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Life and Death

By Punkerslut

Image by Havok
Image: "Kalisti 39" by Havok

Start Date: Thursday, May 1, 2003
Finish Date: Wednesday, May 21, 2003

     The question of life and death has been a subject for every poet to write on, for every theologian to postulate upon, for the philosophers and authors to write of, and for every person who has ever thought about meaning and purpose. There are numerous inquiries into this matter. Poets have gone so far as to say that there is no meaning to life without death, and some writers have even gone to glamorize the idea of death. To any conscious being, be they mammalian or reptilian, the idea of death of always feared. In an advanced society of civilization, it is probably only a natural eventuality that some beings would try to cope with this one thing that cannot be avoided. It's sort of demeaning to us, though. In our technological state of affairs, you can travel to any part of the globe in only a few hours, whereas it would take years only several centuries ago. Yet, in the amazement of our understanding of science, there is nothing we can do to stop the onset of death. In every form of life, it will always come. While medicines and innovations can increase our longevity and our safety, it is not an inevitability. It is somewhat humbling, though, to know that no man can escape the same fate that will befall every housefly. The truth of death can never be denied, though, if we are to remain reasonable and logical about the matter. No strong evidence has been brought into the light to suggest that there is an afterlife. That is not the question of this essay, though. As I have written countless times on the matters of religion, I would not like to belabor the topic with more thoughts upon the subject. Instead, I will deal with other issues concerning life and death in this essay. But, as I was saying before, there is no reason to believe that there is a life after this death, and that has caused some to overglorify death.

     When individuals overglorify death, it seems almost to be a denial. No creature is born that wishes for death. Every instinct in our minds for survival and life, they are no different in us than they are in cats and dogs. And it also seems so ironic that writers will say that life is only meaningful because death exists, and then they will spend an afternoon crying over the most recent car crash, which took the lives of two. Death is bad. No creature who has value in his life would prefer to end it. This is one simple fact that must be brought about, as the issue has been so powerful in the lives of people, that it seems they will go about regarding it in any way, as long as it's not a way that would change their lives. Perhaps I am overexamining the issue, though.

     I will continue with my essay, on life, and death, and our attitudes about these matters...


     "Judge Normile died by his own hand. Certainly he was not afraid of the future. He was not appalled by death. He died by his own hand. Can anything be more pitiful -- more terrible? How can a man in the flowing tide and noon of life destroy himself? What storms there must have been within the brain; what tempests must have raved and wrecked; what lightnings blinded and revealed; what hurrying clouds obscured and hid the stars; what monstrous shapes emerged from gloom; what darkness fell upon the day; what visions filled the night; how the light failed; how paths were lost; how highways disappeared; how chasms yawned; until one thought -- the thought of death -- swift, compassionate and endless -- became the insane monarch of the mind.

     "Standing by the prostrate form of one who thus found death, it is far better to pity than to revile -- to kiss the clay than curse the man.

     "The editor of the Watchman has done himself injustice. He has not injured the dead, but the living.

     "I am an infidel -- an unbeliever -- and yet I hope that all the children of men may find peace and joy. No matter how they leave this world, from altar or from scaffold, crowned with virtue or stained with crime, I hope that good may come to all."

-- Robert Green Ingersoll
A reply to the Western Watchman, published in the St. Louis Globe Democrat, Sept. 1 1892, on the suicide of Judge Normile.

     The question of suicide has been one that many philosophers have examined. It is something that has existed in every society. Ever since the play of Socrates ending his own life was written, "drinking Hemlock" has been synonymous with nobly ending one's existence. Yet, why did Socrates end his own life? According to the play, he loved Athens so much, that if he fled with his family, not only would he be depriving them of a great life in Athens, but he would be doing himself a disservice, since he would no longer be in that city that gave him the most happiness. Ever since Plato wrote the stories of Socrates and his unfortunate death, there has not been a famous thinker to contemplate the fate of those who kill themselves, some of them using Socrates as their primary example. Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, wrote at length on Socrates, as he would on the idea of the philosopher.

