When, if ever, is conscious dying not suicide?

Here are two pieces that resonate with what I’ve already written about conscious dying, or, taking charge of one’s own deathing ceremony: For the others, see this and this.

First, here’s a new piece by Zen Gardner in which he performs his usual punch/counterpunch, and slips in an idea that, amazingly enough, hadn’t occurred to me: the PTB (or PTW?) want people to check out via suicide, since it fits right into their depopulation agenda.

The Death Wish Agenda

The other implied option is “get the fuck out of here any way you can…including death. This world is not fit to live in.”

Sad, but true. Unfortunately this programmed impulse is hitting a wide swathe of humanity, not just the US military. In the UK, Greece, Italy and many other clamped on peoples we’re seeing the heartbreaking reality of the elderly and destitute taking their own lives out of desperation. Death in their lives becomes a better option than living.

. . .

Euthanasia, birth control and brutal suicide are the same. Don’t let the sanitized bullshit fool you. They’re sociologically induced forms of murder like all of their eugenics programs. Remember, they work very gradually. Oh so incrementally people find themselves accepting the most anti-life, anti-freedom, anti-moral and anti-conscious concepts and resultant actions imaginable.

Of course, reading Zen’s words, I wondered about my own motivation. Do I want to control my own dying process because I want to have an option if it all gets so horrible here that I can’t face even one more minute of grief or loss or pain? Am I looking for a suicide pill?

I think not, and the next article, which focuses mostly on the aches, pains, infirmities, indignities, and accelerating tortuous medical protocols of growing older, also gingerly, delicately, hesitantly mentions the idea of choosing one’s own time and place to die — and — mirabile dictu! — distinguishes this notion from suicide. It’s called, in the Jain religion, Sallekhana, and involves gradually starving oneself to death by eliminating foods, one after another, over time. So much better than my idea of just stopping eating and drinking all of a sudden!

BTW: The Sallekhana pdf that I referred you to above is very interesting. I printed it out and will study more. For me,one big question still hovers over the idea of deciding on my own, when and how to die — even in the absence of terminal disease. And that is this: who am I to say when my karma is done? I’m assuming that I will know. Will I? Or must I rely on some guru to tell me, as the Jain practitioners do.

Note especially Jane Miller’s last sentence quoted below. I put it in bold.

Jane Miller: ‘I’m not sure I really will die’

In an extract from her new book Crazy Age, the 77-year-old author takes a stark – and very personal – look at the realities of growing old in the 21st century

August 25, 2010

by Jane Miller

The Guardian via my sister Katherine

Jane Miller

Jane Miller: ‘Writing about my old age is a way of convincing myself that I really am old.’ Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Excerpt:

There are people who see old age as a time of peace, acceptance and the end of strong feeling. I do know old people who seem to have reached a plateau of that sort. They are amused, interested, calm, and they appear to have accepted the inevitability of their distance from a great deal of what goes on in the world. Yet in their desire both to live a good old age and to control the manner of their dying I doubt whether many of them would go quite as far as the old or ill adherents of Jainism in India sometimes do. William Dalrymple talked to a nun about the Jain custom of gently starving yourself to death, a process she firmly distinguishes from suicide.

Sallekhana is a beautiful thing. There is no distress or cruelty. As nuns our lives are peaceful, and giving up the body should also be peaceful . . . First you fast one day a week, then you eat only on alternate days: one day you take food, the next you fast. One by one, you give up different types of foodstuffs. You give up rice, then fruits, then vegetables, then juice, then buttermilk. Finally you take only water, and then you have that only on alternate days. Eventually, when you are ready, you give up on that too. If you do it very gradually, there is no suffering at all. The body is cooled down, so that you can concentrate inside on the soul and on erasing all your bad karma.”

There is an entirely different version of old age: the old person who is angry, impatient, full of regrets, nostalgia, distrust of the young; and there’s a particular bitterness and resentment such a person may go in for, stored up from the past and sharpened now by powerlessness and by embarrassing and ineffectual efforts to garner and maintain dignity. Dylan Thomas was 37 when he wrote Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night with its injunction that “Old age should burn and rave at close of day.” It was advice I approved of in those days, even though the poor fellow died two years later, when he was not yet 40. It would be hard for most of us to keep up all that burning and raving in our 70s.

My old friend Anne Wollheim had a really bad month or two at the end of her life and was known to wonder aloud, “Where is Dr Shipman now?” In fact, she had more than a year of knowing she was going to die and refusing to have the treatment which would probably not have lengthened her life by much. She filled that year with children and grandchildren and family and friends and travel, so that I find myself hoping that only the last two months or so were intolerable.

If it is true that we have 10 extra years of life nowadays, but that eight of them bear more than a shadow of decrepitude and the complicated moral choices inflicted on us by medical advances, we will need to work out how to get more control over the ways there may be of ending it all.

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