Thursday, August 30, 2018


News sources tell us that teens are committing suicide in rising numbers.  As if we didn't know that.  Particularly indigenous people or anyone else who is atypical or stigmatized and young enough not to be able to withstand it.  Also, there is a narrow stream of information on "helpers," those who are supposed to be near-magical therapists and shrinks.  Therapy was an "Enlightenment" idea, medicalized, and now made irrelevant by the shift of the world past Enlightenment usefulness.

The idea was that people could be reasoned to sanity, because the extremes of depression, paranoia, and incoherence were by definition insanity is a context now discredited.  It was based on the ideas of an entitled secure world that only ever existed in part and now doesn't exist at all.  There is today plenty to be depressed about -- as a tart member of my congregation said to me once, "depression is simply intelligence."  They ARE after you -- did you see the story about Texas people legal, working even in law enforcement, in their proper place, and blameless, who are now being deported?  Incoherence is the trademark of our current government.

But turn to the person who may or may not be in a "helping profession" but certainly is in contact with people who are in enough distress to want suicide: therapists, sex workers, religion workers, emergency phone line answerers, all emergency responders, jailors, teachers.  Human beings who are up against, possibly skin-to-skin, with deeply distressed people, maybe even with their gloved hands drenched in the person's blood. 

Give up the idea that suicide is always wrong.  Euthanasia, good death, is a fancy word but a concept endorsed by many cultures, including those dependent on life-risking combat or those suffering and/or already close to death.  But even reasonable Enlightened honorable and obedient servants of the mainstream may not have that luxury.

Second, it is wrong to give up for no good reason.  What is a good reason and how does one find it?  There are really two questions.  One is the question of the person who wants to die and the other is the question of the helper, who may or may not want the suicide to happen.  Both are actually clusters of questions, maybe about how to make it happen and maybe how to keep it secret and maybe considering the impact on all the other people, close or far.

An old answer to the nature of sin is that it is separation from God, the source of all good things.  (Some say a version of one's original caregiver.)  A new and abiding answer to the caregiver is to provide the intimacy that the person didn't have or simply didn't feel or rejected out of rage which is a way to keep one's identity together and at least marginally functioning.  Sex workers, even immature sex workers (both subadolescents and older adolescents, both het and same-sex or a variation) know that and the best ones are those best at creating the illusion of intimacy.  This can postpone suicide.  The best therapists are no different.  The worst ones try to argue a person to sanity.

The natural world itself is always ready for intimacy if a person can get to it.  The therapist may take advantage of this, using hikes or symphonies or pets to renew the sensory matrix that the brain (which is largely emotional) needs to link to reasoning.  I once read that after an intense encounter with someone, the therapist should go outside and lie spread on the ground, feeling it or imagining it seeping up into them, letting the pain filter down into the soil.

True intimacy with a second person (not sex, though that can be involved) means things like trust, bonding, a holding environment, "using" the stronger person's interior structure temporarily.  Extending or receiving that is very hard and messes up any pre-existing life.  It's not a matter of words, though books and phone calls, vids and emails, can convey intimacy -- even false intimacy -- and for some that's enough.

A most powerful factor in the post-Enlightenment understanding is not just person-to-person, living entity to living entity, but the feeling of participation, that one is not meaningless, existence-less, random and beneath notice.  There are others with unendurable pain, others who are facing beheading, others whose families don't even approach what they are supposed to be, others whose marriages went smash, others who are trannies.  They are not meaningless.  They all deserve acknowledgement without having to compromise who they are.  

When a person is a helper, they feel it, too.  That's what they do -- get close enough to feel it.  It's not a legal issue, it can't be done with rules.  Sometimes it can be expressed in words: stories, poems, song lyrics.  Maybe a person can best understand someone else by dancing with them.

I don't trust therapists much.  The ones I know, maybe professionally, or who have tried to help me as a distressed person were mostly armored to protect themselves or too much a part of the culture to see outside of it.  Some of the most useful moments were accidental, like the day my therapist forgot about our appointment and locked me out.  Groups are often helpful, but I've never been close to a fellow groupie.  

But that was all a half-century ago.  When I was pretty serious about suicide, no one recognized or acknowledged it.  Later, when I was out of danger. a few concerned people decided I needed to be helped, but only made contact.  That was very nice -- not quite relevant.  When I was really over-the-top and out-of-control, no one stopped me.  It was impressed upon me that a suicidal person can always kill themselves.  The key is giving them a reason to live.  If you can't do that, step back.  But consider the burden on the people who answered the desperate calls during floods when there was no one who could help and no one wanted suicide.

Today's world is as bad as the one that prompted Archibald Macleish to write "J.B."  As bad as the world that prompted the original writer of the Book of Job in the Bible.  The story is an argument between Enlightenment reason and post-modern physiological sensory bonding with the world, which presents itself in the form of a forsythia at the end of a bridge.  In the end there is no argument or theory, just feeling and reaching out.

Here's a worthy discussion of enlightenment-based euthanasia.

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