1. Hmmm . . .
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    01 May '07 04:371 edit
    I read this a long time ago, and came upon it again recently. Lest one think that this is an ant-religion essay, Percy was a practicing Roman Catholic Christian.

    We have talked about death on here before—but this is about spiritual death, spiritual suicide. That is a theme in most religious/spiritual traditions—

    "Die while alive and be thoroughly dead. Then do what you will, and all will be well." (Zen Master Bunan)

    “Be thoroughly dead, and buried in God.” (Meister Eckhart)

    “Die before you die.” (The Prophet Muhammad)

    “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (The Christ)

    "There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide." (Camus; though he meant real suicide, which he rejected)

    ___________________________________

    —from Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book

    by Walker Percy


    Thought Experiment: A new cure for depression.

    The only cure for depression is suicide.

    This is not meant as a bad joke but as the serious proposal of suicide as a valid option. Unless the option is entertained seriously, its therapeutic value is lost. No threat is credible unless the threatener means it.

    The treatment of depression requires a reversal of the usual therapeutic rationale. The therapeutic rationale, which has never been questioned, is that depression is a symptom. A symptom implies an illness; there is something wrong with you. An illness should be treated.

    Suppose you are depressed. You may be mildly or seriously depressed, clinically depressed, or suicidal. What do you usually do? Or what does one do with you? Do nothing or something. If something, what is done is always based on the premise that something is wrong with you and therefore it should be remedied. You are treated. You apply to friend, counselor, physician, minister, group. You take a trip, take anti-depressant drugs, change jobs, change wife or husband or "sexual partner."

    Now, call into question the unspoken assumption: something is wrong with you. Like Copernicus and Einstein, turn the universe upside down and begin with a new assumption.

    Assume that you are quite right. You are depressed because you have every reason to be depressed. No member of the other two million species which inhabit the earth--and who are luckily exempt from depression--would fail to be depressed if it lived the life you lead. You live in a deranged age--more deranged than usual, because despite great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.

    Begin with the reverse hypothesis, like Copernicus and Einstein. You are depressed because you should be. You are entitled to your depression. In fact, you'd be deranged if you were not depressed. Consider the only adults who are never depressed: chuckleheads, California surfers, and fundamentalist Christians who believe they have had a personal encounter with Jesus and are saved for once and all. Would you trade your depression to become any of these?

    Now consider, not the usual therapeutic approach, but a more ancient and honorable alternative, the Roman option. I do not care for life in this deranged world, it is not an honorable way to live; therefore, like Cato, I take my leave. Or, as Ivan said to God in The Brothers Karamazov: if you exist, I respectfully return my ticket.

    Now notice that as soon as suicide is taken as a serious alternative, a curious thing happens. To be or not to be becomes a true choice, where before you were stuck with to be. Your only choice was how to be less painfully, either by counseling, narcotizing, boozing, groupizing, womanizing, man-hopping, or changing your sexual preference.

    If you are serious about the choice, certain consequences follow. Consider the alternatives. Suppose you elect suicide. Very well. You exit. Then what? What happens after you exit? Nothing much. Very little, indeed. After a ripple or two, the water closes over your head as if you had never existed. You are not indispensable, after all. You are not even a black hole in the Cosmos. All that stress and anxiety was for nothing. Your fellow townsmen will have something to talk about for a few days. Your neighbors will profess shock and enjoy it. One or two might miss you, perhaps your family, who will also resent the disgrace. Your creditors will resent the inconvenience. Your lawyers will be pleased. Your psychiatrist will be displeased. The priest or minister or rabbi will say a few words over you and down you go on the green tapes and that's the end of you. In a surprisingly short time, everyone is back in the rut of his own self as if you had never existed.

    Now, in the light of this alternative, consider the other alternative. You can elect suicide, but you decide not to. What happens? All at once, you are dispensed. Why not live, instead of dying? You are like a prisoner released from the cell of his life. You notice that the cell door is ajar and that the sun is shining outside. Why not take a walk down the street? Where you might have been dead, you are alive. The sun is shining.

    Suddenly you feel like a castaway on an island. You can't believe your good fortune. You feel for broken bones. You are in one piece, sole survivor of a foundered ship whose captain and crew had worried themselves into a fatal funk. And here you are, cast up on a beach and taken in by islanders who, it turns out, are themselves worried sick--over what? Over status, saving face, self-esteem, national rivalries, boredom, anxiety, depression from which they seek relief mainly in wars and the natural catastrophes which regularly overtake their neighbors.

