Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Between Disability and Dust

There's a couple who've been coming into the restaurant for as long as I've worked there, maybe a couple times a week. She's around my age, but her companion's a much older man. Her father. They don't talk much; just sit in the corner and eat their breakfast burritos in relative silence.

The other day, she came in by herself and ordered something to go. While she was waiting, she suddenly burst into tears. "I don't know what to do! I've been taking care of him for such a long time, and as he gets older, it's consuming my life. He doesn't want things to be this way, but he's gotten to the point where he can't do anything by himself. He has to be constantly monitored. The bills are piling up. And I have no life of my own."

This is my greatest fear. I don't want to do this to my children. Of course, I have no money so my options are few. I worry about having to end my own life when circumstances make it necessary- mostly, about the method- realizing that my suicide will do its own damage; though in the long run it's most likely the best alternative.

I wish...I wish...I wish there was a societal recognition of this problem, with a governmentally sanctioned solution for those who don't want to just sit back and 'let nature take its course'. In case I'm not being clear, I'm talking about government assisted suicide, specifically euthanasia centers where people who don't want to live anymore can be put down humanely. I don't want to leave my children with the image of a gun in my mouth and the back of my head blown out. But when you get to be my age, you have to start thinking about these things. Nothing I'm considering in the short term, mind you. I'm still hoping to go peacefully in my sleep :) Unfortunately, that doesn't happen very often.

I don't really like the idea of dying; the process, I mean. It represents a loss of control. At this point in my life, that's pretty much all that's left- and I feel it slipping away. All the signs of aging are jostling for position now, making their proximity felt in numerous ways. I'm not a kid anymore, although 12yrs old feels like yesterday, and that's what hurts the most. To look back and see all those years barely out of grasp, a dream just beyond your fingertips. Then to look forward, and see a wall rushing at you, and to know there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. And your kids standing on the sidelines; trying to live their own lives, trying not to think about the bad shit life is going to throw at them until the very last minute, when they're forced to, and the chips- or body parts, as the case may be- fall where they may.

It's all such a tragedy.

This horrifies me to no end.

23 comments:

Compoverde said...

Jim, here are some quotes by the great 19th century Italian poet and pessimist, Giacomo Leopardi. I will put more great Pessimist quotes in further comments. Some of these Leopardi quotes pertain to old age, a subject you have been grappling with in this last post.

Giacomo Leopardi quotes:

Death is not evil, for it frees man from all ills and takes away his desires along with desire's rewards.
Giacomo Leopardi

No human trait deserves less tolerance in everyday life, and gets less, than intolerance.
Giacomo Leopardi

No one is so completely disenchanted with the world, or knows it so thoroughly, or is so utterly disgusted with it, that when it begins to smile upon him he does not become partially reconciled to it.
Giacomo Leopardi

Old age is the supreme evil, for it deprives man of all pleasures while allowing his appetites to remain, and it brings with it every possible sorrow. Yet men fear death and desire old age.
Giacomo Leopardi

People are ridiculous only when they try or seem to be that which they are not.
Giacomo Leopardi

Real misanthropes are not found in solitude, but in the world; since it is experience of life, and not philosophy, which produces real hatred of mankind.
Giacomo Leopardi

There are some centuries which - apart from everything else - in the art and other disciplines presume to remake everything because they know how to make nothing.
Giacomo Leopardi

Kalki02 said...

A thought experiment: What if men could have "abortions"? That is, somehow terminate any proto-human life they might help create. The Supreme Court has ruled men have no say in such matters... Out of context of this hypothetical, of course.

Garrett said...

I understand where you're coming from. Unfortunately, hardly any of us are lucky enough to be in a position to not have any concern regarding our aging parents, and even fewer of us will have the sheer will to escape the inevitable downturn that comes with age.

It's my personal view that handing any government the ability and resources to euthanize is a dangerous thing. As philanthropic antinatalists, we should always keep the principles which demonstrate to others that we are not forceful; that we care enough about them to let them be, or even let them go. If we were to create even more bureaucracy by forcing people to contribute their labor (hard earned money) to a practice (euthanasia) that they abhor, it could create an uprising. If you consider that humans use the power and insanity of the collective will to justify breeding as well as enforce the social stigma against those who refuse to, then we become no better than them.

What I would prefer to see is a move toward respecting the individual's right to die (of course, I want even more for people to leave others out of this world period... but I do what I can). If a medical company (with certain inclined individuals) were allowed to create kits for the purpose of ending one's life with the least pain and fear possible, then I'm all for it! We just need the collective to step back for a moment. Too many people are so afraid of introspection that they purposefully lose themselves in the crowd in order to avoid acknowledging reality.

