Monday, February 2, 2009

Weaving Our Threads, For Good or Ill

I once believed that an individual had a legitimate right to suicide. No more.

Too often have I seen the effects of this choice. It is expressed in the complicated grief of friends and relatives, extending years after the event. It is seen in disconcerted community members, who may never have known the person, but somehow still absorb the sting of his or her choice. And descendants, unborn at the time of the death, often grapple with the legacy of suicide throughout their lives.

We are each endowed with a precious and animating energy. To harness that vitality and express it in this final, fatal act is to pay the ultimate homage to despair. And such a choice strengthens the predilection to suicide in our collective consciousness as well. Every time one of us chooses so, it increases the likelihood of that option for others.

Recently, Gaza was pummeled with bombs that burst into searing flakes of white phosphorus which burned deep into living tissue. Suicide is similar. The pain explodes, yet is flung far wider than chemical shards can ever travel.

And just as in Gaza, the fact that innocents are not the intended target does not lessen the agony as this corrosive element strikes and bores deep within.

Despair spreads. It may spread like wildfire or in a slow burn, but spread it does. Luckily for us, though, so does love.

We are intertwined, whether or not we feel it in a particular moment or wish it to be so. The choices we make ripple forth in ways we cannot always anticipate or understand. Each moment of every day, we are given opportunities to contribute to the collective stew. We can add distress and anger and mistrust, or we can offer hope and joy and love.

Our individual lives are strands in an incomprehensibly complex tapestry. This cloth, however, is not created by some unseen weaver, nor is it already formed and set for all time. It is a work in progress, and we are the weavers. 

Each of us was given our thread at birth and placed at a point within this evolving fabric.Where we take that filament, how we weave it into the whole, is ours to decide. The art of living well urges us to choose consciously and wisely what our contribution will be.

Whenever a thread is severed through violent means, the strength and beauty of the entire work is diminished. But when a fiber is woven with care, especially through a darkened segment, it provides balance and grace to the entire creation. 

And so this becomes the task of those wounded by suicide: to draw a brighter, life-enhancing thread forward out of the wreckage.

Tapestry, collective stew, the searing effect of white phosphorus bombs: all are images that speak to the truth of the interconnection that is life.

To respond to profound anguish by choosing suicide is to pay tribute to alienation and despair. By opting to seek out and allow solace instead, one can move forward through the bleak swatch with trust, honor, and love.

Either choice will have far-reaching effects.

In the words of Frederick Buechner, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”

May we each aspire to the good touch.

Blessings to each of you!

Loanne Marie


4 comments:

Catherine said...

Thanks, Loanne, for another sensitive and insightful essay. I agree with everything you say - but feel that "assisted death" (different from suicide, as I see it, and not just a euphemism) is a valid choice if faced with certain death attended by much pain; in other words, the way it's handled in Holland where three doctors can certify as to the need for assisted death. It goes without saying that this choice should be talked about extensively with family and loved ones so that it is understood and accepted.
Catherine

Loanne Marie said...

Thanks for your comment, Catherine. I agree with the point you made. When someone has an illness that will end their life soon and is quite painful (though with the great advances being made in effective pain management, this hopefully has become less an issue than it once was), I think assisted suicide should be an option, albeit with many safeguards in place.

However, a number of folks who struggle with depression over years use a similar argument in favor of their own deaths, given the intense anguish they feel with seemingly no effective way out.

It's a complex issue for sure. Thanks for writing!

Jay said...

Loanne, I'm really enjoying your postings. Today this line in particular caught my attention: "We are intertwined, whether or not we feel it in a particular moment or wish it to be so."

It seems to me that this is at the essence of the "cause" of suicide... that a person does not feel this intertwining, or feels it as a burden rather than a blessing.

Certainly there's no single cause or factor leading to this condition but it makes me think of interview I just saw on the PBS Now website with David Korten. (You can check it out here: www.pbs.org/now/shows/505/new-economy.html ).

Korten is talking about the economy and the environment, but at about 5.5 minutes in, he says, "...so much of what we consume is simply, in a sense, to distract us from the sense of alienation and isolation because we don't live in a community. It's extraordinary how the very structure of our economy has been literally destroying our families and destroying our communities." The feelings he identifies lead some to suicide.

It give me hope that so many people are talking about what I see as a deep spiritual hunger in the world. There are people and other indicators all around us pointing out steps we take toward wholeness, which can have deep repercussions in the other places where our society fails us.

These things are all interconnected...

Thanks for a great post!

Loanne Marie said...

Thanks for writing, Jay! Your points are all wonderful. I agree that it's the experience of alienation/isolation that is a prime impetus to suicide, and that our society in so many ways promotes this disconnection. I, too, am just delighted that so many voices are rising up at this time in our history, recognizing the hunger for something more and urging steps toward wholeness. Amen!!!

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Leia Marie