     In regards to suicide, I will say this. Though life can provide us with indulgence of our favorite things, with friends and lovers, with the company of people who make our hearts soar, life is also capable of providing us with troubles, doubts of our own virtues, and sometimes slavery, whether it is to social customs or actual laws. Our hearts may be impaled with sadness, as we go through life a ghostly figure, nothing to look forward to except the decline of day, and the time when we would be in the warm embrace of sleep. It may be true, for some individuals, that life simple holds no merits, that the bluest ocean is not enough to fill them with inspiration, to watch a child play does not incite the emotions of kinship. I cannot say these people are bad, nor can I say they are innately dysfunctional. It is sometimes, unfortunately, just a natural process. When a person has gone through traumatic events as a need for survival, there may be a day in their life where they are filled with nightmares of this trauma, and these nightmares may come when they are not asleep. Perhaps it is more than just that. Perhaps they find that they have lived their life to the point where they have gotten everything out of it that they can, and nothing around them can give them satisfaction or accomplishment any more. If it occurs that a person can no longer find the flower of peace, that their appeals to goodness do little for their happiness -- when this occurs and they desire death, then there is no moral or ethical reason why we should refuse them this right. When a person's life is infected with the disease of unhappiness, and every day is a struggle to live and every night is war to sleep, when this occurs, allow them to take their own life, and make our Universe filled with one less unhappy person.

     If I should decide to personally end my own life, I would prefer that my friends would make a short eulogy on my behalf, and in it, there is but one sentence I would like to hear, "Now that Punkerslut is dead, he is in a place where he is beyond the reach of suffering." There is nothing more intimate to me than these blessed words, spoken from the lips of my comrades.


     "All theological considerations must be thrown aside because we see and know that the laws of life are the same for all living things -- that when the conditions are favorable, the living multiply and life lengthens, and when the conditions are unfavorable, the living decrease and life shortens. We have no evidence of any interference of any power superior to nature. Taking into consideration the fact that all the duties and obligations of man must be to his fellows, to sentient beings, here in this world, and that he owes no duty and is under no obligation to any phantoms of the air, then it is easy to determine whether a man under certain circumstances has the right to end his life.

     "If he can be of no use to others -- if he is of no use to himself -- if he is a burden to others -- a curse to himself -- why should he remain? By ending his life he ends his sufferings and adds to the well-being of others. He lessens misery and increases happiness. Under such circumstances undoubtedly a man has the right to stop the pulse of pain and woo the sleep that has no dream."

-- Robert Green Ingersoll
Is Suicide A Sin?, New York Journal, 1895. An Interview.

     If suicide is not immoral -- or, to say, if we ought to let a man end his own life if he reasonably decides so -- then the question of Euthanasia is not much different. In the case of suicide, a person ends their own life due to the trauma that storms their mind, the troubles that give unrest to their soul. In Euthanasia, though, the situation may be a bit more controversial. Euthanasia is often associated with a person's life being ended by their own consent, and often times mostly applied to those beings who are medically in great pain and misery. Whenever it is spoken of, it is in large regard to beings who have a cancer or disease, and every day for them is simply suffering. People are more inclined to be supportive of Euthanasia than Suicide -- despite the fact that both are intrinsically the same -- because everyone thinks they can sympathize or empathize with a patient who suffers. But for a person, who is not bedridden or diagnosed with disease, it seems almost an absurdity or folly that they would ever want to end their own life, at least this is the response of those opposed to Suicide but not Euthanasia. The chief factor of Suicide and Euthanasia is simply misery and pain, which can be caused by disease of the body or mind. So whether a person's life holds no meaning for them, or whether they are burdened with an actual cancer, it is irrelevant, as both produce great misery and pain to the patient. I will justify Euthanasia on the same grounds as I justify Suicide: they reduce suffering and give peace to those seeking refuse from a life of torment.

Birth and Abortion

"An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot; it will succeed where diplomatic management would fall: it is neither the Rhine, the Channel, nor the ocean that can arrest its progress: it will march on the horizon of the world, and it will conquer."

-- Thomas Paine
Agrarian Justice

     I have written at length on the question of birth and abortion, and the issue is quite complicated with various facets: scientific and moral. Here, though, I can only give a brief synopsis of how I believe in matters of birth and abortion. If a person were to examine my ethical theories, my ideas on right and wrong, they would find one recurring aspect: I value one type of being, the conscious being. I do not care if an individual professes to believe the Christian or Buddhist religion, because such beliefs are personal and no one should be denied this liberty of their mind. I do not care if a person's skin is white or black, green or purple. Furthermore, I am not just retorting some liberal nonsense. I am not one to follow the party, simply because it exists. What is believed today widely, even by Conservatives, one hundred years ago was known as a radical opinion. So, too, I believe that not only are animals deserving of rights, but they are equals of man, deserving to be treated in a fair and just manner. The reason that an animal holds rights is the same reason why a man holds rights: he is a conscious being, capable of suffering. When a being feels misery, and I know this, there is but a deep sympathy in my heart, as there would be in the heart of any sane man, to such cruelty. Even those who profess to believe in no morality have told me that they feel pangs of hurt when they know another suffers. This cannot logically or reasonably be denied as little more than "fickle emotions of no importance," for while they are emotions, they are the very precepts of any sort of fathomable morality.

