Meaningful Lives

I have to admit I was intrigued when I read about Martin Manley, the sports writer who took his life at age 60 because he felt he was no longer useful. I have often thought about that article. At some point, many of us do outlive our usefulness, we take more from society than we put in–just like when we were children. I get his reasons.

Manley’s rational and well-planned death is one example of how we can have 100% control over our bodies and destiny.  He felt it was time. His life was his to take, and he asked god for forgiveness. He didn’t choose to come into this world, but he chose exactly how he would go out and how he would be remembered. Perhaps believing in god made his life easier to take. Had he been atheist, maybe he would have waited a little longer, enjoyed more sporting events or decadent meals or times with friends. Who knows?

So why do we continue to march on, especially those of us who have no faith? So many people have asked us, “What’s the point?” Who or what are we living for?

Would you commit suicide? This is the question posed by Albert Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus, which I was reminded about reading A.C. Grayling’s great book, “The God Argument.”

If your answer is “no,” then the next question, Grayling says is: “…what are the reasons I personally have for saying ‘No’ to that question? The answer contains the meaning of my life.”

What are your reasons for not taking your life today? Who would be hurt? Who would you miss? Do people depend on you? Do you help others through your love and friendship or your life’s work? Do you have goals that have not been met? Maybe your reason is simply that you love to listen to music or watch the sunrise in the morning. It doesn’t really matter what your reasons are. They are yours. And they give your life meaning.

That’s all that counts.



30 responses to “Meaningful Lives

  1. Oh Deborah, I could hug you for making this post. This topic is near and dear to me, something that I have thought about quite a bit.

    I admire Martin Manley’s choice to end his life on his own terms, and I hope that when I have expired and reached the end of my productive years that I have to guts to end my life own my own terms.

    I think this decision should be admired; never scorned, never looked down upon. It takes guts to admit to one’s self that his good years are behind him, nothing positive lays ahead, and I might as well check out while I still have the ability to do so.

    After all, we are all coming to same end. The question is will it be a dignified end.

    • @Jason M. Wester I think we could all use more hugging! 🙂 This is so true: “After all, we are all coming to same end. The question is will it be a dignified end.” I certainly have seen family members die the undignified way, knowing that if there were cognizant, they would not want to die like that.

  2. I often have been heard complaining that at 60 I feel I no longer contribute anything to my beleaguered society. But, for me, I know that part of that is because I’ve been drenched in the “make money or be nothing” Kool-Aid of American “culture”. I do contribute: I continue to encourage and aid my eldest child as he re-builds his life in disability and after divorce. I keep my home and gardens going in ways that better the ecology of the world. I aid my PTSD’d husband and youngest son in recovering their joy in living.

    I think rational suicide is a valid choice, there are circumstances that could move me to end my life, but never would it be feeling I did not contribute. Because frankly, that is a bit hubristic — presumptuous to think we can even KNOW in entirety what our effect is upon the people we interact with each day. I live my life to be a seed in other lives, to a degree; to daily say “NO!” to forces that denigrate my life as an older woman and as a heterodox voice in the religious paradigm.

    Yes, actually, some days? Doing my best to piss off the religious right IS sufficient reason to keep taking up space and air!

    • @syrbal-labrys Excellent comment! (You brought a smile to my face.) I also like the point you made about society’s expectations. Who says we are or ever were part of that? I like that idea of being a “seed in other lives…”

