There is no person on earth who is more quickly condemned than the one who wants to die.
There is no underestimating the will to live. We all assume it's there — and it is, but we have no idea how strong it really is until we are poised for death.
Whether the threat of death comes through slow disease or immediate bodily harm; whether we are heartbroken to the point of insanity, or spinning around on an ice slick at 75 miles per hour, the true will to live shows up only when we are confronted with the possibility of real death.
People throw the idea of death around in the same way they throw around the idea of strength. How many times do you hear someone respond to the notion of someone else's pain or suffering with, "Oh, I could never be that strong," or "You're so strong! I'm just not strong enough to do what you do."
Well, what do you do then if you are not strong enough? Will yourself to death? Nice in theory but that's not a reality.
Upon learning of another's traumatic or tragically rough scenario, haven't we all heard someone respond with, "Oh, I would just die." But they don't just die, do they? Because just letting go or willing yourself to death doesn't happen all that easily. In fact, it doesn't happen at all, which is why those we call "strong" are merely those who were put in the position of having to be strong at that particular time.
Here's the fun part about being alive: we're all strong. And, oddly enough, on some level we all really do want to live. People don't just want to die, nor do they will themselves to death because they can't handle something.
In the same way that we underestimate our will to live, we also underestimate our ability to feel true compassion for what another person goes through in a lifetime, which is why, as narcissists, we humans tend to forget that everyone around us is not us.
We come up with a standard for what we think we should all believe, as one, and we don't dare cross the boundaries of that belief system. And when that belief is about our ultimate condition — life and death — we assume we're all on the same exact page.
That's why when someone actually wants to die, we take a very hard look at them. Our first impression is to judge and condemn. Once we establish our disdain for their inability to be like us — people who have the will to live — we then assume that these people should be a) convinced that they are wrong b) shown the error of their ways and c) helped with therapy and psychiatry.
Which means that if a person wants to die, the only thing we as a group can offer them is more life. Now, that's irony.
There is no person on earth who is more quickly condemned than the one who wants to die. We have decided it's a sin, that life is not ours to take, that we were "given" this miracle, that life is precious and to even consider suicide — for whatever reason — is an act of atrocity and must be prevented at all costs.
And life is precious and sacred... to the ones who actually want to live it, who have the will to live. But what about those who really and truly cannot live with any kind of happiness and can only do damage to both themselves and all those around them, all the time and nothing but?
Yes, I am talking about the hopelessly depressed. Yes, I am talking about the destructively and aggressively addicted. Yes, I am talking about those who are deteriorating physically and mentally, who suffer in misery for years and years, people who have only to look forward to insanity, infirmary, pain, and of course, becoming horrendous burdens to everyone around them. I am talking about those who pray for death, simply to end the suffering of being alive in their bodies.
No, I am not suggesting we kill people, and most especially not if there's even a shred of the will to live in that person. I am suggesting that we listen to why they want to die, and open to the possibility that death may be the better option for some. I am suggesting that we open our hearts and tap into the true compassion that we deny ourselves and others.
I'm talking about people who do not have the will to live anymore, people who know only hardship and pain, and do not want to be guilted and prodded into staying alive only for their families, or worse — for a world that refuses to acknowledge their pain as real and only wishes to throw the "life is sacred" standard at them again and again.
This isn't about a frivolous wish to end it all. This is about people who are living hopelessly ruined lives that cannot be helped, revived or reinvented; this is about people who know in their heart and soul that death would give them the release they need, and in just thinking about it, they receive relief.
Recently, in the Netherlands, an incredibly unhappy, bipolar, alcoholic man was able to be legally euthanized. He spent the last two weeks of his life happy because he could finally look forward to the end of the torture that had become his everyday existence.
Why do we look at something like this and instantly stamp the man as "cowardly" or "pathetic"? Do we really think that — knowing how the will to live works — his desire to be put to death in a decent and effective fashion was an easy or not well thought out choice for him?
I'm not him and I don't want to die, but if he did want to die, then he must have known exactly what it took to shut down the will to live, and it must have been brutal. It was called a "mercy killing," and so it was.
We always talk about "quality of life." But what if someone's quality of life is the equivalent of unending torture? Why do we feel compelled to save people if all we can offer them is more of what destroys them utterly?
It's not a matter of trimming the herd, or some cold version of population control. It's about the pursuit of happiness, that beautiful human goal, and the terrible nightmare of forcing people to stay alive in their torment, just for the sake of honoring life and calling it sacred.