The thing about killing yourself is that it does in fact put an end to your suffering, at least on this side of the grave; the most obvious downside is that it puts an end to everything else. In some ways, suicide makes for some befuddling philosophizing; when I was a schoolboy, I was advised that taking your own life was actually illegal, to which I couldn't help but respond: "What's the penalty? Resuscitation?"

But that was me being a smartass, because that's what I did in those days. As I've gotten older and the question has become less theoretical, I've looked at some of the justifications for suicide, and inevitably, some of them come off like trying to estimate the number of angels who can be seated on a pin.

Perhaps the goofiest of the bunch was Jean Améry, who resisted the Nazis and was repaid for so doing by internment at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Many years after liberation, he found himself romanticizing the idea of suicide, identifying it with freedom. I suppose if you bear an Auschwitz number on your forearm, then yes, death sounds like a definite improvement. Then again, Améry outlived the Third Reich by three decades; killing himself at that late date suggested that something more than mere Nazis might be bothering him.

Of the truly hard-nosed defenders of suicide, Thomas Szasz has arguably the toughest proboscis; if others, argued Szasz, can keep you alive in spite of yourself, in effect they own you, and at the very least, you lack agency.

Objections to suicide are perhaps more subtle, and more important, they tend to extend beyond a single individual. Said Francis W. Porretto: "If you believe, as I do, that life is a gift from God, then to end one's own life is to spurn the primal gift. The Giver tends to react badly to that." But it's more than trying to avoid pissing off the Almighty: there is literally no way you can know what influence you have had on everyone else. Yeah, some you can figure out. But then you get this in the mail:

This probably feels like it's coming out of nowhere, but I wanted to thank you for a comment you left on one of my stories four and a half years ago. It was on my story For When It Rains, and it was the first comment I ever got on this site.

Like a lot of writers, I was incredibly nervous to post a story online where people could see it. I'd previously posted a one-shot for a contest, but this was my first original, unprompted story. It was a pretty sad fic, but I was proud of it, even if I anticipated a lot of downvotes. I remember refreshing the page over and over again whenever I could at work, and I bounced in my chair when I saw that you'd left a little message for me. What's more, what you wrote felt deeply meaningful on a level I hadn't expected, like the story had really connected with you. It's possible I'm reading into it too much, but it made me feel good.

And it still does. That story was my first big foray into this fandom, and getting that first comment from you made writing the next story so much easier. I felt like this impenetrable group of "Bronies" was a little more open, and I've made so many wonderful friends and read so many wonderful stories in the years since then.

Thank you again for helping open this world to me. Like I said, this whole message probably seems incredibly random, but that comment meant so much to me, and it still does. I'll remember it forever.

My correspondent, of course, was addressing my pseudonym; he had no way of knowing that a few hours before, I was preparing my final retreat to the Everfree Forest.

Oh, and that question about the angels is rather easily answered:

  • Measure the available seating surface.
  • Measure the angels' asses.
  • Divide A by B.
Simple as that.

The Vent

#1077
  18 September 2018

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