Sex obsession, fear of aging and desiring "insurance policies" against it, and pride of virility are controlling the human race. The group mentality got us into this mess in the first place. Do we really want to appeal to that same corrupted line of reasoning to pull us out?

Really enjoying the blog. Take care!

metamorphhh said...

Compoverde: Thanks for the good quotes!

Kalki: What an interesting thought! This might help validate the claim some have that women are far and away the primary impetus behind procreative efforts. Personally, I'd imagine the number of abortions would skyrocket.

Garrett: As far as tax money's concerned, I'd imagine there would be substantial savings when one considers what a huge percentage of medical expenditures go to managing the final stages of life. Perhaps if that was made clear to people, it might go some way in counteracting the visceral reaction you're talking about. The power of the pocketbook persuades like no other, methinks.

The suicide kit idea is an interesting one. They use that one in the film 'Children of Men', which I found quite interesting, btw. Why, in a world bereft of children, does the stigma attached to suicide suddenly loosen, at least somewhat? I think the obvious answer is that robbed of their vicarious immortality, some of the illusion of the 'goodness' of life drops off, and the reality of death sinks in a bit. Maybe the same goes for that sense of duty we have toward our imaginary posterity.

As far as group mentality is concerned, I'm all for it! (as long as the group agrees with me, that is :))

The Plague Doctor said...

As for suicide kits (helium method), I currently have such a kit at home, but I am not planning to use it yet, but it is reassuring to know I can exit any time things get too bad.

Check out the Peaceful Pill Handbook. One needs to do some assembling oneself though. Bags can be ordered here (don't use the tube though) or made oneself.

But for goodness sake DON'T USE IT (yet)! we need more antinatalists, not less!

This is just for information; I want to emphasize that I don't want Jim (or anyone else) to kill himself!

Compoverde said...

Thanks Jim, I'll keep putting good ones on here.

So what do you, and others like Garrett, Chip, Sister Y, Shadow etc. think of the philosophy forum idea? I think we should keep reiterating our points in broader forums and bringing back attention to this site as well. In fact, there was just recently a post started about Schopenhauer, that I had to comment on.

metamorphhh said...

Plague Doctor:

No immediate plans, but thanks for the info just the same. Glad you're prepared, though I abhor the reasons that bring anyone to this point. But, that's life.

Compoverde:

I'll swing by and check it out, although I find myself less and less interested in battling this stuff out on other forums. Not a hard and fast rule; it just has to do with my mood these days. It's the same old thing over and over, is all. However, that's just me. I'm still interested in the debate, and I love reading the varying perspectives. I don't have all the answers, nor do I see all the angles with precise clarity. I learn from each person who contributes here, and elsewhere.

Oh, did I mention I envy your energy? :)

Shadow said...

WOW!!!!

WHat´s going on?

This blog just turned from awesome to super-awesom-completely-blaster-mode-awesomeness!

Lol....

This blog post is beautiful.

This is the type of thing I think about every day now.

Death is like losing control, little by little, traumatically or not.

And those good times, that our memory tells us, just stay behind us... time scapes like sand between the fingers! I feel you Jim! You are right... those memories stay behind too fast... I mean, 2, 3 years ago, where did that time went? Nowhere....it´s so damn scary it´s not worth putting someone else to this!

It´s a pleasure to be able to read some truth in the blogs, in life! because almost everything else is just plain B.S!!!

And about the suicide kit, wow!!!!

I´m a graduate in law, and my graduation thesis was about euthanasia... I like the theme, as I like the whole death theme, because death is liberty, that´s what it is...

Plague Doctor, I want my own suicide kit, but I´m not gonna use it just yet! Dont´worry! Lol!

metamorphhh said...

Shadow:

You're right. Nobody should be put through this, but every body is, one way or another, to one degree or another.

"...awesome to super-awesom-completely-blaster-mode awesomeness!"

Nice thing to say. You're awesome, dude.

Shadow said...

Jim,

You are the man. You gathered all this familly here and we´re all thankful for it.

P.s: I didnt forget the essay, hope everyone else is remembering them, just gotta find some time to sit still and do it!

p.s.2: So many things to say!, your other website is awesome, the one who is about poetry of Kali. I liked the concept, it´s almost like Maya and Mara in buddhism also! The poetry kicks ass, also! Hope there´s one of them in the book!

p.s.3: the last paragraph from Garret was somehow interesting. Hope he can elaborate on those ideas in future comments!

Sorry for another long comment! (i mean it!)

EVERYONE: good comments and quotes by Compoverde, Kalki02 and Garrett!!

Curiosity: "verde" (compoverde) is portuguese to green...!

CM said...

I don't even know how to express my sympathy appropriately, Jim. Only know that I feel it. If you were a mindless exploitative breeder like the rest, you wouldn't even worry about these things. That's part of what makes it so tragic - empathy hurts.