  3. Excellent post! I love it! I’ve never thought about life’s meaning from that angle, but it makes sense. Thanks!

  4. What a great topic! I had not heard about Mr. Manley and his decision before now, but he is certainly to be admired and respected for his actions. And his website – I think if I ever made as monumentous a decision as that I would want to leave something similar behind, for those who were interested enough to read it. But with that being said, I think I am probably the type who would have to really be at the end of my rope to want to end my life. I don’t do anything truly valubale, I don’t feel like I bring a huge value into the world, but I certainly am far from being ready to leave it, by any means. I’m a self-centered human being, and I just love being alive, I guess. I’m a hedonist. I love all the tactile things about life – eating, drinking, hugs, kisses, sex, sleeping, being outside, walking around, breathing the air, seeing the sky, hearing the birds, it’s all good. And I love learning stuff, reading, going places, trying new things. I also like to throw my two cents into the ring, for whatever it’s worth. Plus, there are my people. Son, husband, step-son, parents, grandmother, assorted other relatives and friends. If I ceased to exist tomorrow, they would be hurt to one extent or another. My worry for them would keep me from pulling that trigger, or whatever the means may be. I think the only suicide motivators for me would be if I was dying of a terminal disease, in terrible chronic pain, or just had lost all will to live due to some sort of tragedy. Otherwise, let’s just keep on rolling, and see what’s around the next bend. But like most topics, suicide has it’s gray areas, right? For a young person, who is being bullied, or is depressed, or suffers from sort of mental illness? I don’t think they are in a place to make a rational decision, suicide is not the right answer and they need help. For an older person who is either ill, or just done with life, and is making a rational well-thought out decision, they should be left in peace to do as they will.

    • @Angie Wow. Sounds like you have lots of beautiful reasons. In the end, what we think is all that matters…Unless, as you said, it’s a young person who is being bullied or is depressed. Then, those around that person should really be stepping in as support (you’d hope).

      Did you ever see the movie “The Road?” (Or read the book?) Both were great. The mom, though, takes her own life because she didn’t want to live in the world (it was end times). We have it so good, at this point in the world’s history.

      • I DID read The Road! A long time ago, and have not seen the movie. But I remember feeling like Eeyore after a read it – with that cloud hanging over me, such a dark, dark story. Who could blame the mom for what she did? And so many people have been at that exact same point, have seen such horrors (like Elie Wiesel), and chosen to say, that’s it, no more for me. I agree, we are ridiculously, embarrassingly, fortunate to live where and when we do.

  5. I wrote this there —

    If I did something along those lines, I would want to make sure that as many of my organs could be harvested for those who are struggling to survive themselves. I would think a shot to the head would render the eyes unusable due to hydrostatic shock. Also, would there be legal issues in obtaining organs from a suicide?

    Re: suicide and depression – I wrote this —

    In my darkest moments, the desire not to cause loved ones pain is often enough to get past the despair. For me, the worst was not when one’s emotional state was he lowest, but when feeling more or less OK and having the lurking anxiety that the cycle of sadness and despair would come again. Meds help and the cycle’s frequency is greatly slowed, but there’s rarely a time when I am not well aware that an “out” of last resort has been contemplated. Strangely enough, there’s even a certain amount of strength and comfort derived from that. For me it means remaining focused on what will help keep me from spiraling into that emotional state in the first place. Finally, one needs to be reminded of one’s ability to help others.That sort of caring helps reconfirm the notion that others need you, just as you need others. Know that if you truly reach out, you are never really alone.

    And at this site, someone responded with a really cool poem —

    “Strangely enough, there’s even a certain amount of strength and comfort derived from that.”

    “O Brothers of sad lives! they are so brief;
    A few short years must bring us all relief:
    Can we not bear these years of laboring breath?
    But if you would not this poor life fulfil,
    Lo, you are free to end it when you will,
    Without the fear of waking after death.”, The City of Dreadful Night, by James Thomson

    Posted by: Brett Bellmore | July 25, 2013 at 06:02 PM
    “The City of Dreadful Night” here if I messed up the link —

    • @Lancethruster That’s a good question. I don’t know if you can make an organ donation after suicide. I know there are stipulations, age restrictions, etc. My father also, in addition to donating organs, donated his body to science.

      Struggling with depression is not the same, and suicide should never be an option. (In the article above, the sports writer said that he was not nor had been depressed.)

      I like that poem because it recognizes that we have such a short time to enjoy all this. If you–if anyone–ever feels sad or depressed enough to consider suicide, please, please reach out to those around you. Whatever the load, the burden will be shared.

  6. Interesting quotes here —

    Suicide is the dumbest possible way of getting revenge. Why is that? Because the people you want to strike back at are the very same folks who won’t even remember you a week after you’re gone, while the people you want to spare most — the people who love you — are the ones who will have to live with the pain of your suicide for the rest of their lives.

    DAVID J. LIEBERMAN, Instant Analysis

  7. I am too fracking entertained by the bizarreness of the universe to check out early. Granted, if I find out my brain is starting to seriously rot, then I am going to put an end to it. However and in the meantime, there is too much to have with to want to leave the party before everyone else.

