Would You Rather Die Old or Commit Suicide Young?
If you haven't seen these two stories, get ready. They're deep and heavy. Beyond riveting. However, IMHO, they're both must reads.
First, there's the story of the Kansas City sports media personality, Martin Manley, who decided to kill himself on his 60th birthday. You should really explore his Website for more context, but this excerpt provides the clearest rationale for his decision:
I always thought I might commit suicide someday. When I considered the options of living to be old and all the negatives associated with that alternative, I knew there was no way on earth I was going to allow myself to deal with such an intolerable situation ...
It's also true that I wanted to leave on top ...
Then, Manley steps into often tenuous analogy territory:
Very few athletes go out on top -- or even close. Most play far beyond their peak and even far beyond their relevance. Often times, it's a sad sight to see. I was beyond my peak, but a ways from being irrelevant. Nevertheless, irrelevancy was on the horizon for me as it is most people at my age -- me more than average.
Of course, there are some obvious holes you can poke in Manley's justification of his suicide. He addresses many of them at his site.
The most glaring to me -- why spend your life knowing that you "might commit suicide someday"?
Talk about a defeatist attitude.
A much more exhilarating alternative might be to have dedicated your life to physical fitness as to wind up like Jack LaLanne, who died a pretty damn good death at the age of 96.
Plus, like many analogies, the sports analogy sucks. He takes the notion of one's profession, craft or livelihood and parallels it with their life. That's not a sound intellectual leap.
But we're dealing in extremes here. The guy who says the only way I can go out on top is to kill myself "versus" the one who blasts through his daily exercise routine up until the day before his demise. And so many other ways of viewing life and death in between.
The whole thing makes me think of my favorite passage from a Haruki Murakami novel, Kafka on the Shore:
In everybody's life there's a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can't go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That's how we survive.
Not to judge Manley, but that's what it comes down to for me. At some point we all reach Murakami's "point of no return" and we have to determine how we'll proceed. Acceptance obviously means different things to different people. There are likely as many outcomes -- emotional and otherwise -- to this existential quandary as there are people in the world.