I've always prided myself on being able to rethink my positions and gather perspective. I like to see myself as open-minded and flexible. Given my recent worries, some people are inevitably see this post as a cry for help. Here's my disclaimer: it's not. I want to approach a subject I've put a lot of thought into recently and which was driven home for me this morning.
So. Let's talk about suicide.
No, I don't want to kill myself. Even at my most self-destructive, my survival instinct was always too strong for that to be an option for me. It's bad enough to want to die, but imagine wanting the pain to be over and knowing you are not physically capable of even letting it happen, much less doing it yourself.
Bah. I digress. This isn't about me. This morning I learned that one of the new arrivals from the first wave was found dead on the grounds of the new expansion. Without giving any gory details, the fellow ended his life in such a way that he wouldn't reanimate as a zombie and become a threat to others. His name was John.
No one knows why he did it. He didn't leave a note. There were no signs that he was depressed at all. Everything seemed fine with him, according to his friends. I think we're all worldly enough to understand that putting up a false front as a defense mechanism is one of the first things a person who needs help will do. It shouldn't come as a shock that someone who wanted to die managed to make themselves appear normal. Doubtlessly there are people that knew and cared about John who are right now blaming themselves and saying that they should have done more.
The sentiment is understandable, but I don't think it's at all fair for anyone to take blame. Doing so implies two things: that there is fault in the person who didn't see it coming (there isn't), and that the person who didn't see it coming had any say in whether the deceased lived or died (they don't).
I used to be strongly against the idea of any person in this world ending their own life in the face of all we have to deal with. Maybe John had been fighting the undead a lot recently and felt overwhelmed by the incessant attacks, the brutal toll it takes on us to cut down the enemy. Maybe it was years of survival while watching other people die. Could have been witnessing marauders descend into the darkest depths of human depravity, or any of a dozen other kinds of suffering.
Or maybe he was just tired. None of us can know.
I'm not so harsh with my opinions now. As I say from time to time, I'm with Heinlein on this one; it is the right of every person to choose their own end, should they wish it. Sometimes our lives are chaotic and our paths determined by the waves of circumstance that carry us. The journey itself can thrash us around in ways we can't control, ways we hate. The only power we have in the face of a life we cannot tolerate is to end that life. Not pretty. Not nice. But true.
I still think it can be a selfish choice. It's hard not to at present, when we're pressed hard at the walls every time a new attack comes. Two or three a day, sometimes in different locations, sometimes hitting a weakened section over and over again. We aren't facing a huge unified force of zombies yet, which is probably saving us from taking very serious losses, but the sight of the undead breaching a section of the new expansion cuts you right down to your marrow. The feeling of desperate terror as you fight to survive can tear you apart.
John could have chosen to live. People do it all the time. We live for ourselves, because it is our driving instinct. Some of us live for others, to support something larger. Many people nowadays make the logical choice to support a group such as ours because they recognize the practical reality that there are better chances of survival if we move as one. Fight as one.
But when you're looking at a swarm of flesh-hungry enemies breaking into your home, it can fuck you up. Knowing that you'll have to be on your guard constantly for the foreseeable future, have to struggle in ways your life in the world that was never prepared you for...that does damage. John may have seen something terrible one time too many. He may have envisioned his future and seen only heartache and pain and ruthless effort just to get by.
Again, we will never know. I wish he had talked to someone, maybe gained some perspective and realized that the good times and moments of joy are that much sweeter when contrasted against the bitter. Maybe he would have survived his own thoughts.
Or he might have still made the same choice. In the end, that's what it comes down to. It was his call. As a community we make the choice each day as we recommit to a purpose. Some of us might be going with the crowd purely out of self-preservation, and that's fine. We aid the tribe for a lot of reasons, but the practical effect is that we live for each other. John chose to end that commitment. He didn't leave or side with the Exiles because he was sick of it. He took the last door honorably available to him. He ended his part in the social contract without harming the rest of us.
And though we will be weaker without him, one less defender of the helpless among us, he had the right. I can't say much more about it than that. Some of you may disagree, and that's good. We should have an honest and open dialog about these kinds of things. We value life and service, sacrifice and goodwill. But shouldn't we also honor personal choice in this manner?
What do you think? Was John wrong to Move On to whatever may come next, leaving the rest of us to deal with the increasingly damaging zombie attacks? Or did he have the right? I hope I have you thinking about it.
I still am.