The “sacred” life

by Meritxell Riera Prims


Tatsuya Nakadai in a still from the classic Masaki Kobayashi‘s movie Seppuku (Harakiri) (1962)

I tried to kill myself once. Obviously I survived (I wouldn’t be writing this otherwise). It would be safer to say that I was “saved”. Ok, in my case it was more of a “parasuicide”. But I could have died anyway if I hadn’t been taken in time. Either way, I learned many interesting things from that experience, as an anthropologist and as a human being.

Our society tells us that we are the masters of our own lives. We’re responsible for our failures and successes, for our thoughts and actions. However, apparently we’re not the masters of our own death.

Death is a taboo in our culture to begin with. No one talks about it, we try to conceal it from children, we fight it and run away from it with anti-aging creams and retirement homes where we confine our elders, so that we don’t have to face that someday we are going to die ourselves.

When someone expresses their wish to die (and I’m not talking about extreme cases where euthanasia is required for humanitarian reasons) is because they’re under the influence of depression. And I’m not saying that might not be true. But I’d also say… so what?

Long ago, Church was the owner of people’s lives AND souls. Nowadays, the state and science are. Not that long ago, actually, killing yourself was considered a sin by the Catholic dogma. So, not only was sad enough for someone to feel the need to take their own lives, but also they had to feel guilty about it, because it was an offense to God Himself.

Nowadays the discourse has changed. People don’t talk about sin anymore. However I’m positive that when someone kill themselves these days, they do it with a certain feeling of guilt either way. From the moment you hear people talking about the act of committing suicide for the first time, you hear the words “cowardice” or “selfishness”. Cowardice not to be tenacious enough to endure the setbacks life puts you through, selfishness for the suffering you’re going to cause to those who love you.

Others are more compassionate and they simply talk about hopelessness. And they pity your soul.

But as with many things in this sick modern world of ours, nobody does anything to prevent people from falling in despair. The world has become a great market and they want you as a product and a capable manufacturer at the same time. The great moguls can’t afford any loss of profits. I refuse to believe that in this scenario, given the pressure, the idea of committing suicide has never crossed no one with minimal sensitivity’s mind. I just don’t buy it. Even now it hasn’t stopped to cross mine.

They can evict you, exploit you, wash your brain with ads that tell you that you have to be beautiful, fit and have a fast car if you want to be successful. And when you obviously become desperate after they do all these things to you and after you realize about the illusion, and you want to take your own life because that’s the only way out left for you, they won’t let you. They have to “save” you from yourself. Prescribe you some pills (the same pills you tried to kill yourself with) and force you back to your feet again and to finding a meaning to a life which has none, the way we’ve chosen -or others have chosen for us- to live it.

When I did it, I felt release. I didn’t feel neither guilt nor sadness for the things I left behind. I was not going to miss anything. And I was thankful for that. Seeing no way out to my situation, I found relief in the fact that I still could resort to that and find peace of mind and above all, peace of soul.

There’s nothing sacred about life, just as there is nothing sacred about death. If you fear one, you fear the other, there’s no other way to grasp this fact. Life can be a mystical wonderful experience, but it can also feel like hell for some people depending on the circumstances, and nobody is entitled to judge others’ decisions on their own lives, because I bet not even God does. God may mourn the unclaimed deaths of His children, but even He can’t do anything about it. He can’t save them (and if He can’t, why would anybody else dare try?). He can only tend His hand just as any other parent would, and offer His unconditional love. But even if we’re quite dependent during the first stage of our lives, from the moment we come to this world, our life belongs to us and only us.

Therefore, you need to face death -either you chose it or it simply comes to you- with the same serenity you learn to face the facts of life (in case you do; otherwise, you’re gonna have to learn to). Yours and others’. Because you do not own no one else’s life. And you need to let it go, either they’ve chosen to go or their time has come.

Otherwise, who’s more selfish? The suicidal or the saviour?