It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, so I thought I’d take some time to reflect on thankfulness. The topic feels especially pertinent this year: Six months ago, I nearly succeeded at taking my own life. But thanks to the combined efforts of rescue, emergency, and health professionals, I’ve more or less resumed life where I last left off.
Am I grateful for that?
The answer, as with most things in life, is complicated.
By definition, life is a protracted cycle of energy and effort expenditure. A being cannot “live” without actively striving to prolong or better its existence. In the good ol’ caveman days, that merely meant satisfying the bottom tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Get food, water, shelter, and you’re good. But in modern society, the hierarchy expands beyond basic needs to include the nebulous category of self-actualization: Resources, a sense of community, status, strength, and purpose. Note that while modern life doesn’t require you to ascend the hierarchy, life is often less bearable should you shirk the responsibility. You may feel unloved and unfulfilled as a result.
Image sourced from Simply Psychology
So whether you’re a caveman (lucky) or a modern motherfucker, the point is that life has demands. It has requirements. Each day, it requires voluntary effort and participation. It can’t go on without your input. And if you do a mediocre job, you’ll get mediocre results. In the caveman sense, that might mean eating rotten flesh instead of a fresh kill and shitting yourself senseless as a result: Not good enough. In the modern sense, that might mean reluctantly following an unfulfilling line of work to pay the bills and feeling shitty about yourself for decades as a result: Not good enough.
In other words, Life is a fickle, fussy bitch of a mistress. She demands the world of you and promises little in return. Anyone and anything alive is beholden to her needs and exists only at her behest. And so the living are lifelong sycophants, forever fretting over her demands, sore at the knees from having spent so much time bent over as a servant would.
Meanwhile, Death asks nothing of you. In its finality, it liberates you from Life’s demands, absolves you of the burden of actualization, and lifts you out of the Hierarchy of Need’s imprisoning walls. No more anger, despair, violence, corruption: Just stillness. Everlasting peace.
Life can have its moments, and I’ll keep doing it as long as it rewards me for my effortful participation. But I would be remiss to say that it’s preferable to the loving embrace of Death.
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