     Now, when we come to the consideration of birth and abortion, we have one sole question: is the fetus a conscious being? What seems to complicate this issue greatly is that it varies from one unborn creature to another unborn creature. I have shown scientific evidence in the essay The Ethics of Abortion that an unborn human does not "awake," in a conscious way, until the late second trimester to the early third trimester. It is this time that I am concerned with, as a philosopher. When an unborn infant is incapable of feeling emotion, when it is below the ability to consciously understand, when it is without the mental muscle of thought and contemplation, then forgive me for sounding cruel if I do, but then it is deserving of no more rights than a rock. It is the only logical or reasonable conclusion, and it can hardly be doubted by any Humanitarian. Any appeal to the idea of "human rights" or "Pro-life" ideology comes down to one simple fact: by denying a woman the right to abort an unconscious fetus, we are dooming one individual to a future with a mother who never desired her child's existence. The crime rests not with the mother, but with the anti-abortion legislation. When I look to this world, I wish I could see a populace that was happy, content, free of tyranny, without oppression. Yet, when I look into the nations of our planet, I find strife, malice, poverty, famine, war. By forcing another child to live among the brutal conditions that some already must suffer, we are not doing anything deserving of merit or admiration. We are committing a crime, disgracing the sweet lover of liberty, and only opposing any true meaning of progress. A man who opposes abortion opposes every sense of decency, of kindness, of charity, and goodness, but in large, it is due to ignorance, to superstitious religious beliefs. So, we find that every child who is born with thanks to the Pro-Life movement is a child who is born unwanted, with another factor imbedded against him. There is no reason why the world should be flooded with unwanted children, and no educated, humane person can advocate it.

     Before ending this section, I must make a few statements on birth. Though my opinion on abortion has been made clear, numerous and countless times, rarely have I expressed my sentiments on the matter of birth. When a child is born into this world, into the arms of a loving family, a kindly and warm community, in an environment where the ideals are practiced as well as believed, where affection reigns over cruelty, where one's voice has an equal volume as any others, where censorship has died, the government has fallen apart, and there is no longer fear of prison sentences for drug use -- when a child is born into this type of world, it is another reason to love, another being to be loved, a spark in the flame of civilization. Among the educated, there is little doubt that the reason why life is spoken of so highly, in poetry and literature, is due to the fact that every person knows what it's like to be happy, to be depressed, to be terrified, to be tranquil, to live. As we bring others into the world, increasing the boundaries of our family, we are simply bringing in more reasons to live. This cannot be denied, as there are few things so inspiring as that of a newborn's face. For these very reasons, as they are sacred in their own respect, it is why it may be said that I value life, or sentient life, something that holds no compromise in Humanitarian ideology.

Death Penalty

     Does man have the right to end the life of his fellow men? This has been a question for every political philosopher to quarrel upon. There was William Godwin who wrote on the brutal nature of dueling, of its ignorance and refusal of reason. There was Marchese Beccaria who abhorred the Inquisition and its method of torture as obtaining evidence. Finally, there was the revelation of Henry Salt, who had wrote a great deal against dueling, against torture in the judicial system, against flogging in the military, and against those brutal practices which would reduce any humane person to tears. As the centuries pass, technology and science will take a leap forward, but reason and doubt will take one small step. The end of the eighteenth century brought to us the thinker of Franklin and Herschell, the end of the nineteenth century brought to us the thinkers Maxwell and Darwin, and the end of the twentieth century brought to us the thinkers Crick and Hubble. In terms of ethical progress, we have been given such vibrant reformers as Susan B. Anthony, Percival Bysshe Shelley, Robert Green Ingersoll, Joseph McCabe, Frederick Douglass, among others. Perhaps we must believe, we much great disdain to our own conscience, that it was our ancestors who were responsible for physically assaulting and opposing the efforts of these gallant fighters? Yet, maybe it is with more disdain, that future generations will look at us and see what we are seeing when we look to the slavers of centuries past. So, it would seem, with all the cruelty and brutality that has occurred in the face of man, there is one vestige left of this inhumane treatment: the Death Penalty. I have read accounts of Alexander Berkman during his time in the Bolshevik Revolution, and he remarked that he had believed that the Death Penalty had been abolished; when reading these remarks, it was almost reminiscent of Ingersoll's bitter hatred of slavery.

