2589
Normal, Illinois

27 posted 06-05-2000 08:36 PM       View Profile for Lost Dreamer   Email Lost Dreamer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Lost Dreamer

All right I am gonna try and state my opinion here, only because how devastating an event suicide truly is. It's desperation that brings one to it, yet most of the time they look for a saving grace. Someone to notice and convince them out of it, who are we if we say go ahead I understand, or if we fail to notice the signs all together. The delicate nature of the situation cries for professional help, but how many of these people would or could trust a stranger, they need that someone special to convince them they are loved and needed and things can get better. They need to know you as their friend or relative will be there to guide them in the right direction. What's the right direction? The one where you offer to carry them through their turmoil's, help them to see the beauty of life around them. Yes, I know they don't see it and maybe you don't either, but then you need to imagine it yourself for the aid of healing. Healing a lost soul who believes life has ended for them so why not just take their life. You can have a positive impact on the situation by showing that you care, sometimes that's all it takes. I say this cause I reached out to a stranger that I feared for his life, I was searching poetry pages on the worldwide web and came across his site. His poetry was very suicidal in content, very depressing, I went into panic mode. (See ever since a student in my son's math class who my son knew, and I even gave a ride home to once committed suicide and left a poem behind about his feelings, I have tried to be more focused.) I read all the poems at this young man's site and decided I would E-mail him and tell him how important he is and how many people in his life love him, now I did not know this person, but God forbid I would take the chance of not trying to persuade someone to stay alive. Than I prayed that this person did not already try the act of suicide. It turned out he didn't and we became friends which than led to me being his Cyber Mom. It was not easy I spent many nights talking to him for hours when I could have been spending time with my husband or just something more I preferred to do, but everytime he instant messaged me I felt I had an obligation to talk to him. I knew he needed to talk if he did message me so I listened and tried to help when I could. He actually is an amazing young man with more faith in God than I even have at times, but he was going through a down time and needed someone, and I turned out to be the someone that mattered. So the next time you want to tell someone it's all right to take their life, stop and think if there's something that maybe you can do that could change their mind.
doreen peri
Member Rara Avis
since 05-25-99
Posts 8028

28 posted 06-05-2000 09:23 PM       View Profile for doreen peri   Email doreen peri   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for doreen peri

Ok, rene, now I'll quote you  and explain how I interpreted your wording. I'll preface and  end this by saying that if I have misinterpreted, I apologize. But at least you'll be able to see how I came up thinking  that you seem to be supporting a person's decision to commit suicide if that's what they choose to do.... a stance which I consider irresponsible to all those who may be reading this.

Also, before I start, I'd like to say that you were not the only one who made comments here which argued that in some circumstances, suicide might be OK... you were the only one who asked me how I came to believe I understood what YOU said... so, I'll answer you.

rene: "dp, i hope you dont kill yourself. i mean to me you are just letters on a screen so to me it wouldn't make any difference really."

doreen's interpretation:  To me, that says I am just letters on a screen and if I committed suicide, it wouldn't make any difference, really. Isn't that what it says?

rene: "however you don't fit into my idea of suicide not bieng wrong. firstly i know you have emotional dependants, from reading your poems i can tell that people here know you and care for you. so if you do kill yourself, it will be wrong, in my opinion. this is clearly an opinion you hold as explained in your previous messages so for you to kill yourself now would be foolish and actually quite weak."

doreen's interpretation: First of all, I don't understand what the first sentence means. What is your idea of suicide "not being wrong"? That's a double negative and I didn't follow it. However, reading on, your logic seems to go back to MY original argument that it was wrong to commit suicide because of how negatively it would effect loved ones. It seems that you're going back to MY feelings about it.

