Sunday, December 30, 2012

To Be Or Not To Be

     I know it's the most wonderful time of the year, and everyone is full of good cheer, and I'm sorry for being a Grinch or a Scrooge, but I wanna talk about suicide.
     I think it's really closely related to the recent portrayal of violence in the media, among other things, and so warranted. (Let me take a moment to express all of the QBA authors' deepest condolences for the victims of not just the Sandy Hook tragedy but all of the atrociously violent events of the past few weeks. Feels like society's falling apart sometimes.) Also, it is a main theme of THE greatest Christmas movie and the most inspiring movie ever, It's a Wonderful Life, so, really, no topic could be more fitting. (Many people don't know that Hamlet's famous soliloquy, probably the most famous passage in any literature ever, which lent its first line to this essay's title, is actually a debate over suicide.) So, let's talk about when suicide is a bad idea and when it maybe isn't. I will try not to be facile and say suicide is always wrong, because it's an issue I've given some thought myself.
     Right off the bat, if you believe in a religion that dictates that you will suffer eternal damnation if you commit suicide, or that you will be reborn as something worse if you commit suicide, or you wanna follow Pascal's Wager and hedge your bets, don't commit suicide. Yes, no matter what. Cost-benefit analysis says the costs are larger than the benefits in those cases. Stick it out no matter what, because you can always have hope that there is something better to come.
     What a wonderful segue point. Next, if whatever is making you consider committing suicide feels like it will pass and things will get better, don't commit suicide, because, like above, you can always hope for better things to come. It would behoove you to wait it out, because after it has passed you will not have to deal with it again. Even if there is an equal chance of things getting better or not getting better after your situation changes, you should wait it out. It would be dumb to miss out on a life that is blissfully happy on average because of a temporary patch of desperate misery.
     Now, what is left? People who are considering suicide who have not yet been dealt with believe that their committing suicide will not affect their position in whatever comes after life (whether they believe they will achieve salvation regardless or they believe in nothingness) and believe that this situation will never pass. If you are one of these people, the next step is to seek out people who have been in your position before and see if it is possible to go on to lead a happy life, or at least neutral and functional life. Many situations seem like they will never pass, but given some perspective you realize that it wasn't nearly as bad as you thought. (For example, in It's A Wonderful Life George Bailey almost kills himself over $8,000, but all is perfect in the end. For another example, in the genius movie The Apartment, C.C. Baxter recounts a story of how he attempted suicide over a girl but accidentally shoots himself in the knee instead. As he says, "Took me a year before I could bend my knee - but I got over the girl in three weeks.") If you haven't sought out perspective, you shouldn't take your own life; you'll just miss out on the girl you'll move on to in three weeks after you get over this one.
     If you seek out perspective, but can't find any examples of people who have made it to the other side, you should try to exhaust every other recourse of action first. My friends, jokingly, say that no one's allowed to commit suicide until they've had sex, because they've never really lived. I wouldn't know about that, and I imagine that's not the most constructive action, but the idea is sound; you should try to find happiness and meaning in all other avenues first. As Grant so poignantly pointed out, it's up to you to figure out what the meaning of your life will be. If you kill yourself over something that was never really important as far as what makes you happy, the direction you want your life to go in, and the meaning you want your life to have, then you'll certainly miss out.
     Also, you must consider the people who will be miserable if you commit suicide. Keep in mind that a decision to commit suicide says that you cared more about the release of your own unhappiness than you did about those people's happiness. Like I always say, there's nothing inherently wrong with being selfish, but if you are going to commit suicide, you need to come to terms with that truth.
     I have one last suggestion: give it time. This one I'll leave as a suggestion, because to say it is necessary would obviate the need for this discussion of suicide; if you give it enough time, you'll die anyway, of course. (Although, really, that's a pretty good argument against suicide. Just wait till you die, you know.) However, I do find that time, change, and perspective heal most wounds, albeit not all. Maybe you should consider taking the gamble that your wounds are of that kind.
     So, in conclusion, unless you: believe that your decision to commit suicide will not negatively affect your fate after death, believe that your situation will not pass and things won't get better, can't find anyone with greater perspective who has been in your situation and come out okay on the other side, have exhausted every other recourse of action to find happiness and meaning, care more about your own happiness than your loved ones', and have possibly given it some time to no avail, you should not commit suicide. Life is usually worth living, guys, and it's pretty short anyway. Don't throw it away.

"After all, tomorrow is another day." - Scarlett O' Hara


- Adarsh Nednur

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