     Perhaps we ought to be somewhat pleased with the lack of civilization of man today, for though he does employ the gallows, he no longer rejoices with the cat of nine-tails or the thumbscrew. Yet this is an over-generalization. It is not the person who has enacted these things. It was organized religion and the government. The individual has never been the beneficiary of such torture mechanisms. And here we are, on the dawn of a new millennium, and the governor of Texas (interestingly, now our president) spoke of the executions of his state as a merit badge. I will not pretend that his actions are unlike those of Nazi Germany, or Red China, or the Soviet Union, nor will I pretend that the United States is opposed to Fascism or Militarism. "I can hear the jack boots again, although I'm not in Nazi Germany, and I'm not in Red China..." -- Justin Sane, in "Where Has My Country Gone?" By apprehending and executing suspects, many of whom later prove to be innocent, the government engages in tyranny. In this respect, I cannot pretend that the United States is just or humane in any of its procedures. For every voter there is another grave, for every police officer there is another reason not to walk the streets at night. Yet, my main argument against the Death Penalty is not that it has been used unjustly, or "in a manner according to the interests of the enactor," but rather, I am opposed to it simply because it is inhumane.

     Take a man, strap him to a chair, and then using any method to your avail, kill him. Is there any person, with even a questionable conscience, who can do this? I do not doubt that such people exist, but can it be done without feeling, without emotion, without nightmares of the years to come? When a person commits a crime, and a prison would hold them efficiently, why must we choose to end their life? I have heard some people respond to the Death Penalty with a statement to the effect that they believe that an inmate has the right to end their own life, if they so desire. Since when does one need to be an inmate to have this basic freedom? However, to the point of Capital Punishment, it is a barbaric vestige of ancient civilizations. In our modern world, as the workers solidarity movement strives for the liberty of workers, as Anarchists work to destroy the Capitalist system, there must be the amelioration of the Death Penalty. It cannot be denied that a prison would effectively hold a man convicted of a violent crime. This is not a cause for doubt. But if this is true, why is it that we must execute a man, when it is unnecessary? To cause any suffering, to inflict any misery, no matter how small, yet to do it without any reasonable point, is the essence of savaged brutality. There are few, as well, who will argue this remark, yet in every respect, it immediately condemns the American Death Penalty, as an instrument of an unjust state.


     It is indeed fortunate that in our age, sexual morality is something much less repressed than previous ages. Yet, what many of our modern reformers are preaching and promoting, as well as practicing, is something that a great deal of radicals engaged in one or two hundred years ago. The sexual morality that I have promoted, as can be seen in my previous works, is radically loosened, compared to that of Western Civilization's monogamy. I believe that sex ought to be free, that a person should not be afraid to have sex with those who they are attracted to. The fact that someone is a stranger should not be an inhibiting factor, as protection can prevent pregnancy and STDs. Though, it seems that pregnancy and STDs are not the question. People today will often assert that sex is not fulfilling if it has no meaning, and that it deserves to be in the coffins of a restricted relationship. To an extent, I do agree: sex is not really fulfilling if it has no meaning, but the fact that someone is having sex with complete strangers, this does not mean it is not meaningful, at least in my own personal experiences. But like drugs, sex differs from person to person, and what one person may enjoy, another may detest with great prejudice. The reasoning for such a free sexual attitude, that promiscuity being productive of happiness is thus a virtue, the reasoning for these beliefs is rather simple and easily comprehended. Sex is a physical act, requiring us to contract and relax the muscles on our bodies. It is, in essence, not quite different than talking, walking, or running. So, then, if it is a crime to have sex with numerous individuals, then it must be equally a crime to have conversations with numerous individuals, as both are familiar with the same principles. In practice, this creed of Free Love is remarkable, and person will be capable of finding peace, even if it is in the arms of a new lover every night -- because with affection, intimacy, kindness, and reverence, sex can become something to feed the soul, even if it is promiscuous.