AND yet, previously, you said,

rene: "if someone told me about this huge amount of pain, or just boredom they were suffering and were addamant that the best thing to do would be to step out, then i would be, if i loved this person, willing to go through my own personal suffering for the loss of them so that they would be free from pain."

doreen's interpretation: And this says to me that it doesn't matter whether my loved ones would be hurt so therefore how could I be "foolish" and "weak"?  Perhaps I read it wrong. I dunno.

rene: "also don't let yourself be talked into things, if you have read what has been posted and considered it in view of your own situation and decided you fit into the argument that says suicide is ok then well, fine, your choice and i would support you."

doreen's interpretation: This says to me that if I, as a reader of your words, decide that what I've read here demonstrates the suicide is OK, then it's ok with you and not only that, you would "support" me in my endeavor. To me, yes, this says that it COULD be ok to commit suicide as long as I believe it's what I want to do to myself. And I consider this irresponsible wording because someone could believe that if they think it's ok at the moment they are reading this and considering it, then it IS.

This statement about supporting me in my decision to go through with suicide was your main statement which led me to believe that you think suicide can be OK. It's a personal choice, it said to me. Perhaps I read it wrong. I dunno.

rene: "but i am nearly totally sure that is not what has happened so think a bit more if you had already decided. i would say, that considering suicide in a, well i guess half hearted way, was a good thing to do because it reminds us of how easily we can be plucked from existence."

doreen's interpretation: I thought your comment to "think a bit more" was very kind, actually. But then you said,

rene: "anyway, do your own thing, may or may not hear from you soon,"

doreen's interpretation: I honestly thought this statement was a total dismissal of me as a person. "do your own thing"? "may or may not hear from you soon"? C'mon rene... do you really think that would be a responsible appropriate thing to say to someone who just actually MAY be considering suicide? You clearly state that you don't know me and don't care about me and that's your choice not to build friendships or get to know people personally here at Passions. And that's fine. Yet, then you turn around and say you KNOW that I would not be the type of person to do it. Well, if you don't KNOW ME, then how the hell do you know what's on my mind?

Plus, my main point in all of this is that you can't possibly know EVERYBODY on the worldwide web who may be reading this and words stating that you would support someone if that was their choice were irresponsible, IMHO.

That's all. Now.... let me again say that if I have misinterpreted or misread ANYTHING that you wrote, I apologize. It wasn't my intention to start an argument. My intention was to show that taking an argumentive stance to support someone's possible pending act of suicide is not a good idea and is dangerous.

I will end this post and won't post on this topic again. My final comment is that perhaps this type of question should not be posed at all in a philosophy forum or any other public forum where misinterpretations could ensue and where people's lives may be effected.

Perhaps this type of discussion is best left to those who know each other well.

[This message has been edited by doreen peri (edited 06-05-2000).]
Senior Member
since 04-05-2000
Posts 1829
North Carolina

29 posted 06-05-2000 10:37 PM       View Profile for Rosebud1229   Email Rosebud1229   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Rosebud1229

To me personally, I think suicide is just an easy way out. Also do you know how many people commit suicide just as a means for attention. So much for attention after your dead. Why not put your energies into life and make something of it. If not to help others then to help yourself. I think when a person wants to kill  themselves its more about not feeling like they have anyone who cares.  Start thinking about life and focusing on how many die each day and how many babies that never even make it into this world that never even had a chance. Yes suicide may take away the pain, but then again it also takes away the joy of everything including life.

Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea

30 posted 06-05-2000 11:40 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Doreen said:

"I will end this post and won't post on this topic again. My final comment is that perhaps this type of question should not be posed at all in a philosophy forum or any other public forum where misinterpretations could ensue and where people's lives may be effected."

No.  Your argument could be applied to any situation and is tantamount to foreclosing all conversation, all communication whatsoever.  Misinterpretation is a fact of life.

People's lives are influenced by ideas, belief systems, and philosophies all the time and there is no way anyone can control this. As I read through this thread, by far the majority of people are adamantly against the practice of suicide. Why do these posts 'not count' in your system of thinking, Doreen (Oh yeah, that's right you're not posting here again)?    

The answer is never to quiet people but to argue, persuade, debate them. You won't always win, perhaps, but you will have the opportunity to attempt persuasion.