    Besides, I have family that needs constant embarrassing and reminders that not everyone else thinks like them. If I am not around to do it, then they would feel left out. Anyway, I want to be the one who tells the mortifying (all puns intended) tales at their memorial services. Yep, there’s also too much fun to be had with them.

    • @Derrick That’s really funny. And it’s a noble cause–to be a constant reminder and embarrassment! If you’re going to be telling the “mortifying tales” at their memorials, maybe you should write them up in advance so that they can enjoy them before they lie down (it would be lie here, right?) for their eternal nap!

    • I could not choose to leave too early. Just like LT quoted above, that would most hurt the people I least would like to. What on earth would motivate me to such an act of absolute selfishness, nothing. I have hands to hold, things to do, tears to wipe and people to love – as an unbeliever I want it all and as long as I’ve got since this is the only shot for me.
      Great topic for discussion once again BTW.

    • I like Derrick’s philosophy. I wish I could find a photocopier gag I saw many years ago —

      It said something along the lines of “I’ve been used, abused, bullied, beaten, bruised, etc., etc., etc…but the only reason I stick around, is to see what will happen next.”

      Truer words were never spoken.

      • As for my opinion on the matter…. it’s complicated. I don’t like the idea of a child suffering for a long time of a terminal illness, but I still oppose this idea in Belgium. I don’t think children should make life and death decisions.

        As for the other two cases, I think they highlight how individual each suicide or euthanasia case is. Manley’s situation is easier for me to accept than the paralyzed dad-to-be. I don’t think your baby cares if you can walk or not, he just wants his dad in his life.

        But, I recognize it is complicated. I agree with others though, that, sometimes suicide is an extremely selfish choice. I know that isn’t a very empathetic thing to say because often times mental illness plays a role….

        I guess personally I have too much faith to choose euthanasia or suicide because no matter how hopeless a situation may seem, there is always hope. And no matter how worthless a life may seem, there is always value.

        • @Molly I agree with you about the differences and that a kid just wants his dad. Something that also crossed my mind was how often you hear of cases where the person was never supposed to walk again. Heck look at Bob Woodruff:

          I also think being mentally ill (depressed) or injured should not be the reasons to take one’s life. In those stressful situations, one shouldn’t make life or death decisions.

      • Wow, Molly. I don’t even know what to say to this law in Belgium (or potential law including children). Since I’ve never been in this situation, with a kid who is terminally ill, I don’t feel like I can even pass judgment. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard this would be for a parent…

  8. I’m sorry, I don’t think ending your life at 60 is to be respected at all. Ok, so I didn’t read the details. Maybe it did make sense for him, but if he *knew* there was no god, would he have done it? If the answer would have been no, then I see it as stupid and short sighted.
    Why do I not commit suicide? I want to exist! Plus I have kids to raise and people who would miss me. If I was alone and lonely (sad, depressed, in pain) and believed in a god, perhaps it would be an option. If I was dying anyway and painful / ugly later and a bit less so sooner? Yes, that would be an option.

  9. I’ve wondered about you. First, I don’t know if this will mean anything, but I DO care and I wish there were some way I could help you not feel sad.

    You make a good point–if you’ve never been to the point of being suicidal, you cannot really judge others. As parents, we would never want our children to harm themselves. As children, we would never want our parents to hurt themselves either. Maybe thinking that suicide is selfish comes from the survivors not wanting to be burdened with the guilt. It is ultimately the survivors who will suffer, and maybe they’re being selfish.

    That video is just…sad. No other word for it.

  10. I am a big believer in the notion that your only obligation to live your life is to yourself. As traumatic it might be for others should you be taken from them for any reason, you are the only that experiences what goes on in your own head, and as such are the one in charge of determining your own ‘pain tolerance’.

    That being said, one way to reduce the focus of your own troubles, is to direct some of your energies at helping others. Love is the only thing that grows the more you give it away.

    If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. ~ Dalai Lama

    And finally, for your viewing pleasure….What you get with a basic life

    Mmmmmm. Bacon.

  11. My mother thinks my life is destined to go downhill fast since I abandoned religion. I can’t commit suicide because it would only prove her right. At least in her own mind.

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