Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Suicide: The Ultimate Existential Choice

   
Reading Albert Camus' 'The Myth of Sisyphus' seventh time, I again stopped at his deeply thought-stirring words and didn't proceed further: 'There's but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that's suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest-whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories-comes afterward. These are games; one must first answer.'
 

If life's an absurd, meaningless pantomime, don't we owe it to ourselves to do the logical thing, and end it? Camus is not being morose here; he was, by all accounts, a warm and amiable individual who relished life. Rather, he asks us to be dispassionately logical. Many have taken their lives from despair or despondency, but who has done so from the necessary conclusion of a logical chain of reasoning? We must also distinguish between having a reason to kill oneself, and suicide motivated by the ultimate meaninglessness of life. The former may be a rational option-as it was for the Stoics-even for those who retain a sense of life's meaning, but whose dignity, or quality of life, has permanently dropped below a level acceptable to them. However, suicide based on the absurdity of life would be different, more fundamental: It's philosophically justified  suicide, which says 'no' to life whatever the circumstances. 
 

So, philosophically speaking, is life worth living? Sisyphus' task is pointless, and even what's achieved is consequently undone. However, pointlessness is different to meaninglessness, a distinction that Camus stressed, for acceptance of the Absurd is merely the first step to a higher philosophy. If we overcome our disappointment and despair, avoiding the false lures of hope and illusory dreams, then we can achieve a new clarity and strength. At the end of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, the tragic hero finds himself blind, desperate, and exiled, yet accepts both his choices and absurd fate. Could we not similarly conclude that, despite our absurd existence, and all that life throws at us, 'all's well'?
 

Personally, I've always believed that suicide's the ' ultimate exercise of  human volition.' It's the extreme manifestation of existential choice. Why can't I die when I'm of no use to anyone, even to myself? And why should one be embarrassed about what the people will say when one ends one's life? If life belongs to an individual, death too is an inalienable part and parcel of his /her existence. Waiting for the perfect moment to shuffle off the mortal coil, Bhishma told Karna when the latter came to see him: " Karna, life comes to a full circle when death's in your hands and at your beck and call ", knowing very well that the man (Karna) he was telling this to, already chose his death by giving away his earrings and impenetrable armour making himself gleefully vulnerable to death. Wasn't it an 'Altruistic Suicide'? 
                                                            ----Sumit Paul




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