September 24, 2014

Suicide & the Past Self: Philosophical musings on the nature of suicide and why we should stay, part two

[Content Warning]  This post, if you can't tell from the headline, will be dealing with the topic of suicide. This topic can be triggering for folks with a suicidal ideation. It does deal with my thoughts on how to overcome...but those thoughts necessitate discussion of the topic itself.

Last week, we started this quasi-series of looking at reasonings behind rejecting suicide, based on my recent reading of Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It by Jennifer Michael Hecht.

Last week's post dealt with why we owe it to our future selves to stay. This week, I'd like to pick up with a point that I didn't really touch on in depth last week.

If you'll recall, my thought process was something like this:

  1. I own my body. It is mine.
  2. What I own I can dispose of in ways that I see fit.
  3. Because I own my body, and because I can dispose of what I own as I choose, I can choose to end my life.

And from there, we examined how individual rights interplay with community rights, so let's review quickly before I launch into a new post.

It looked something like this:

And it's true for most things--the community can't tell me what to eat or wear or say. If I want to eat bacon every meal every day until I die in bacon-saturated euphoria, the community can't tell me not to. If I want to go out in shorts and a tank top in freezing whether, the community can't tell me not to. The community cannot force me to see a doctor or accept medical treatment for cancer or heart disease or diabetes. These are my rights and actions and choices, based on the concept of autonomy in my own life. 
So that begged the question: Are human beings truly reducible to their value to others and nothing else? 
No. No one owns you but yourself, and your primary commitment should be to yourself. 
Respecting yourself is, in my opinion, the foundation of all moral decision-making, because that respect, that understanding, is what allows us to truly transcend and extend that respect to those around us. 
So only you own yourself. We are back at that point. 
But you exist at all times--past, present, and future--all at once. All of those identities are within you, right now, currently. 
Your past self you owe nothing to but remembering. The past is over and done, and all you can do, all you owe to that self, is your dedication to remembering what you have been through, experienced, and learned. 
Your present self, in this scenario, faces trouble and sadness and thus is confused. This self is not making clear decisions because they are facing so much turmoil in that moment. 
Your future self, however, is still undecided. That self is not committed to this course of action. That self represents the full potential that you possess, all of the decisions and timelines and meaning that you have in you, compromised in that future self.

That bolded portion is what I'd like to talk about today. And what I'd like to do is to say...that portion is not entirely true.

It's true that you can't change the past, and so, your past self is over and done with. But it's not true that you don't owe your past self anything, strictly speaking.

You see, your past self worked really hard to get you here.

That self went through day after day. It ate what you wanted. It went where you wanted. It existed through difficult times--to get you to where you are today.

It persevered when you wanted to give up. It pushed forward. It learned. It grew. It collected the experiences that make up your Present Self, that makes up the bones of what will be your Future Self. It gives you the foundations on which you will build.

It made sacrifices for these accomplishments, for these personal gains.

And so, saying you owe it nothing, simply because it doesn't truly exist anymore, isn't entirely accurate. You owe it that continued commitment. Consider it a "Pay It Forward" type of deal.

And as you persevere, and push through every day, you'll be building a past self for your future self to commit to, to remember...and so on and so forth.

Pay it forward. Remember your past self, and all the sacrifices made to get you--wonderful, unique, one-of-a-kind you--to where you are, and to get you ready for where you will be.

Pay it forward.

You owe it to yourself.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please don't hesitate. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And please...please stay.

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