The only way a true plurality of ideas can exist is by allowing the most controversial ideas the same space as those that most people agree with.

The only reason I would even think about closing this thread would be if this moved from adamant and emotional disagreement (which I'm not particularly comfortable with)
and into personal threats or attack against someone else. Again, misunderstandings are common place (even among close friends) and the answer is more talk, not less.

I agree with Rene that this question is a hypothetical. It is an attempt to discuss the legal, moral, social, and spiritual basis for our opinion on suicide. However, opinions never come out of thin air and are always based on the historically, socially situated individual. The anecdotal evidence placed here is just as valid as statistical or logical arguments.

But I wouldn't mind if everybody cooled down a little bit before posting again.  

serenity blaze
Member Empyrean
since 02-02-2000
Posts 28839

31 posted 06-06-2000 04:13 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Thank you much, Brad.  And I certainly wouldn't want the intensity of my opinions to stop others from voice.  I got a little emotional.  That happens after seven funerals...forgive me?  

But emotional reaction to this argument stands as testimony to the effects THAT I KNOW...suicide is not a solitary mission, nor is life...

Much love to you all.  Would it be too trite to say, "PEACE"?
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea

32 posted 06-06-2000 04:36 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Thanks serenity.  

I just wanted to add that some topics are indeed off limits for this forum. I try to follow Ron's rules and could not, in good conscience, allow certain issues to be entertained here. About ten popped into my head as soon as I posted my above comment.  Actually, I think most of those 'taboo' issues are really only 'mock' stances intended to shock rather than stimulate thought and speculation.  I honestly believe that any serious philosophical concern is allowable in this forum.

So don't try to test me, okay?      

To my knowledge, suicide is allowable. It reaches for the very core of liberalism, individualism, and the contradictions within those particular 'isms'. However, if Ron decides that this isn't appropriate for this forum, then I will most happily take the proper action.

doreen peri
Member Rara Avis
since 05-25-99
Posts 8028

33 posted 06-06-2000 07:40 AM       View Profile for doreen peri   Email doreen peri   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for doreen peri

Ok. I lied. I'm posting again.
A short one this time. (the crowd lets out a sigh of relief).

First, the key words in my last statement were "public forum", Brad. In my opinion, this type of subject for purposes of philosophy MAY be better left to University level classrooms. That's just my opinion. I may be totally wrong. I adamently agree with your statements, "Misinterpretation is a fact of life. People's lives are influenced by ideas, belief systems, and philosophies all the time." Exactly. That's why I apologized repeatedly  if I misinterpreted anything here.

Brad, you also said, "The answer is never to quiet people but to argue, persuade, debate them. You won't always win, perhaps, but you will have the opportunity to attempt persuasion." I TOTALLY agree, which is what I was trying to do.... debate and persuade.

Brad, you also said, "The only way a true plurality of ideas can exist is by allowing the most controversial ideas the same space as those that most people agree with." Another statement I would totally and adamently agree with.

I never proposed closing the thread. I only said I wasn't sure this type of forum was the proper place for this type of argument. I am no philosopher so perhaps I shouldn't have posted in this forum to begin with.

You said, "As I read through this thread, by far the majority of people are adamantly against the practice of suicide. Why do these posts 'not count' in your system of thinking, Doreen". They counted a great deal!  I responded to several people telling them I agreed with them and thanked them for posting. But I wasn't debating with them. One doesn't debate people who agree with you.

So, if I've riled anybody or upset anybody or misinterpreted anybody, I will apologize again (how many apologies do I have to post here?)

And I also apologize for letting the subject matter effect me emotionally. Maybe I'm just not too good at debating hypothetical issues. As I said, perhaps I shouldn't have participated in this forum to begin with.

Brad said, "Your argument could be applied to any situation and is tantamount to foreclosing all conversation, all communication whatsoever." I never meant to imply anything NEAR that. Without conversation and communication, what's it all about?

I'm just a bit (ha! a bit??) overly tired. Have been under a lot of stress and battling depression. Please excuse me. (Whoops, i guess I lied again. This one isn't really short is it?).

