Back in 2003 I sat by while the head of our order battled for his life in hospital. Hour by hour, procedure after incredible procedure until he said enough and we took him back to Shasta Abbey. He died hours after getting there. Life and death dramas are being lived and died constantly in all corners and mostly in private. The following quote is from thoughtful article by Christopher Hitchens. In the face of what he is dealing with, terminal cancer, he questions the jolly epithets around death and survival. Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche is one of them.
In the brute physical world, and the one encompassed by medicine, there are all too many things that could kill you, don’t kill you, and then leave you considerably weaker.
From Trial of the Will, Christopher Hitchens. To be published in Vanity Fair magazine.
I’m left wondering what I would decide, should I ever have to, if faced with the sorts of choices the monk mentioned had to. Sick people, terminally ill people, people who are actually needing to make life or death decisions are not in the strongest position to make them. How free would I feel myself to be, in the face of eager medical people, to decline treatment.
Thanks to Tony for sending in the link. Much appreciated.
2 thoughts on “Free To Decide?”
I think this thing about ‘what ever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ comes from a number of attitudes, not the least of which is a sort of stiff upper lip, moral fortitude. Which I think tends towards the brittle. At the other, more helpful end of the spectrum is that life, with its trials and tribulations can result in a wonderful softening of a person; a real growth. BUT, the thing is that a person can be so broken by the pains of life that an arguably crucial part of them dies, even when the body still lives. After all the person arises interdependently.
And this question of how free anyone is at any time let alone when in distress… well, that points for me to some big questions. And then, the whole question of self identity and how to cope with suffering when it takes almost all if not all the space in the pot…
Yes Dave, lots to think about here. I often look at the distinction between ‘being in pain’ and ‘being in suffering’. There’s a difference. I know when I’m in the later because I tend to pity myself! And tend to complain….