Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
It follows that as Death stands at my door — or rather as I stand before Death’s door knocking madly — that Existential Dread creeps into every thought like so much metaphysical graffiti.
These last few dark days the Serenity Prayer has been drifting in and out of my head. I always read those words as an uplifting call to soldier on in Life. Now I see a different meaning: Free Will. Only the Self can truly possess the wisdom to know the difference between the courage to change and the serenity to accept.
So why after a lifetime of playing the fool does my heart feel so bad in choosing the wiser path? Until it comes to me: Of course this is the rub, that Free Will comes with a price and when we have to roll the hard six that choice does not feel serene.
The suicidal are young and old. We come from all walks of life, all races, all genders, all religions or none at all, some wealthy and successful by first-world capitalistic definitions, some in poverty, some physically healthy, others in psychological distress and still others with terminal diseases.
I am certain we possess at least this one single thing in common with religion: The battleground inside and outside of ourselves over right and wrong, good and evil, light and dark — the unbearable anguish of the soul.
Who is anyone to insist that the choice to remove that pain be taken away? As humans we believe in the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we have the right to our own lives, we have the right to our own deaths. If we are not free — if we feel imprisoned whether it be by a corrupt system of governance or by our own minds and penchant for self sabotage, we have the right to free not only ourselves but those around us who are always having to rescue us by picking up the pieces of our broken existence. If we cannot pursue happiness, it seems cruel for the rest of the world to force us to be miserable by going on living (and by extension cause the ongoing misery of others in our lives).
In this I suppose that I do condone suicide. But with the most severe of caveats that ending your own life — and for that matter the life of any self-aware entity — is not to be taken lightly. If after understanding that your death will cause grief and pain for years to those who love you, you still see it as the only choice left, then let it be finished.
Our way of life is rapidly disintegrating. Forests and farmlands are burning. Waterfront cities and towns are flooding. The polar ice caps are melting. Animals, insects and plants are going extinct in mass die-offs. Our ecosystem — one that stayed in balance for millions of years — is fast collapsing. Yet we meander through our lives, mired in fantasies of power and greed and lust, even as our world is being destroyed. This is a metaphor for my own life; blindly and selfishly stumbling from one debacle to another with no real comprehension of the consequences of my actions until it is too late.
Preparations have been made; everything is set up and waiting. My last sunset will be in 45 minutes. Will it be astonishingly beautiful? Will it be mundane? Will it be obscured by cloud cover? All this ruminating puts my resolve on shaky ground.
But I have already made my choice. It is the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make, given the finality of it all. As I write this my heart is pounding (and breaking!), my stomach is in hagfish knots, my eyes are filled with tears in the rain, and my skin is slick with a cold clammy sweat. My terror is paralyzing.
Yet I shall go. I shall go believing that in Death I will not be the deadbeat burden that I was in Life. I shall go knowing that my final act to put an end to the pain and shame of my existence is sadly only the beginning of a world of bewildering pain and grief for my family and friends. I shall go not knowing whether Death will be Sweet Oblivion or whether it will be some version of the Hell in the Afterlife.
Will Someone or Something have mercy on my soul? Do I even have a soul?