Monday, 24 January 2011

If I had one, would I press a button that would instantly end my life?

I find it curious that the people I know who believe in an afterlife tend to be the most horrified by death.  Surely they should look forward to the afterlife?  It is the people who are left behind, in whose emotional lives there appears a great hole, who deserve our grief. Yet many articles that cover violent death by suicide bombers and others focus exclusively on the victim(s) and the perpetrator(s), all of whom are no longer with us to hear.

As an atheist I am as convinced as I can be that when we die there is nothing.  We cease to exist.  I know that thought terrifies a lot of people.  But I don't feel that terror.  I find the prospect of ceasing to exist quite comforting.  Nothing to regret, no 'if-only's, no knowledge of deeply troubling things of which one was mercifully unaware as a human being.

All one becomes is a memory in the minds of those we leave behind, and within about 3 generations even that fades to no more than a couple of anecdotes.  And so our footprint in the sand is finally erased.  Even famous people are only remembered for what other people say and write about them.  Do we really know what Elizabeth Ist was like to be with,or how she spoke to those with whom she was intimate?  We know a great deal about her, but only as observed, imperfectly, by others; and by what she chose herself to let us know about her.

Does it worry me that my life could end in a few seconds, and all the knowledge that I have amassed over many years, the friendships and loves I have found, the relationships I have had; all immediately ceases except as an imperfect memory in other people's minds; with the things that only I can know, or things that I choose not to reveal about myself ,all dying with me, never to be known. In a word: 'No'.

And so, would I press that button right now?  Hmm...  I have to say 'that depends'...  If I could do so without causing distress and hardship to those close to me who I leave behind, then the answer would be 'Yes'.  But life just ain't that simple.  I find it curious that what most keeps me resigned to staying alive is the horror of what ending my life would do to people left behind, even though, by not existing, I would never experience their pain.

Strange thing, empathy....


  1. So one day you write about death and the next I write about life. :-) If you died your blog would still be here which is all some of us really know of you anyway. I hope you live for a long time, Simian, and happily!

  2. Thanks Stacy. I appreciate your thought. I'll respond to you at the contact on your blog if I may.