Carry on.

[This message has been edited by doreen peri (edited 06-06-2000).]
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea

34 posted 06-06-2000 09:44 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Thanks. I definitely thought you were hinting in that direction. Guess it's my turn to offer an apology.      

Talk to you tomorrow,


since 06-07-99
Posts 101

35 posted 06-07-2000 11:29 AM       View Profile for fjones   Email fjones   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for fjones

Any action you take always effects someone.
This is a fact of life. Are you later held accountable for your actions? Well you may not know for sure until it's to late. I'm almost sure you can't come back from the grave to rectify past actions.  

Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
Posts 9708
Michigan, US

36 posted 06-07-2000 11:46 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

I suspect my response may surprise a few people, especially considering the rather strict guidelines Passions has about suicide in poetry and prose. And, yes, in discussions, too. Before I talk about suicide, per se, I think it worth a moment to talk about why those guidelines exist.

There are two reasons we have guidelines.

The first is to avoid the utter garbage we all know exists for no reason other than to gain attention. While I welcome an honest exploration of almost any subject, I don't respond well to manipulation and shock value. It doesn't make me think, as the writers of that genre often claim. It just makes me mad. And it is rarely, if ever, honest. A bit over a year ago, myself and a handful of like-minded people decided we frankly didn't want to read any more of it and these forums were created. It was our sanctuary from sensationalism. Our membership has grown a tad, but I have always operated under the assumption that everyone who has since joined us appreciates that freedom from excess as much as did the earliest members. The first reason for guidelines, then, is very selfish and fairly simple. The second reason is more complex.

When doctors swear their Hippocratic Oath they are actually making two promises: To help people and - first and foremost - to do no harm. Were everyone who frequents our home as strong-minded as most of you, there would be little need for guidelines. If all of the teens and young people had parents who would take the time to discuss and explore what young eyes read here, there would be little need for guidelines. Were critical thinking still taught in our schools, there would be little need for guidelines. But lacking those criteria, as we most assuredly are, many of our guidelines are in place to help insure we do no harm. I don't believe people are stupid. But I do think some are often misinformed and highly impressionable. It's great when we're able to help people. And, judging by my email, I think we do that far more than many of you might believe. But, like a physician, we must be careful that our efforts to help cannot cause inadvertent harm.

There have been people over the past year who have argued that poetry glorifying suicide and other self-destructive behaviors should be allowed and even encouraged at Passions. It is cathartic, they say. It gives the writer the one thing they most need - someone willing to listen. And, perhaps most convincing, they contend it allows us all the opportunity to offer a helping hand to those who most need our support.

I wish we could help every troubled soul. Unfortunately, we're not really trained to do that. Listening isn't enough. We're writers, not therapists. We're poets, not professionals. The only valid answer we can offer is advice to seek help. Real help, not glib answers. To try doing more is to risk doing harm. Our very efforts to listen and be there for someone could encourage them to push for more, to push harder, to go beyond that final step from which they cannot return. I'm not a professional, but I do believe that encouraging troubled people to depend on others - on us - is the wrong answer. It takes training and experience to know when someone can be dependent and when that dependence should be severed. By trying to help them, we begin a process we haven't the training to control. Does that mean we should ignore them? Of course not. But I think our help should be limited to repeated attempts to get them into the hands of trained professionals. To attempt more is to give them only the semblance of what they need and encourage them to "get by" without real help.

A person in the midst of suicidal depression is dry tinder, and I'd hate to think a poem on this site glorifying suicide - or even an honest discussion exploring the moral dilemna of suicide - might be the match that sets them ablaze. The guidelines against suicide poetry were my attempt, however futile, to both prevent the propensity for glib answers and to insure no one would be encouraged to take there own life. The guidelines are there to to insure we do no harm.

