The Other I

April 28, 2010

How bad would it have to get?

A friend who is facing serious eye surgery about which her surgeon has some doubts told me that if she goes blind, she will end her life – that it would not be worth living if she had to be taken care of in such a total way.

I was a bit shocked.  I admit one of the recent traumas of my life was related to how I would cope if my cataract surgery failed on the single eye with which I can read.  I wondered where I would gather the strength of character to live with such a profound deprivation, but the thought of suicide didn’t even occur to me.

Yet I began to wonder just how bad it would have to be for me to prefer to be dead than alive.  Intense pain as the result of a terminal condition has always seemed sufficient cause to me.  Or to attempt suicide, as a doctor I know imprisoned in Hungary during the revolution, did in order to prevent authorities from torturing his wife and children in the attempt to extract information from him.  Being completely bedridden in itself would not be sufficient, but if it also involved an inability to speak, hear, or read, it might be more than I could take.  But then I probably would not be able to commit suicide under those conditions.

All of this, believe it or not, actually began as a reverie, despite everything that can and does go wrong, how wonderful it is to be alive.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, Gordon Brown, the current Prime Minister who is running for re-election, was caught on a live microphone today expressing disgust about a voter with whom he had just had an apparently successful conversation and with whom he had parted with a warm farewell and an arm around her shoulder.

The press are having a field day.  The woman herself was profoundly shocked at being called a bigot, and is now being pursued by the media to tell her story.  Gordon Brown, meanwhile, is driving up and down the country in an attempt to apologize.  Some people believe him.

Greece is probably going bankrupt and the only people in a position to bail them out are the Germans who are reluctant to bail out a country which has not only been profligate and irresponsible, but lied about the country’s finances until last fall.

The Greeks are rioting on the streets at threatened cuts.  The markets are worried that the debt problem could bring down Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and even Britain.

I worry about the United States’ deficit if this triggers a world-wide depression.

As I was saying, it’s wonderful to be alive.

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