Naturally, a normal person would ask… “Suicide – Why?” The fact that I asked “Why not?” establishes from the very beginning the difference in how I viewed life.
Let’s face it. Life is the most important issue to all of us. The absence of being alive is either everlasting life or it’s forever nothing. Big stuff. We spend our whole lives contemplating what this means. For many of us, we spend our whole lives preparing for the end. But, no matter how much we think about it, few of us stamp a “use by” date on our lives. I did just that 14 months ago. I stamped "Use by August 15, 2013". To be that clinical is what separated me from the masses.
There are, no doubt, many reasons for a person not to commit suicide. I felt the most obvious reason is “Why?” That covers a lot of ground, but the main thing it covers is all the people who would never think about it because there is no prevailing terrible problem in their life that might get them to start thinking that way in the first place.
Personally, I didn’t believe suicide necessarily must result from a terrible problem, or problems. For me, it was much deeper and much more intellectual than that. The notion was just part my life and had been for many years. It didn't seem like such a strange way of thinking to me even among those that have most areas of their life in perfect working order - depending upon what reasons were keeping them going.
Frankly, I didn’t have any major problem that would cause me to do it. I did it for other reasons. I’m sure there are those that suffer terminal illness or financial calamity or loss of loved ones or serious addictions or fear of going to jail for life or just plain depression. And, I acknowledge any of those reasons might spur them toward suicide. But, I believe some of us who do it simply have a dark side that doesn’t allow us to appreciate life – or at least extended life - in the same way as others.
In a perfect world, I would do a poll of everyone of every age. The answers, depending upon the demographics, would be fascinating. The questions would be 1) Why do you want to live one more year? 2) Why do you want to live five more years? 3) Why do you want to live 10 more years? 4) Why do you want to live as long as possible? You should answer those four questions for yourself.
One reason why I was always somewhat of an oddball is the paragraph above. I was extremely analytical. I had an insatiable curiosity that could only be satisfied by scientific analysis. Since I couldn’t get everyone in the world to answer my four questions, I simply had to speculate.
It seemed to me there are six major reasons people do not seriously consider suicide.
1. The first and foremost reason is “Why?” In other words, “Why would I even contemplate such a thing?” These people have never considered suicide, don’t understand it, are probably happy or at least not depressed, fulfilled by work, family, school or some combination. That person is largely foreign to me and so I can’t quite identify.
I ask “Why not?” and it seems logical.
Look, I was (and you are) blips! Literally, nothing more than a blip on the radar screen. We appear in the blink of an eye and then we are gone. Perhaps some of us think about our lives in context of the mechanical revolution or the United States of America. If so, our span of years is somewhat more than a blip - it’s a percentage. But, just since Christ, my 60 years was insignificant – not only to the world, but to the timeline. If I looked at my life in the context of how long man has been around or will be around, it’s a blip. If I looked at it in context of how long the earth has been in existence, it’s not even a blip. It’s a nanosecond.
“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” ― Mark Twain
Therefore, what possible difference could it make whether I lived 60 years, 70 years or 80 years? It made zero difference… except to those around me.
2. And, that’s probably the second major reason people don’t commit suicide – loved ones. For most of us, we are either married or have children or have parents or close brothers and sisters. Most of us have other people that depend upon us either financially or emotionally. I didn’t. None of that was relevant to me. My parents have passed on. I loved my brother and sister, but they are both relatively unemotional compared to the average person and they are fully capable of comprehending my decision even if they don’t agree – and they probably don’t. They are also independent people, married with their own lives and I didn’t live in the same town either. And, neither of them had children, so there wasn’t even the issue of how nieces or nephews would be affected. They will survive just fine without me.
3. The third most likely reason people want to stay alive is probably related to wanting to see the future. How will my kids develop? How many grandchildren will I have? Will my Cubs ever win the World Series? Will they make a car that goes forever on cold fusion? Is the earth going to come to a screeching halt at some point for this or that reason? Will we discover alien life? “I want to know!”
I understood that. There were a lot of those issues for me. After all, I stated that I was extremely curious – not just about the past or present, but also the future. I wanted to know if the Kansas City Royals were ever going to be good and it would have been a blast to be there when they were. I wanted to know if my ex-step daughters had children and what kind of parents they became. I wanted to know how long our poker group stayed together (24 years and counting). I wanted to know what kinds of technologies were going to make life more interesting or convenient. I wanted to know a thousand things that will happen in the future…
…but that’s not enough reason. And, again I point to the blip argument. There will always be reasons to want to stay alive another year or five years or 10 years. It wouldn’t have mattered how long I lived, there would have been hundreds or thousands of itches to scratch!