    And you, an ex-suicide, lying on the beach? In what way have you been freed by the serious entertainment of your hypothetical suicide? Are you not free for the first time in your life to consider the folly of man, the most absurd of all the species, and to contemplate the cosmic mystery of your own existence? And even to consider which is the more absurd state of affairs, the manifest absurdity of your predicament: lost in the Cosmos and no news of how you got into such a fix or how to get out--or the even more preposterous eventuality that news did come from the God of the Cosmos, who took pity on your ridiculous plight and entered the space and time of your insignificant planet to tell you something.

    The difference between a non-suicide and an ex-suicide leaving the house for work, at eight o'clock on an ordinary morning:

    The non-suicide is a little traveling suck of care, sucking care with him from the past and being sucked toward care in the future. His breath is high in his chest.

    The ex-suicide opens his front door, sits down on the steps, and laughs. Since he has the option of being dead, he has nothing to lose by being alive. It is good to be alive. He goes to work because he doesn't have to.
  2. Joined
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    01 May '07 04:49
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I read this a long time ago, and came upon it again recently. Lest one think that this is an ant-religion essay, Percy was a practicing Roman Catholic Christian.

    We have talked about death on here before—but this is about spiritual death, spiritual suicide. That is a theme in most religious/spiritual traditions—

    "Die while alive and be thoroughly dea ...[text shortened]... being alive. It is good to be alive. He goes to work because he doesn't have to.
    [/b]
    is spiritual suicide a good thing or a bad thing?
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    01 May '07 14:34
    Well from the Christian perspective we realize that the world is "messed up". However, we focus instead on a holy and loving God who will ultimatly clean house one day. It reminds me of the saying, don't sweat the small stuff......and its all small stuff. I have done this and it works! It reminds me of Paul who was cast into prison. By all rights he should have been depressed. However, he began to praise God in the midst of the ugliness and forsook the temperal circumstances in favor of the eternal circumstances. I have done this as well and I can tell you that when you do your depression begins to leave. We can all agree that lifes circumstances are temperal, howveer, we often do not live that way. We often view our circumstances as eternal obstacles never to be overcome and simply settle for what it offers us and that includes our depression.

    As far as being a Christian, however, I should consider the life of Christ, no? It says that he was a man of sorrows and acquanted with grief. However, does this mean he was a depressive fellow? I say no. I say he had chose not to focus on the ill and instead focus on the promises to come. Just because depression comes for a visit, and it will, does not mean you must choose to give it free room and board.
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    01 May '07 15:18
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I read this a long time ago, and came upon it again recently. Lest one think that this is an ant-religion essay, Percy was a practicing Roman Catholic Christian.

    We have talked about death on here before—but this is about spiritual death, spiritual suicide. That is a theme in most religious/spiritual traditions—

    "Die while alive and be thoroughly dea ...[text shortened]... being alive. It is good to be alive. He goes to work because he doesn't have to.
    [/b]
    I've some experience with mental illness; my father committed suicide, I and my sister have suffered from depression in the past, she more so than I. From what I can gain and in keeping with your zenic views, I see depression and other mental illness as an incompatibility with life. For many there is a gradual descent into periods of it which can be looked at metaphysically as a failiure for the body to meet the pressures of life head on. Chemical inbalance, brain anomalies, what have you, are in some way linked to the problem of living. If we look at this in terms of spirituality, since I am a materialist it seems to me not a far stretch to believe that spiritual mental illness is also occurent in the matter of the brain. I'm not sure where I'm going with this now, many possible tangets have obscured my original point, I'll try and come up with something more coherrent later. For now another dose of Bad Zen© by using lyrics to sum up complicated thought processes, a pop-Koan, if you will.

    In the words of Rilo Kiley:

    I had one friend in high school, recently he hung himself with string.
    His note said,
    'If living is the problem, well, that's just baffling.'
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    01 May '07 16:17
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I read this a long time ago, and came upon it again recently. Lest one think that this is an ant-religion essay, Percy was a practicing Roman Catholic Christian.

    We have talked about death on here before—but this is about spiritual death, spiritual suicide. That is a theme in most religious/spiritual traditions—

    "Die while alive and be th ...[text shortened]... being alive. It is good to be alive. He goes to work because he doesn't have to.
    [/b]
    I believe the quotes at the beginning for the most part refer to death of the self or ego (pride, greed, lust, seeking sensory experiences, etc.). At least that's the way I see them.

    It seems that the reasons for depression, at least for the majority, are the unfulfilled desires of the self. While what Percy proposes is interesting, it does nothing to change the fact that the desires of the self would remain unfulfilled. Depending on the individual, I would imagine that the effect would wear off in a couple of years, months, weeks or days.

