My fault

This afternoon, as I was starting to prepare additional comments for posting that had arrived in response to yesterday’s entry, “Is suicide always immoral?”, I suddenly realized that the entire discussion that I had initiated was wrong, wrong in multiple ways. For one thing, it put an unfair burden on my readers and friends. For another, it injected an intensely personal problem into the public sphere where it did not belong, and it blended and confused that personal situation with the abstract, general question about the morality of suicide in a way that was not right. There are surely other reasons it was wrong and inappropriate to write on the subject publicly, and I may think of them later. In my own mind and for my own self, I had clear and compelling reasons, emerging from an intense personal crisis over the weekend, for thinking and saying that suicide is justifiable under certain extreme circumstances, but, again, it was wrong to say it publicly.

In any case, the problems with the thread cannot be remedied. I am therefore taking it off-line. At some point I may peruse it and ask myself if some parts of it may be appropriate for public posting, but, for now, the only way to fix the situation is to remove the thread in its entirety.

My profound apologies to VFR readers for broaching a subject which should never have been broached, and for soliciting heartfelt and intelligent comments which I had no right to solicit, at least not in the manner in which I solicited them.

- end of initial entry -

Paul T. writes:

For what it’s worth, I think you’re being much too hard on yourself, the discussion was a valuable one and if any of your readers feel discomfort, I suggest that’s because the subject is inevitably an uncomfortable one, not because you committed any sort of boundary violation (obviously I think you didn’t).

LA replies:

Thank you. It’s a complex issue. It’s so complex that to separate the legitimate aspects of the thread from the dicey ones was too difficult, at least at this time, so the only practical way to resolve the problem was to remove the thread altogether.

Charlie K. writes:

Your post shows you to be, as always, a considerate and conscientious man. However, no apology to your readers is necessary. All of us are on the same road, and many of us are much closer to the end than to the beginning of our days. This is a time to reach out without undue pride to those to whom you have offered so much.

Larry T. writes:

I’m extremely disappointed that you elected to bail on the topic, “Is suicide always immoral?”

Your past bravery in broaching subjects that are taboo has been a mind -opening and life-altering experience for me.

Obviously, suicide is a unique topic that virtually every one of your readers may have to wrestle with some day. I often ponder about it, especially after caring for my mother until her passing last year at age 105.

I think it would be a brave and honorable service to both your current and future readers, if you felt up to it, to allow your commenters and yourself help us gain some additional perspective on this universal topic.

I’m particularly disappointed because I delayed reading what was posted.

LA replies:

I have sent Larry T. the entry.

Daniel S. writes:

I agree with Paul T. I don’t think you crossed some sort of line. It is a real issue that requires real struggle, with few easy answers. You are hardly alone in having had to confront this question. I guess since the discussion has been put aside for the moment, I would merely offer the words of our Savior that have provided me with much hope in those times when my soul seems lost in darkness: In the world you will suffer many tribulations, but take heart, for I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

LA replies:

One of the problems was that some comments (including the ones I never posted) got very complex and went at great length into issues that were aside from the issue I had raised. For example, people kept talking about how wrong it was for people to commit suicide to escape personal troubles. But I was not talking about that. I was talking about a person who is in such pain that he is no longer living a human life but is just suffering torture. For such a person to take his own life is not destroying a human life because there is no life that is being lived but only the experience of unendurable pain.

Another problem is that many commenters condemned “mercy suicide” from the unyielding perspective of Catholic teaching, and I felt it would be wrong to argue against that position on the basis of my own personal situation. As one correspondent pointed out to me privately, if the discussion had been purely on the general and abstract topic whether such suicides are allowable, that would have been fine. But it was not. It was all mixed up with my own illness and my own plight and thus became a personal plea and a personal argument in which I, Larry Auster, was proposing that it was right, or may become right, for me to commit suicide, and this would have felt highly inappropriate.

Roger G. writes:

I strongly feel that you were in error to take the thread off-line, unless it makes you uncomfortable. I don’t see where you or any respondent said anything wrong. It was a valuable discussion, and in my opinion should be replaced without deletion or change.

LA replies:

Perhaps at some point I will restore the thread in whole or in part. But the fact is that it did put me in a highly uncomfortable position, and the only way to resolve the problem was to take the thread off-line, at least for the time being.

February 5

Julien B. writes:

You wrote:

“if the discussion had been purely on the general and abstract topic whether such suicides are allowable, that would have been fine. But it was not. It was all mixed up with my own illness and my own plight and thus became a personal plea and a personal argument in which I, Larry Auster, was proposing that it was right, or may become right, for me to commit suicide, and this would have felt highly inappropriate.”