I have always felt largely justified in disallowing poetry that encourages one person to hurt another. I think as a society we have the right and duty to dictate what one human being can do to another. I am, however, far less comfortable with trying to dictate what one human being can do to themselves. Suicide is a very personal thing. One could argue it hurts other people (as many of you have argued in this thread), but any choice we make has that same potential. By and large, suicide is a victimless crime - and to my mind there is no greater oxymoron in our society.

But does that make it right?

When I was 19 and stationed in San Diego, I found myself abruptly called home on emergency leave because my birth father was diagnosed with cancer. The Red Cross acted very swiftly, yet by the time I arrived in Michigan, he weighed less than a hundred pounds and had lost all semblance of human thought. He was 43 years old. That was my first brush with the big C and, for the next two decades, my only brush. In 1994, my doctor told me he had found a large, tennis ball-sized tumor in my bladder. The doctor was a GP and he immediately made me an appointment with a specialist - for a week hence. I'm sure that week would have been Hell for anyone, but I think it was worse for me than most because of my own ignorance. I was almost exactly the same age as my father. The only thing I knew about cancer was from witnessing his death. For those seven days I was forced to wait, I KNEW I was going to die. It wasn't just fear or worry, it was absolute knowledge, because that's all I had ever seen. I didn't consider alternatives, because I didn't realize there were alternatives. It's difficult, now, to describe my certitude because, in retrospect, I realize how foolish it was. But there was never a question in my mind during that week. I was going to die.

And, yes, I considered suicide. I had seen the pain my father faced. Even more importantly, at least to me, I had seen his complete and utter loss of dignity. I fully expected the specialist to put me in the hospital, never to exit. So I thought, very seriously, of avoiding that inevitable conclusion.

Obviously, I didn't. What I didn't know during those seven days, what the specialist explained when I met him, was that 80 percent of all bladder tumors are benign (as was mine) and most of the remaining 20 percent are treatable. Medical knowledge had come a long way in the 25 years since my father's ignominious death.

But that's certainly not the point of my story. The real point is that, even though I personally think suicide is both a copout and a moral quagmire, for much of seven days - I seriously considered it. And I think that's typical of the way suicide can sneak its way into our lives as an option. Humanity is composed of three interlocked building blocks: The mind, the soul, and the heart. What we believe, either intellectually or spiritually, doesn't become a reality until those beliefs are put through the test of emotional fire. I could cite a hundred instances, nay a thousand, from the man who doesn't believe in killing until faced with defending his small child to the atheist who turns to God on her deathbed. Until faced with that test of emotional fire, until we are held captive by overwhelming emotion - the belief system we've built throughout our entire life is little more than a wish and a want. We hope we will do the "right" thing. But we can never know.

While I dislike generalizations, I think it's safe to say that suicide is typically an emotional decision. Looked at intellectually, it makes little sense. Looked at spiritually, it makes less sense. But those in the throes of depression look at it neither intellectually nor spiritually. They are enslaved by emotion, feelings so strong and profound that the mind and spirit seldom have a chance. When we try to counter those feelings purely with intellectual arguments, we are going to lose. When we try to fight depression with strictly spiritual doctrine, we are going to lose. We must make a person feel better - about themselves and about their life - before mind and soul can be brought back into balance with a heart run amok.

"What is wrong with suicide?" isn't a valid question, especially if you're unwilling to accept opinion as a valid answer. (Everything, of course, is an opinion and everything is based on situational evidence. As a devotee of mathematics, I can unequivocally say that two plus two equals four is both an opinion and situational. The only place in the Universe where certitude exists is within our minds.)

Perhaps a more useful question would be to ask "When is suicide not wrong?"

Here is the seven-year-old, convinced her parents no longer love her because they've taken away her shiny red tricycle for seemingly no reason. She feels miserable, worse than she's ever felt in her whole life, and the week her bike will sit in the garage, unused, seems like a vast eternity to her young mind.

Here is the nine-year-old, left bereft by the too-early death of her mother, ignored and ridiculed by a father battling his own grief. She cries every night, wondering how she can possibly face the morrow without the love and understanding of the only person who ever cared about her. The one thing that overshadows her pain is the anger - at God, at the world, at a father who should have been the one to die.