    Of course this doesn't at all address the majority which are the individuals who have largely fulfilled the desires of the self and are not depressed. Interestingly enough many fulfill the desires of the self with "God". Unfortunately what they see as God is only their own ego. They have yet to die to themselves.
  6. Illinois
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    01 May '07 18:05
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I read this a long time ago, and came upon it again recently. Lest one think that this is an ant-religion essay, Percy was a practicing Roman Catholic Christian.

    We have talked about death on here before—but this is about spiritual death, spiritual suicide. That is a theme in most religious/spiritual traditions—

    "Die while alive and be thoroughly dea ...[text shortened]... being alive. It is good to be alive. He goes to work because he doesn't have to.
    [/b]
    It sounds like Percy's solution is basically just to stop caring about life without resorting to suicide. Enjoy it for what it is. Not a bad thing; I've been there; it is freeing; existence can be more easily wondered at from a less self-centered perspective. Good stuff. However, that's not what Christ had in mind when He talked about giving up one's life. Even if a man is an ex-suicide, that doesn't mean he will obey God's will, which is Christ's underlying message.
  7. Donationbbarr
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    01 May '07 18:33
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    It sounds like Percy's solution is basically just to stop caring about life without resorting to suicide. Enjoy it for what it is. Not a bad thing; I've been there; it is freeing; existence can be more easily wondered at from a less self-centered perspective. Good stuff. However, that's not what Christ had in mind when He talked about giving u ...[text shortened]... suicide, that doesn't mean he will obey God's will, which is Christ's underlying message.
    You are mistaking Kierkegaard's Knight of Infinite Resignation for his Knight of Faith. The ex-suicide isn't simply detached from the absurd, his detachment is attended by a non-possessive appreciation of what is beautiful and important in life.
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    01 May '07 18:38
    Originally posted by bbarr
    You are mistaking Kierkegaard's Knight of Infinite Resignation for his Knight of Faith.
    How so?
  9. Donationbbarr
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    01 May '07 19:38
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    How so?
    In the manner indicated by the second sentence in my post above.
  10. Illinois
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    02 May '07 06:04
    Originally posted by bbarr
    In the manner indicated by the second sentence in my post above.
    Sorry, as far as I can tell, your comments hardly address the point. It sounds good though. I'd be curious to hear your explanation.
  11. Hmmm . . .
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    02 May '07 11:38
    I should expand a bit, because although Percy spoke simply about depression, I don’t think the question is limited to that. And I also recognize that there are “clinical” depressions that can best be treated medically, etc.

    Also a caveat: I took the quote from an internet site, which neglected to include the phrase “thought experiment,” which is in the book.

    With that said, I think the thrust goes to mental anguish/suffering generally (the Buddhist dukkha).

    With regard to the “wearing off” mentioned by ToO, that is why continual vigilance and practice matter. Daily meditation on the theme. As a “thought experiment,” one could use it almost like a Zen koan...
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    02 May '07 16:591 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I should expand a bit, because although Percy spoke simply about depression, I don’t think the question is limited to that. And I also recognize that there are “clinical” depressions that can best be treated medically, etc.

    Also a caveat: I took the quote from an internet site, which neglected to include the phrase “thought exper ...[text shortened]... on the theme. As a “thought experiment,” one could use it almost like a Zen koan...
    Though daily meditation could prolong things, it seems the underlying problem of trading one delusion for another would still be there.
  13. Hmmm . . .
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    04 May '07 16:22
    Originally posted by ThinkOfOne
    Though daily meditation could prolong things, it seems the underlying problem of trading one delusion for another would still be there.
    On re-reading, I think I might've misunderstood your first post.

    What is the first delusion? What is the second delusion?
  14. Hmmm . . .
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    04 May '07 17:15
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Sorry, as far as I can tell, your comments hardly address the point. It sounds good though. I'd be curious to hear your explanation.
    I did find this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knight_of_faith
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    04 May '07 18:40
    Originally posted by vistesd
    On re-reading, I think I might've misunderstood your first post.

    What is the first delusion? What is the second delusion?
    I view an egocentric worldview as delusional.

    Since the overwhelming majority have an egocentric worldview, most likely the depression stems from a preoccupation of what the ego does not or might not have. It seems that the result of this 'thought experiment' would be to leave the egocentric worldview intact with a shift to an appreciation of what the ego does or might have due to the illusion of 'living on borrowed time'.
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