Kaliki02 -

I think they should be able to. I elaborated on that view a little bit in the comments on Curator's blog.

Compoverde - I'm game for philosophy forums, as long as you aren't expected to grovel to the mods and the orthodoxy there. I noticed some users show up as banned, even though their posts seemed pretty thoughtful and on topic to me. I got fed up with that shit on apologetics forums. But you've survived there for a while, so as soon as I'm done with my essay on how empirical research appears to lend support to David Benatar's asymmetry, I'll join you there. I registered a while ago and made a couple of posts. My handle is The Fork.

TGGP said...

The movie "Soylent Green" is apparently based on a novel called "Make Room!". Except the novel is purely about overpopulation and the suicide centers are viewed as a good thing. Of course the movie had to tar them as cannibal-food processors.

metamorphhh said...

Shadow:

I believe there are four poems in the book, though none of the Kali poetry is there. My hope is to write some more Kali material (actually, I've got a lot of stuff not on site), and collaborate with an artist. We'll see. Anyway, I'm glad you like here...Kali is sort of my pet project, though I haven't written any poetry this year as yet.

metamorphhh said...

TGGP:

I have a copy of Soylent Green on VHS, as well as that other Charleton Heston classic, Omega Man. The center Edward G. Robinson (his last film, btw) went to is what I always imagine when I talk about this stuff. Seems like a good way to go.

metamorphhh said...

"Soylent green is people!"

metamorphhh said...

Shadow:

This one's for you, fished out of my completely unorganized poetry files-

Kali the Civil Servant

She sits at her little window, ignoring the lines;
or, better yet, misdirecting.
Each one of them a cow compelled into the chute,
waiting for the daily insemination ritual to begin.
Her yawn/smile threatens to bisect
the top of her cranium-
at least, that would be SOMETHING.
Perfunctorily, she staples a set of directives
to each forhead in turn.

The faces
have blended together.

The mass of humanity has become a true unity to her.
Her destiny, a habit.
A lassitude has beset her beyond and below any weariness
we might imagine...
and no retirement in sight.

Next...

Next...

Next!

Compoverde said...

CM, definitely try the philosophy forum again. Especially leave some comments on the "Why Do Humans Have Babies?" topic in the General Philosophy category. I think you would provide some good insights.

Compoverde said...

To have committed every crime but that of being a father.

Unlike Job, I have not cursed the day I was born; all the other days, on the contrary, I have covered with my anathemas...

I long to be free — desperately free. Free as the stillborn are free.

Where are my sensations? They have melted into... me, and what is this me, this self, but the sum of these evaporated sensations?

Lucidity is the only vice which makes us free — free in a desert.

We cannot consent to be judged by someone who has suffered less than ourselves. And since each of us regards himself as an unrecognized Job...

What to do? Where to go? Do nothing and go nowhere, easy enough.

What is that one crucifixion compared to the daily kind any insomniac endures?

I do not forgive myself for being born. It is as if creeping into this world, I had profaned a mystery, betrayed some momentous pledge, committed a fault of nameless gravity. Yet in a less assured mood, birth seems a calamity I would be miserable not having known

For a long time — always, in fact — I have known that life here on earth is not what I needed and that I wasn't able to deal with it; for this reason and for this reason alone, I have acquired a touch of spiritual pride, so that my existence seems to me the degradation and the erosion of a psalm.

There was a time when time did not yet exist... The rejection of birth is nothing but the nostalgia for this time before time.

He who hates himself is not humble.

The feeling of being the thousand years behind, or ahead, of the others, of belonging to the beginnings or to the end of humanity...

It's not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.

When you know quite absolutely that everything is unreal, you then cannot see why you should take the trouble to prove it.

Characteristic of sickness: to stay awake when everything sleeps, when everything is at rest, even the sick man.

I never met one interesting mind that was not richly endowed with inadmissible deficiencies.

To claim you are more detached, more alien to everything than anyone, and to be merely a fanatic of indifference!

What are you waiting for in order to give up?

No one is responsible for what he is nor even for what he does. This is obvious and everyone more or less agrees that it is so. Then why celebrate or denigrate? Because to exist is to evaluate, to emit judgments, and because abstention, when it is not the effect of apathy or cowardice, requires an effort no one manages to make.

There is no limit to suffering.

After a sleepless night, the people in the street seem automatons. No one seems to breathe, to walk, Each looks as if he is worked by clockwork: nothing spontaneous; mechanical smiles, spectral gesticulations. Yourself a specter, how would you see others as alive?

All my life, I have lived with the feeling that I have been kept from my true place. If the expression "metaphysical exile" had no meaning, my existence alone would afford it one.