     The previous paragraph was simply a prelude to a question I have since now avoided: the question of Necrophilia. Necrophilia may be defined as having sexual acts with dead organisms. It is almost no question that our puritanical, monogamist philosophers will regard every act of Necrophilia as an act of indecency, vagrancy, and perversion -- but would it ever be possible to express an act of sexuality, without being called perverse? This is one dilemma of our culture, that one who likes sex is regarded as a pervert, whilst one who does not like sex is regarded as a prude. Yet I have known individuals of both groups, and their sexual taste does not determine their virtue. As far as the issue of Necrophilia goes, the issue is greatly complicated by the fact that the dead being may have been (at least, most likely) conscious. If the dead body was simply created in a laboratory, and had never been conscious, then it would not really be all that great a question. Regardless of how "sickening" or "vile," or whatever attribute we would like to apply to the idea of Necrophilia, I believe in liberty. If a man engages in an activity that harms no conscious being, then I honestly see no reason why he ought to be prohibited. In times past, there have been numerous laws, or at least social laws, which prohibited people from free speech, by outlawing blasphemy, instituting witch-hunts, and banning political parties. By engaging in such acts, it was believed that they were doing something ethically, religiously, or morally wrong, but by today's standards (the radical of yesterday is now the conservative of today), committing such actions as witch hunts or banning political parties is largely recognized is oppression. So, too, it would be oppression to disallow a man to copulate with a corpse, if that was his heart's desire. To make it a crime for a man to engage in sex with a cadaver is no different than making it a crime for a man to disbelieve in whichever religion he likes. The idea behind both restrictive laws is to inhibit freedom on what people believe is "appropriate." Simply put, it would be unjust to enact either law.

     Yet, still, we must consider some facts about Necrophilia that will shake our ideas of liberty. For instance, we may find someone who is uncomfortable about the idea of their body being used for sexual acts when they die. This would typically not be uncommon, I imagine. However, the fact still remains: when a person is dead, they are not conscious and are incapable of suffering. Though it may be true that such a thought is disturbing, is it any more justified than saying, perhaps, "The atoms that are in my body came from the plant life I consumed. Since this is where I came from, nobody should be allowed to do anything sacrilegious towards the ground." If a person can decide, in their conscious state, what happens to their molecules when they are dead, should they not also be allowed to have been born only from molecules that concur with their mind's idea of decency? Imagine the great impracticality of a system where every person's body was respected to their wishes. Eventually, every molecule that was normally used for farming, or for otherwise producing our food, was instead preserved as by the wishes of the dead person, we would have bodies upon bodies, and slowly without food, the rest of us would die, with an ironic twist to it. Besides all the contradictions of the theory that the dead have rights, we have this one indisputable fact: those beings who are dead are incapable of suffering. Since they cannot have wounds inflicted upon them, nor can we cause them pain or strife, whatever is done with their dead, decomposing body is not an ethical issue, but rather one of preference. There may be those who argue that the dead are deserving of some sort of respect, and that brings me to the final section of this paper...

Burial and Respect for the Dead

"Every man in the earth possesses some share of intellect, large or small; and be it large or be it small he takes pride in it. Also his heart swells at mention of the names of the majestic intellectual chiefs of his race, and he loves the tale of their splendid achievements. For he is of their blood, and in honoring themselves they have honored him. Lo, what the mind of man can do! he cries, and calls the roll of the illustrious of all ages; and points to the imperishable literatures they have given to the world, and the mechanical wonders they have invented, and the glories wherewith they have clothed science and the arts; and to them he uncovers as to kings, and gives to them the profoundest homage, and the sincerest, his exultant heart can furnish -- thus exalting intellect above all things else in the world, and enthroning it there under the arching skies in a supremacy unapproachable."

-- Mark Twain
Letters from the Earth, Letter II, quoted from the published version by Harper Perennial, edited by Bernard DeVoto, page 12 to 13.

     When a man dies, even in ancient times, his friends and fellows gather around his corpse and give him a proper burial, or in same manner or respect, offer their grievances to the lost comrade. Yet, once a person is dead, they are no longer conscious. The electro-chemical process of consciousness ceases entirely, as the skin becomes cold and the flesh begins to deteriorate. I am convinced, almost wholly, that when we offer our words of kindness, our last touch of sympathy to a friend who we held close, that it is not done for the sake of our downed mate, but rather for the sake of our own conscience. When we live our lives alongside someone who has been such a great source of joy and inspiration, their loss is always painful. It becomes a reminder in our heart that tomorrow will never be as good as yesterday, because we walk the future paths alone. And when I see a mourner, with a tearful eye overlooking the last remains of a lover, a friend, a mother, a father, sometimes I think that the first belief in the soul does not arise out of ignorance and fear, but from the depths of intimacy of the heart. I know quite well that the first god was made from ignorance and fear, but when I see a person looking at their downed colleague's corpse, I also see a sentiment of longing, with the expression, "We will be together again some day." While any Rationalist can go through any church or synagogue, and sit through any sermon, all the while responding to everything with, "This doesn't make any sense," the picture of a cemetery, especially during a funeral, causes a completely different emotion to arise. With such a human emotion expanding to spirituality, how is that a Rationalist can deal with the loss of a friend? With every friend I meet, with every comrade I befriend, my time with them is similar to intimate time with a lover: because of it, we are better, and though it cannot last forever, it will always be in our hearts, and while it will end, our minds can never forget.


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