Here is the fourteen-year-old, struggling with his differences, friendless at school, mocked by those few he respects. No one understands his pain. No one is even willing to listen, but instead offers him only platitudes and advice that it will soon get better. It doesn't get better. Life, once simple, once good, becomes a series of disappointments and disallusionments. He is alone and knows that is how he will spend the rest of his life. It's their fault, for not listening, for not caring. They should have to pay, if only with their own guilt.

Here is the sixteen-year-old, watching silently from a distance, as the only boy she ever loved laughs with his new girlfriend. She knows they are laughing at her. Everyone is laughing at her. There is this terrible pain in the pit of her stomach, a knot of tension so real it pervades her every thought, her every breath. If only she were prettier. Smarter. More popular. Then he would still be with her. But she is none of those things, can never be any of those things no matter what she does, and the pain and humiliation get worse every day.

Here is the twenty-year-old, sitting with a near-empty bottle of vodka and the memories of the wife and child he drove away. He knows he has problems. Drinking too much. The jobs that never last more than a few months. The anger he directs towards those he loves. The only thing in his life he ever did that was "right" was to marry her when she became pregnant. And, now, even that is being taken away.

Here is the thirty-year old, walking the dark streets with fear in her eyes and an even darker certainty this night will end as have all the rest. She had dreams once, and followed those dreams as everyone always told her she should. But they never told her the cost of failure. They never told her life could be a series of disappointments and heartaches, one misplaced step placed after the one before it, until there was no where to turn and no way to turn back. They didn't tell her how much it could hurt.

Here is the forty-year-old, his life half spent, trapped on a path he never chose. He didn't realized the years would slip by so quickly, that the daily struggles to just survive would become the sum total of his entire existence. He no longer cares about his meaningless job, if ever he did. His family is just the anchor that held him in place for so long. He's young enough to remember the dreams of his youth, but too old now to begin chasing them. Is this all there is? Is this all there will be - for another forty years?

Here is the fifty-year-old, walking up the steps to his second mortgage, his hand trembling as he reaches for the door. His wife knows something is wrong the moment she sees his face, but she never guesses just how wrong. Downsizing, they call it. Early retirement, some joke. But he knows it for what it really is - a man who no longer has any value. Who is going to hire an old man? Who is going to pay the bills? Who is going to look through his mirror in the morning and convince him there's any reason to get out of bed?

Here is the sixty-year old, sitting in his shiny chrome wheelchair, the smell of new plastic drowned beneath the odor of the colostomy bag hanging at his side. The house looks different after all those weeks in the hospital. Smaller. His wife reorganized the furniture, widening the pathway from their bedroom to the TV, the only path he ever follows any more. It was just one of the many, many adjustments she's made for him. He is no longer a husband, not in any real sense of the word. He's just a burden. And, according to the doctors, this will continue for another ten or twenty years, until the degenerative disease takes his mind as well as his legs.

Here is the eighty-year-old, standing naked in his bathroom and staring at the indelible ink patterns the shower refused to touch. The radiologist will touch them up this afternoon anyway, religning the bulleyes so the deadly radiation can better be aimed. The treatment will last only seconds, unlike the interminable drive to and from the hospital, his daughter making small talk as she weaves through traffic, trying to pretend nothing has changed. Tomorrow they'll make the drive again, this time for chemo, for the clear plastic bag of lethal poison that will slowly drip into his viens. There's a twenty percent chance these trips will grant him another two years of life, instead of the few months he'll have without them. His daughter thinks it's worth it.

The gamut of problems we face in life seemingly spans from birth to death. And, for all I know, perhaps beyond. In spite of the myths, in spite of the illusions we sometimes see from the outside looking in, there is no "and lived happily ever after" for any of us, at least not while we still draw breath. We all face obstacles, those which are temporal and those which truly end only with our passing. Most face their problems, some by remembering better times, some by reaching out to a greater force, all by finding a path that leads to hope. Most of us learn to cope. Most. But not all.

