The Coroner and The Law
I’m often struck when reading the papers or news, to see the coroner’s verdict on someone’s death as:
Ending his own life “while the balance of his mind was disturbed”
Well they have to say something, it’s their job, but the phrase is very peculiar. It is also very common, over 110k webpages!
Take this couple, the Milners, who were found dead in their home on the 1st November, 2009. They look quite jolly, don’t they. Would you say that the balance of their mind is disturbed?
Current UK law says that it’s OK to end your own life, but illegal to help anyone do it. I’ve emphasised the word “current”, because not that long ago, when the spoken language of the people of Britain would be comprehensible to us here today, it was actually a capital offence to commit suicide! In other words, if you failed to kill yourself, the State would that ensure you got your wish, by hanging you. This all came from the Catholic and then later Protestant religions’ view of life and the hereafter.
This shows that the view of suicide is highly flexible!
A common view, is as I stated at the top; that someone has a mental problem. This is a tautology, of course. (Statement: ‘All people who attempt suicide are mentally ill.’ Question: ‘How do you know they are mentally ill?’ Answer: ‘Because only mentally ill persons would try to commit suicide.’) But more to the point, what is the mind?
People have struggled since the dawn of self-comprehension about “the mind”. Descartes said “I think therefore I am” which is as good as anything.
Nichiren, the Buddhist monk has said many things, usually by quoting other previous Buddhist scholars and the like, and with an alarming number of references to the concept of “mind“, “self” and “existence“. For instance, quoting Dengyo he states,
“The two phases of life and death are the wonderful workings of one mind. The two ways of existence and non-existence are the true functions of an inherently enlightened mind.” – Nichiren, The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life
Which is all fine and dandy if you’re not depressed, isn’t it? If you are feeling down, it’s as dust to the wind, isn’t it?
But the truth of what Nichiren is saying is that it encapsulates one’s concept of “self”, regardless of whether you are up or down with your life.
And surely, by knowing oneself, even if you are suicidal, then your mind is never disturbed because at that point you have a very clear idea of “self”?
There are various forms of suicide, neatly classified on this Wikipedia entry. What is clear to me, is that there are, in essence, only two types of suicide, and they both to varying degrees are to do with a lack of value to life, not a disrespect of it.
- Respect is a concept based in honour and subservience.
- Value is a concept that is transferable across many human activities and we all have a good idea of it’s meaning that is far removed from any concept of society, duty, kinship and a host of other things based around law and natural justice.
The first is when one perceives no value in one’s own life.
Here, I’m separating life and existence into two different things, much as all the world’s major religions do. (Most religions, in one way or another, have at their core the premise that when you die, in the physical sense, that you “go” somewhere else afterwards). In such a case, a person may be fed up with their lot and end it all for one of the reasons that Wikipedia lists. For example, men with families like myself, when getting their pension statement will jokingly say amongst themselves that “I’m worth more dead than alive!”. The truth is that this is a truly valid reason that many suicides will use and is a far closer statement of the reality of many in the Western World’s lives than they care to admit.
The second is when a person sees no value in other’s lives.
Such examples could be:
- A soldier in Afghanistan
- A soldier in WW1 or WW2
- A suicide bomber in Iraq or Afghanistan
- A kamikaze pilot in WW2
In each of these cases, the potential for that person’s own death is there precisely because they set aside for an undefined period, any value of the person’s life they are going to kill, even though there’s a good chance they too will die.
By doing this they wrap up my first reason within the second. It’s impossible not to!
Of course, they justify their reasons under the flags of patriotism or peace and the promise or expectation of a “better life” either elsewhere for themselves or their families or country.
But what is the point of committing suicide for a country or a belief system like a religion? These are temporary constructs of our human minds. As Nichiren said;
There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds. – On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime – The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Volume 1, page 4
It is like the case of a person who in a dream sees himself performing various good and evil actions. After he wakes up and considers the matter, he realizes that it was all a dream produced by his own mind. This mind of his corresponds to the single principle of the essential nature of phenomena, the true aspect of reality, while the good and evil that appeared in the dream correspond to enlightenment and delusion. – The Entity of the Mystic Law – WND1, page 418
So what we have is our own mind.
- Who is to say whether it’s mad or bad?
- Who is to say that life itself is a true reality, because every single thing we see with our eyes and perceive with our other senses, is actually processed information by, and a product of, our own mind!
This last is pure physics and logic. We live, and see things just like TV. A TV picture is just dots on a screen. Our mind converts them into news, trees, people, porn. But there’s nothing there, only dots.
Similarly with Great Art. It’s just paint splodges. It’s our mind that makes the Mona Lisa enigmatic – not even Leonardo’s – it’s our own mind that does it!!!. Just like the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.
Life and Love
So who can put any suicide under any form of disdain? Who can dare compare the suicide of a soldier (usually dressed up as medals and bravery, and they are brave, make no mistake) dying for his or her concept of patriotism with the suicide of a spurned lover, dying for their own concept of life and duty?
It takes just as much bravery for a young girl to walk into a market place and blow herself up as it does for a soldier to run across open ground through a field of enfilading machine gun fire.
And it takes the same bravery for a spurned or deceived lover to end their life when they’ve been through all the options in their own mind, using all the logic at their disposal and deduced that a new, different life for themselves in the next existence is a better option than the current life, especially if, as I said earlier, they consider the value of their life to be greater when they are dead!
To go through all these acts of certain death takes the same amount of courage from everybody, in that I see no distinction.
In this story, a very good Agatha Christie type of mystery, transported into the modern era in a multi-cultural ghetto that explores the social conflicts and mores from many angles, not least the personal, the social, the political, the economic and the cultural clash angles, one of the characters, Hassan, says,
‘Fucking love, ain’t it, messing with you, makes you unable to think clear.’
And that’s about the sum of it.
For the love of a woman, a man, your children, a country, a religion, a promise of a better future; these are all good and valid reasons for a suicide.
Now can anyone tell me a valid reason to oppose someone’s suicide?
Answers must be logically consistent. When you’ve got them, then either reply here or write them on a piece of paper and shove them up your arse.
I really don’t care. It’s my blog space and I’ll say what I want.
- Courage: Three Obstacles and Four Devils
- This time, it’s a love story – excellent article in The Guardian!