Suicide as a Selfish Act

The Turn of the Screw, a Gothic novella by Henry James, published in 1898, gives us a glimpse of a haunted, terror-stricken, eerie, ghastly house where peace and relaxation do not exist. The anguish suffered by the young governess day and night, at almost every minute, makes us shudder and think that living under such conditions is unbearable to a human being.

Living an atmosphere of terror, of dread and grief, like the one in The Turn of the Screw is what drives some people to have suicidal tendencies, in an effort to end the suffering within our minds. Call it depression, sadness, ennui, hopelessness, fear, dread, terror even. This is what many would-be suicides suffer almost from birth.

Suicide as a selfish act

The constant ups and downs of our fears come and go, but are forever lurking in the shadows of our thoughts. They make us suffer to a point that triggers the dark and sinister urge of putting an end to the constant suffering. The feeling of doomsday loneliness, that there is no way out, that nothing and no one can make disappear, is always with us. I know that feeling. It is as if our mind were a haunted, ghastly enclave rife with dangers and pain of all types and kinds. It awakes us at night. It is a living hell.

Katie Hurley (Huffington Post, Aug. 12, 2014, “There’s nothing selfish about suicide”) in a valiant effort to come to terms with her father’s suicide and in an attempt to justify what so deeply affected her, writes: “Suicide is a decision of desperation, hopelessness, isolation and loneliness.” Yes, it is. And we want to end it all. Better, we want to speed up the end which we think will be deliverance, and an open door to peace and nothingness. Yet… as the poet said: We have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep, and that’s why I (I am speaking for myself) have no right to make my family suffer, my children, my mother. I know they would somehow feel guilty for my act. As a father, I must set an example of endurance, of grinning and bearing it, no matter what. They would feel that in a sinking boat, the captain had departed leaving them behind to fend for themselves emotionally. Instead, I should endeavor to make their lives as bearable as possible and offer all my support. That is my duty. As a son, how could I ever make my mother go through that at 97?

Suicide as a selfish act

My friends, the few I have, would also be affected, I know. It would shock them if I took my life and they would wonder, and feel that they had failed me or that I had not come to them for help. Perhaps they would even consider whether I was such a good friend, capable of inflicting pain on others knowingly and purposely.

I would not want anyone to go through what Katie Hurley describes in her post.

It does take some guts, nerve and courage to keep on going while fighting and dispersing devils, dreads, and deep sadness. And as Robert Pirsig says in his memorable Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance “Trials never end, of course. Unhappiness and misfortune are bound to occur as long as people live, but there is a feeling now, that was not here before, and is not just on the surface of things, but penetrates all the way through … It’s going to get better now. You can sort of tell these things.”

Having made it past sixty plus, I might as well go it all the way, even if alone, what the heck. For better or for worse, we are involved in mankind, as John Donne said: “No man is an island, Entire of itself…”

Never fear, I’ll be here, come hell or high water because I know that nature will tell me when it’s time to go, so there’s no rush. It’s just a matter of time.

Delfín Carbonell Basset

Delfín Carbonell is a graduate of Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Ph.D. in Philology from Madrid and has authored 35 books in both English and Spanish, published by McGraw-Hill, Barron’s, Larousse, Anaya and Serbal. He has taught at Pitt, F&M, Scranton and Murray St. University.