Don’t think there weren’t times every single day when my mind would be tempted to say “I can’t wait until (pick a date) to see what happens with (pick a subject)” regarding the future beyond August 15, 2013… but I never waivered for a single second because I always knew that whatever day I died – whether 2013 or 2023 or 2033, I would never have been able to satisfy those thoughts.
4. If I had to have guessed, I would have said the fourth most prevailing reason to stay alive is because of accomplishments. People want to accomplish as much as they can in their lives and they don’t want to run out of time before they do it. Of course, for people who think that way, they never fulfill all those accomplishments anyway and they never will. So, the only thing to do is keep chasing them until you die. Unfortunately, the older you get, the less likely you will accomplish existing goals. It’s like the guy who retires the day after he wins baseball’s triple crown and then the World Series. He goes out on top because he can never be as good again and he can never feel as good again. That’s how I felt right up to the end. Not that I had done all that much, but one thing is for sure. I would never have been able to do anything greater than what I had done up to that point – unless it ends up being related to this website.
5. The fifth reason is the recently popular term “bucket list” – meaning the things you want to have experienced before you kick the bucket. I omitted "accomplishments" (#4 above) from this list. Bucket list items are things like going on a Mediterranean cruise, touring the White House, fishing for salmon in Alaska, climbing Pike’s Peak and on and on and on. Nearly every one of these things require traveling somewhere. Otherwise, they are probably "accomplishments".
I didn’t have such a thing. I once had a quasi bucket list when I was about 22 – things to accomplish by the time I was 30. When 30 came around and I hadn’t accomplish them, I decided the bucket list idea was stupid.
For me, a bucket list was a totally arbitrary and manufactured reason to want to stay alive. I'd been to Disney World. I’d skied the mountains in the winter and biked them in the summer. I'd had fun on the Vegas Strip numerous times. I’d swam in two oceans and the Gulf. Big deal. Been there, done that. The list of what I could do – like attend the Talladega 500 or the Tour de France – is a mile long. No matter how many things I did, there would still be more on the list. I doubt if anyone alive, who bothers to create a “bucket list”, completes it. So, does it really matter if you check off one item or ten items or 100 items when there will always be more on the list? It's like a leaky boat. For every bail of water you toss out, a bail and a half leaks in. When you kick the bucket, your bucket list will die with you – whether it's a quarter full, half full or fuller than full.
6. The last major reason I thought of for why people want to live indefinitely is the whole notion of leaving a legacy. By the time someone is 60 years old, they either have a legacy or have not. There isn’t a lot of new opportunities to make a mark by the time you reach that age - Colonel Sanders notwithstanding. I accomplished a few things, left a few legacies. I was mostly satisfied.
Suicides and/or suicide attempts are often (as they say) a cry for help, or a way to punish people they are upset with, or a means of controlling a situation. But, none of that was a reason for me either except that controlling my death was paramount.
So, although most people don’t even consider suicide unless there is something terribly wrong, I believed if those same people were forced to give reasons why not, it would be about family and friends that depend upon them, seeing the future, more things yet to be accomplished or experienced and leaving a legacy.
I understood all those reasons and if they had applied to me, I would have been gung-ho for living longer. But, the fact is they didn’t apply to me at all. Everyone I knew had some (or all) of these reasons to live. I was happy for them. I truly was. In many ways I learned how to live vicariously through others – not because I wasn’t content, but because I always admired anyone that understood how to be truly happy.
“There are only four things in life that matter. The first is happiness and I’ll sell you the other three for a dollar.”
– Sam Walton
I also always recognized – perhaps more than the average person – how important happiness is. I just was never able to find it for more than brief periods in my life and so I almost never used the word “happy”... I guess because I identified it as an emotion. Instead I found myself using the word “satisfied” which is more of statement of fact – something that can be measured or quantified… like X=4 “satisfies” the equation of 2 + 2 = X.
Don’t misunderstand. I wasn’t miserable to the point of depression, but I’ve never known how to smell the roses the way many other people can. Besides, I really have had everything I could realistically want considering what I was willing to sacrifice in return - way more than I've needed. And so, being content with a minimal number of things was very easy for me.
At some point, the issue is less about "more" than it is about not having "less". Michael Jordan has talked about the "joy" of his first championship, but by the third championship, it had become more "relief". Happiness had become the absence of misery – the misery of losing. And, so for me...
“Happiness is the absence of misery.” – Martin Manley