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Someone jumped in front of the train at the train stop at where I used to live, which has me thinking about suicide (abstractly...), and how we talk about it versus other-killing.

There's this motto in Wicca and other philosophies, but they put it memorably: An it harm none, do what ye will. Usually I hear this put as harming no one else. You're free to eat nothing but milk shakes and fries all day because you're not hurting anyone other than yourself, so whose business is it?

I'm not Wiccan so maybe I'm misrepresenting this, but it seems like the rede almost has to allow self-harm - otherwise where is there a  choice? In any given situation one option will always harm me more than the other. But it seems odd, and depresskng, that the harm I cause myself doesn't count. If I shoot up a school and cut my class mate's life short, that's wrong and unjust. If I cut my own life short, though?

I don't have the answer here. It's just something I've been mulling over.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 2nd, 2016 01:24 am (UTC)
Well, if you commit suicide, you're well out of it for sure, but think about the engineer on that train who killed that person. He's going to have to live with that terrible memory. Similarly, what about friends? and family? who will inevitably blame themselves for not foreseeing it or preventing it.

This is kind of a hot topic with me, because an old friend committed suicide very unexpectedly last summer. I feel the void, but his parents, his nieces and nephews, his sibs, it was terrible for them.

I'm not against voluntarily ending your life under some circumstances - terminal illness, old age, etc. Certainly, I would not want my life prolonged at all costs, but I'm just pointing out that there is usually more to consider than just the person themself.

Feb. 2nd, 2016 01:41 am (UTC)

I'm sensitive, too - suicide cluster in my own family, so the topic is very personal and I'm well acquainted with the collateral damage. I guess it strikes me as a bit bizarre that suicide is wrong not because of lost opportunities for the suicidee but because of the pain caused for others - it just seems a little dismissive of the suicidee's worth, I guess.

Maybe the answer is more philosophical, that the dead can't suffer (though there are still other kinds of pain). Still seems like selling yourself short.

Feh. This whole thing apparently has me feeling a tad macabre.

Feb. 2nd, 2016 02:04 am (UTC)
The difficulty of self-choice and suicide is a quandry, but here's what I think, based on what you queried.

To eat french fries and drink milk shakes to the exclusion of all else will physically harm you over time, but even though others will see what you are doing to yourself, it is unlikely that they are directly harmed by your actions, at least not immediately.

However, if you take the "do no harm unto others" to heart and commit suicide as an individual act, the repercussions are actually huge and the ripples spread out more than you might ever expect. I say this from two points of view - that of someone who seriously contemplated (and poorly attempted) suicide, as well as one who has been directly touched by suicide through the deaths of friends and a family member. In suicide, there is no "do no harm". There is always harm when a life ends in such a manner.

There is one exception to this. The planned suicide of someone who arranges for their death because of an illness or other manifestation that would cause extreme pain or loss of mental capacity. I do believe that in a case such as this, even though suicide will affect the survivors, so would the natural death, and perhaps the suicide is the better of two evils.

A thoughtful topic. I hope my input has been of some assistance to your thoughts on the matter.

- Erulisse (one L)
Feb. 2nd, 2016 05:33 am (UTC)
I definitely agree, euthanasia and other things like that fall into an entirely different category. I actually think it's unfortunate we talk about "physician-assisted suicide," because it's just confusing. Euthanasia can actually be a rational response to a crappy situation. I'm not sure what we mean by suicide ever could be.

I keep coming back, though, to this idea that how our actions affect others is what matters here. I get the point that suicide harms those around you, always. But it still seems odd, even wrong, to me that it's how we affect others here that makes suicide wrong. Surely my dying is worse than someone else's suffering - not because it's me (or not just because), but because the death is worse. Seems like acting like you matter less is what gets you in trouble, suicide-wise, in the first place.

It's interesting to think through, in any event.
Feb. 2nd, 2016 02:10 pm (UTC)
I've never heard that particular Wiccan wording, "An it harm none, do what you will" before, and I particularly like it...

...because on my reading, it specifically includes the idea of "Do not harm yourself".

(Quite apart from the tricky issue of finding any action which harms oneself which genuinely does not harm anyone else. In the UK, for example, with our taxpayer-funded healthcare system and its inevitably not-unlimited resources, there's quite a strong moralistic current that by allowing yourself to become, say, grossly overweight, or smoking, or drinking heavily for years, you are harming other people as well as yourself because you are choosing to build up health problems which will eventually use precious healthcare resources - when other people have healthcare problems over which they have no control and which they have not caused...)

But I like the idea of being gently reminded to take care of oneself as well as others, personally.
Feb. 2nd, 2016 03:43 pm (UTC)
That is what I was coming over to say. "An it harm none" is - as far as all the Wiccan teachings I've experienced - specifically supposed to include yourself. So eating crap and not looking after yourself goes against the Rede and suicide would be caught in that as well.
Feb. 4th, 2016 10:56 pm (UTC)
My interpretation of the Rede has always been that "none" included the self; tied in with the Rede in most Wiccan (and other Pagan) tradition is the idea of the Threefold Law, which is essentially the idea of Karmic retribution-- whatever good or ill you put into the world will be revisited on you. Considering the harm suicide does to those around you (to say nothing of yourself!), I would have to imagine that any Wiccan would feel very strongly about the cosmic repercussions of self-harm or suicide.

On a weirdly timely note, a friend of mine who has a basic understanding of Wicca but who is not a Pagan herself called me quite distraught this week... she's in the NY burlesque community, and the husband of one of her fellow performers died this week, apparently after performing a supposedly-Wiccan ritual that involved what she referred to as "stabbing himself multiple times." He was also on LSD at the time. There has been much debate in the community over whether this was death by misadventure, or suicide masked as ritual, and clearly we'll never know for sure. But I had to assure her that I had never in my life heard of any legitimate ritual that involved self-harm or mutilation. I've known some people who have been on a slightly darker path who have done rituals involving their blood, but to the degree that a bandaid was necessary afterward, not an ambulance. The whole thing was very disturbing to hear about.
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