Your approach here is very high-minded. One of your most unusual and admirable qualities — as I said in the comment you posted — is your philosophical, objective way of thinking. On the other hand, there’s a lot more to life than philosophical, objective thinking. And there’s more to philosophers, too. Among other things, VFR is also the unique work of a particular human being. And it’s good that that’s what it is, that it’s not just some set of abstract propositions logically related. Occasionally you post things that are not pitched at that objective and impersonal level, things about your own life or experiences or subjective impressions. That sometimes helps readers to understand your more theoretical take on the world, but it also has intrinsic interest: when people are drawn into a way of thought, they naturally want to know more about the thinker as a person. Obviously, it’s up to you how much of those other dimensions of your life you want to share with your readers. But I don’t agree that there’s something wrong in presenting this topic in a way that isn’t purely “abstract and general.” Most people aren’t philosophical enough, but philosophers often aren’t enough like people. There’s something inhuman in the idea that you have to ignore the purely subjective, personal importance of this topic in writing about it. (Or the idea that, if you can’t ignore it, you just shouldn’t be writing about it publicly at all.) You should write about it in any way you want. Even if you’re wrong about the moral acceptability of suicide, why is it so bad to be wrong? Or to be wrong not because of some philosophical mistake, but simply because of your subjective experience right now? I think you’re holding yourself, and VFR, to an overly intellectual standard. This is something you’re struggling with, and so (as another commenter said) there’s nothing wrong in letting your readers know and letting them offer reassurance or advice or comfort if they can. Maybe it would even be wrong not to do that!

LA replies:

It’s not that I felt that the discussion was insufficiently abstract and general; it’s that I was making myself, my own person, the focus of a highly charged confrontation in which people, appealing to the authority of Church doctrine, were telling me that it would be wrong, sinful, and evil of me if, faced with the prospect of unremitting physical torture, I took my own life. As I made it clear in the (now-removed) thread, I `disagreed with them. But when I realized that in addition to facing this extreme and desperate personal situation, I was putting myself, or was in danger of putting myself, in the position of being an outspoken opponent of Christian teaching, and against my friends who care for me, it became too much. The stress and burden of continuing with the thread, and the possible hubris of doing so, was too much. So I removed it. I don’t know if I have with sufficient clarity explained my reasons.

Also, people were giving detailed accounts of their own or their relatives’ experiences, diseases, and suffering, and I didn’t want to continue with that either. My own situation is already more of a burden than I can handle. The discussion threatened to become a catalogue of disease stories.

In any case the removal of the thread is not final. As I’ve said, in the future I may restore it, at least in part.

Aditya B. writes:

I gave the okay to pulling the plug on my grandfather. I have no grounding in theology, but culturally speaking, the Hindu isn’t confronted with Christian guilt about ending his life, when such life has ceased to be anything other any unremitting torture.

I don’t even want to think about what you have in mind. But if it is what I think it is, you have every right to leave us, without any guilt, or sin. As far as the Hindu is concerned, even that act was predestined. You didn’t “choose” the act. It chose you.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

LA replies:

Aditya, thank you. that’s my view too. I simply disagree with Christians on this. Maybe I’m not a good Christian.

Aditya replies:

No, Lawrence; you’re a Christian, if there ever was one.

You have fallen into the disgraceful habit of thinking; something that is frowned upon in almost all parts of this nation, and in every strata thereof.

You’re the captain of your soul. The body is transient as is this journey. There comes a time when this fragile shell can walk no more. And there is no moral obligation to continue.

In the end, we are all headed to the same place. And in spite of our arrogance, we don’t decide either, arrival or departure.

May G-d be with you and grant you strength and wisdom. But, for what it’s worth, your chela will support his guru regardless of his guruji’s course of action.

AB writes:

After having read “My Fault” I just wanted to mail you the following: Often times -practically always- the views you express are identical to mine.Your talent for distilling ideas, beliefs, facts, and sentiments into concise and well-thought-out language is however far beyond my own—in Dutch, let alone in English. The post is a case in point. In short, I agree it was right to withdraw.

But I do, respectfully (and relatedly),have a question. On the subject of Kristor’s prayer initiative you stated:”Of course the shared prayer does not have to be Christian.” [LA replies: I don’t think I said that; someone else may have.] Was this not a more severe lapse in judgement? Akin to a “prayer to the unknown god,” more befitting the holistic, relativist, multiculturalist reasoning of the new-agers—the sort of thinking I would expect you to rail against? Unfortunately it did not conjure up a sense of Soli gloria; did it perhaps nullify (to an extent) the entire undertaking?

LA replies:

While VFR has a Christian orientation, it is not a Christian website per se; it obviously does not exclude non-Christians. And, seriously, do you equate Judaism with holistic, relativist, multiculturalism?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 04, 2013 05:25 PM | Send

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