Friday, October 31, 2014

Agonistes

A friend of mine - who is an intelligent, genuinely decent, loving and compassionate woman - sent me a link to this:
"The face on this week’s People magazine cover is Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old, recently married woman who went public with her plan to take a fatal prescription on November 1, rather than live with her terminal brain cancer until its deadly end. Her reasons include not merely avoiding the suffering she expects to experience, but also protecting her loved ones from the awful reality of watching her deteriorate...her decision—and the notion of assisted suicide in general—troubles me deeply, for a couple of reasons."
I'd heard something vague about this in the way that you "hear about" stories in the electronic press. I had no real thought except "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, what a fucking shitty deal for this poor woman."


And then I went and read the Ellen Dollar essay I've linked to above and read her write stuff like this:

"That death is preferable to living with limitations and pain is a prevalent attitude in our health-worshipping culture, and I worry that assisted suicide reinforces it to a frightening extreme."

and this:

"No suffering, no matter how awful, is without the potential for beauty, revelation, love."

and this:

"This makes me wonder if deep down, we understand that healing happens when we strive to live fully with affliction, rather than try to overcome it at any cost. If our life doesn’t offer us enough pain and struggle, we go find some."

And thought:

No.

No, no, no. Nononononononono.

Fuck no.
Some suffering is just that awful. Lying in bed doped to the eyes because otherwise you'd be screaming in agony and shitting yourself has no beauty, no revelation, other than the horrible revelation of how close to an animal you are reduced when you're screaming and shitting yourself.

Writhing in bloody mud, gouging your heels into the ground because your guts have been ripped out by shrapnel, has no potential for redemption, no bright moment for reflection, has nothing to do with beauty, revelation, and love.

It just sucks hideous ass and a quick and merciful death is a benison and a release.

Anyone who has ever been around war knows people, or knows people who know people, who have shoved 20 grains of morphine into a dying man to release the poor doomed fucker from his horrible agony. I don't believe in Christ myself but I can't believe that the Christ of the Bible, the Christ who is supposed to have died himself to save every swinging richard, would want to prolong that sort of hideous torture by so much as a microsecond.

My understanding is that this Maynard woman knows exactly what Fate has in store for her and it's unspeakable agony; bowel-loosening, mind-destroying pain that will be bearable only through sedation so deep that she will be a brainless thing, a meat-sack kept alive by machines.

That isn't "living with limitations and pain"; that's a freaking nightmare, and I'd suck the muzzle before letting myself experience that sort of horrible death.

So if Ms. Dollar wanted to talk about Christ and suffering and this poor doomed woman she'd have done well to talk about how the Christian prohibition against suicide is a nasty hangover from a tribal religious past, about how God's love promises us rest after pain and suffering, and about how faith should reassure us that after we take the hemlock we will awaken to a New Jerusalem.

Or, well, maybe just STFU and let the poor damned doomed woman die in peace. But, hey, that's just me.

But - at the very, very least - not blather on about the potential for beauty and love in death agony.

Anyone who says that there is any dignity in suffering has never actually seen actual suffering.

2 comments:

herlanderwalking said...

I grow poisonous plants in my yard because I do not live in Oregon. I live in a state where the majority of the hospitals have religious affiliations and they ALL espouse that "redemptive pain" bullshit that you are rightly raving about.

I am having fucking NONE of that if it ever comes to that.

Lisa said...

Absolutely agree with you, and the woman who chose her death, the latter whose opinion is the only relevant one, after all. We must all die our own death.

There is naught more to say on the matter. Others may politicize, interpret and exploit her death -- all of which is crass if one believes in the dignity of the human being.

As you say, there is no beauty in hideous agony. Beauty lies in salving others sorrow when possible, and respecting them when they must go. This life is but a transit, a brief candle.

Godspeed.