Compoverde said...

Those quotes are all from E.M. Cioran, pessimist Romanian philosopher (who lived and wrote in France most of his life).

The Plague Doctor said...

Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig

Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig
Ist der Menschen Leben!
Wie ein Nebel bald entstehet
Und auch wieder bald vergehet,
So ist unser Leben, sehet!

Ah, how fleeting, ah, how empty
Is the life of mortals!
As a mist which quickly riseth
And again as quickly passeth,
Even thus our life is, witness!

Garrett said...

Jim: It is true that the elderly taking their own lives would be less taxing, but how many of them have the courage to do what needs to be done? Fear of death stays with us until we're actually gone. That's why most wait for the world to force them out, rather than grapple with the culturally created fear and physical fear that suicide entails. The best thing that we could do as we age is refuse to take all of the agony prolonging pills that are essentially forced down the throats of the elderly. Remember for many people, it isn't just a money issue. It's a matter of principle. The mere idea that someone else robs them of their labor for the sake of contributing to their own little "pet project" is something that turns many people off... big time. I'm one of those people. There's no reason I couldn't buy my own suicide kit (or make one) if I chose to. Why should I beg a government to provide something for me? Might that suggest to them that I am weak, and therefore I deserve to be manipulated? Governments (and individuals) find that they can use such reasoning to justify their desire to impose their will... this even leads them down the path of thinking that they are doing good, when they force others into existence because they do it for building character and cohesion. Governments are loaded with natalists. Imagine that. Consider that we're thrust into this world without giving consent, and to top it off, forced to endure the evils of continually paying for the "privilege" of owning property (after it's paid in full), and the "privilege" of making a living (income taxes). I resent being told what to do after I've already given so much of myself to this world, and after being forced in against my will. It's like: You've already taken my arms (which I didn't need before I existed), but you want my legs as well?! If I don't impose my will on others then I expect that same respect in return. But that's too much to ask in this world apparently :)

Yeah, I'm really curious how many people would become despondent and even suicidal as a result of infertility. I did watch the movie, but I already knew how it would turn out in the end. I say let the natalists make their feel good media fantasies. We know how reality will end :) The only thing that disappoints me is that I won't get to savor that moment of freedom. I imagine death isn't like getting over an excruciating stomach illness, because you can't appreciate the victory when you just return to nothing. It's just pain, slavery, loneliness, and then nothing. What a letdown, huh?

Garrett said...

The Plague Doctor: I'm so sorry that you have to deal with constant physical pain in addition to the existential baggage. It's just not right. Don't fret. While I wish I was done, I'm still here. I'm not leaving until I feel it's appropriate (or the world forces me out). I gotta hand it to humanity: they know how to create a complex matrix of fear and ecumenical reprisal. Translation: I'm scared shitless :) So I do other things to put my caged mind at ease. God damn, humans are sick fucks.

Compoverde: A forum sounds like a decent idea. We probably already get lots of search hits though Jim's blog, but an extension can't hurt. I'm also kind of a procrastinator (see previous paragraph), but I will do my best to contribute whenever I can! :)

Shadow: I know, it's a great little community isn't it? What's really awesome is that it seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Thanks again Jim! I'll most certainly try to elaborate on my position in the future. It has everything to do with consent. Where there is no consent, there can be no freedom. This world simply reeks of violent force. To me, that's unacceptable. For the record, I'm antisexual (if it wasn't already obvious). I view sex as the physical manifestation of all ills. Pride, jealousy, malice, and birth... in my view, it's all too connected to be a coincidence.

metamorphhh said...

Garrett:

I think you hit the nail on the head with your "culturally created fear" observation. That's certainly not the whole story, but I think we could work toward a better societal understanding and acceptance of these issues.

As for the rest, I'm neither religiously libertarian, nor an anarchist (political anarchy is a contradiction in terms to my mind, anywho). I believe ANY society necessitates social contracts, and after that principle (fact) is accepted, we're down to niggling about details. All of us are beneficiaries of somebody else's pocketbook, and vice-versa. It's a reality of living in community, and the more complex the community is, the more likely that we'll sometimes wind up paying for things we don't particularly support. C'est la vie.

More pragmatically, societally supplied suicide kits represent pennies to the dollar when it comes to what society DOES generally support, simply because that stuff bolsters the overall sense of vicarious immortality that most people crave. And after all, those who might wish to obtain such things have also contributed to the tax base, have they not? Quid pro quo, mofo? :)

I'd actually like to see this become a fight, if for no other reason than to force the message down the throats of those reluctant to hear it. Of COURSE there will be some resistance; probably a LOT of it. Hell, there might be a bloody war over it. But at least the other side will make its presence felt, and perhaps down the road some accommodations will come out of it.