Some, whether right or wrong, find they cannot cope. Overcome by grief, frustration, lonliness, fear, anger, hopelessness - they simply surrender. Sadly, coping is something we must do 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Giving up can take only moments. Are those who abandon all hope morally wrong? Always? No matter the situation? There was a time when I thought I knew the answer to that question. I'm no longer so certain. And I might suggest that until your own convictions are tested in the fires of crippling emotional overload, you probably don't know either.

And you know what? I don't think it matters even one iota.

It does no one any good, either them or especially me, to sit in judgement and try to determine whether someone's actions are "right" or "wrong." That's not my job. And until I'm able to take an afternoon stroll across Adam's Lake, I'm not really qualified either. What I can do, what I must do, is instead judge my actions. What I do in response to others is the only thing that matters, the only thing I can ever label right or wrong.

Allowing others  to make their own decisions - and their own mistakes - is both a wisdom and a copout. The difference lies less in the results than in your own motivation. Do you grant freedom and promote growth? Or do you absolve yourself of responsibility?

None of us would watch a child run into the path of on onrushing vehicle and tell ourselves it was, after all, the child's deciscion. Most of us would stop the blind man from walking over the edge of a cliff, the city-slicker from wandering into a nest of poisonous vipers. Ah, but those are people making mistakes, you whisper. We're not usurping their freedom, and they will surely thank us for our intervention. But what of the sibling abusing drugs, surely just another kind of suicide, or the drunk friend crawling behind the wheel of a car? What of the teenager picking up her first pack of cigarettes, or the aged aunt unable to put down her last pack? Are these individual exercising freedom of choice? Or are they, like the child, mistakenly running into the path of an onrushing vehicle? Do we try to help people? Or do we shrug our shoulders and walk away, allowing them the "freedom" to self-destruct?

I firmly believe that every human being is ultimately responsible for their own actions. Whether you take your life or ruin your life, you and you alone are responsible. Not your parents, not your teachers, not the government, not that mythical creature we call society. And certainly not me. I refuse to feel guilty for what you have chosen to do. That is true whether you are a stranger I've never met, a close friend, or even my own sister. But if I accept that you are responsbile for your actions, then I must also accept I am responsible for mine. I won't feel guilty if you take your life. I will feel guilty if I don't make an effort to help you survive.

When is suicide not wrong? Frankly, I don't know. Nor do I know anyone who does know. But I do know it is always wrong to turn our back on those who would destroy their lives. It's wrong whether you do it through apathy, through hate, or through some misguided notion about freedom of choice. Trying to help someone isn't usurping their choices (ya ain't gonna stop them if they don't wanta be stopped). Trying to help them is offering them more choices.
Moon Dust
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since 06-11-99
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37 posted 06-07-2000 06:14 PM       View Profile for Moon Dust   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Moon Dust

Ok since you've had a lot messages on this I keep it short. Which is what I think suicide is more than whats wrong with it. But its a spur of the moment thing a nealy was for me.
Thing is when your doing it, you don't think right or wrong you just feel hypnotised at the freedom it can command at least thats what I thought.

 We are all poets, its just some people dont know it yet.
Senior Member
since 05-25-99
Posts 1391
Loomis, CA

38 posted 06-09-2000 01:40 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Well said Ron.

A clear, insightful and delightfully compelling discussion.  Have you written a book? I would love to curl up and read you for hours....


"Am I my brother's keeper?"  Indeed I am.
"Am I my brother's jailor?"  Indeed not.

 Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.

Robin Goodfellow
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since 06-29-99
Posts 26

39 posted 06-12-2000 04:16 AM       View Profile for Robin Goodfellow   Email Robin Goodfellow   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Robin Goodfellow

[sarcastic rant deleted]

[This message has been edited by rcarnell (edited 06-12-2000).]
Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
Posts 9708
Michigan, US

40 posted 06-12-2000 05:01 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

I don't know what it is about this topic that incites one member to call another "sick," or to respond with sarcasm and disdain - but it's over. Now.
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