What’s the worst that can happen: An Inquiry into the Death of Self

by LJ Frank

The death of self transcends meaning, towards a philosophical theology that meets science, on a planet located in an arm of a spiral galaxy we call the Milky Way. “Our galaxy” is just one among an estimated two trillion galaxies in the observable universe. 

 My passport needs updating. What happened? “God” only knows. Red tape. The small airplane landed. Two uniformed men met the airplane on the tarmac. I disembarked. I was led to another project manager. The second one, a different place. It might be my last one abroad. I began to think about the death of the self with meaning beyond suicide. It begins in the mind. And in my mind, suicide itself is situational. It’s not a moral issue with me. Let me explain.

The human being is made up of cells. And then there’s the bacteria crawling around inside my body and on my skin. My cells are cognitive. They gather information, and as a whole unit comprised of countless cells, bacteria and all the other stuff that makes us human. As a whole it gives my existence meaning and a strategy for survival.

I am an existentialist affected by Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, and esoterica.  I live life with intent. I’ve found intent is but a portion of how things turn out.

Back to the tarmac. Flying in a small, sputtering, twin engine airplane is losing its appeal, especially over open water, jungles of concrete, and deforested land. Several years ago, I jumped. Never again. I kissed the soil. I hugged Mother Earth and she gifted me with dirty lips.

Meanwhile, the past several years I have lost friends to suicide. It’s not painless for those left behind. I don’t like guns especially those pointed at my head. That’s happened a few times. I don’t like it. It’s rude. I told the uniformed people who said it was for my protection. I’m feeling uncomfortable.

The death of self through suicide is not a moral issue as noted. It’s spiritual, biological, and philosophical. Do human cells that make up the human mind and heart have a conscience? What ultimately creates a conscience and consciousness? Man, invented language and all our sacred words. The I and Thou of Martin Buber I write about so much, deals with meaning and meaninglessness. Comfort and discomfort. (See Irvin Yalom’s Existential Psychotherapy). Humans like to rationalize. I like deep breathing.

The death of self involves a dilemma of freedom from meaning versus meaninglessness, pain and suffering versus eternal relief. Who is wise enough to judge?

In a number of instances (non-Christian) a person may end their life because it is so good. (See Arnold Toynbee’s Man’s Concern with Death). “The idea is that, when everything has gone as one likes, it is time to be off, for fear that, if one lingers, one may be overtaken by something one does not like.”

It’s selfish but not unethical. Are cells selfish? They evolve and learn – to exist under harsh conditions. They seek to know and survive and they may even question. Cells die. They fight death. The question is when and how. The why is relative. I’m not sure about it. Bioverse by William Miller, MD. is an insightful book about cells.

I read every day. Mostly because reading bothers my mind. My body is aging and can’t be bothered at much as my mind, except when my thoughts activate stress.

Some religions, such as Christianity, inhibit the taking of one’s life – the Theology of Guilt? The healing of self is choreographed through rules, discipline, ritual, and belief.

Guilt trips are plentiful in religious contexts. When John Adams, as a young man (one of the Founding Fathers of the United States) was asked by his minister why he was not attending church, he replied that he could be made to feel guilty all by himself without being charged for it (a tithing). It may sound flippant but he identified an issue. People are manipulated through strategic nonsense. Not all nonsense is bad. Some of it is just silly.

Depression doesn’t analyze impact. It doesn’t share the capitalistic belief of loss of revenue. It’s very personal. Death is personal. Eternal life after death is imaginative and comforting. And also, very personal.

Salvation holds little meaning to the person with a gun pointed at their head.

I’m jaded and cynical at times. I have too many friends who have died by their own hands. Physical and or mental pain and anguish have few friends who have not experienced the same. When traveling abroad I saw people shot in the head. Murdered by the roadside after the passengers were ordered off the bus by men in uniforms of sorts. Pain has no words. I wrote about such an event in my literary memoir, Writer in Exile.

The theater of narcissism that condemns suicide as immoral has seldom dangled over the precipice. Our thoughts about existence and meaning all emanate from the mind. The edges of existence are often misunderstood. Some people who have jumped off bridges and survived reorganized their priorates. They are fortunate. The luminous arrives in various textures and situations. It doesn’t conquer, rather it only enlightens.

There have been numerous thought-provoking works on suicide by living people who are financially solvent and who are not homeless or suffering from physical pain and an incurable disease. Pharmaceutical marketing suggests ingesting a pill. Who is the real burden on society?

Death ultimately wins the chess match no matter how life plays the game. To live is extremely personal as it acknowledges death is the chessman that says to the ego and life – checkmate!

Are their options and back up plans to death that one might be unaware of?  I know hands of wealth with political and insurance connections that try to reach beyond the grave.

The suicidal situation is complex – the severity of aloneness in old age, excessive unanticipated, precipitous debt, the deadly cost of basic living expenses, disease, and other disabilities – all creating a burden on yourself and loved ones, assuming you have any.

The world is filled with political and financial corruption. Wealth is in the hands of a few. Self-help books and pages on the Internet are voluminous. How much time do you have? Hotlines tend to have a “busy signal”.

Kings and rulers need people. They need warm bodies to do their bidding. Suicide appears as an ethical issue to them based ultimately on economics.

The alternative to suicide – a twist on dissent to the tyranny of those who oversee those below them. It engages revolt and integrity. The twist is to live in devout dissent to the tyranny of control and power – becoming less dependent on the needless consumer goods of capitalism. To shed the weight of superficiality perpetuated each day. To say enough is enough if one has the wherewithal.

An aspect to the twist of dissent to the tyranny of meaningless is through a gesture of spiritual and philosophical meaning – extending one’s hand to another.

Perhaps that’s what the grace of life is…the act of being there for each other and the planet.

The driver took me to a place where I was to meet the project manager. As I got out of the vehicle she was waiting and greeted me with a kiss on my cheeks and a smile. “We have found ourselves at an impasse, and would like your assistance,” she began the conversation.

I understood and nodded.