Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On Questions of Life and Death

I know, great title, right? "Questions on Life and Death" happens to be the latter half of the title of a class that I am currently taking. I can't remember the first half. It is a very long course title. In Hebrew. So. You know.

As a peppy opening discussion for the first class, my professor handed out an article reprinted from haaretz which was about the following story:

A man and his wife, both around the age of 84, both survivors, had apparently made arrangements to commit suicide together. They thought the whole thing through very rationally, and left detailed instructions about how to arrange all of their affairs and what exactly needed to be done after they were gone, and took a bunch of pills. The wife died, but their son found the husband in time to call Madah and he was saved. The court then put him on trial bc they suspected him of murdering his wife.

We were told to break up in groups of three and discuss this. The two questions were: 1) Does man have the right to kill himself? 2) Does society have a right to stop him?

At first I didn't know how to react to the situation. I don't believe in suicide for multiple reasons, mostly bc of the after-effects on family and friends. Killing yourself isn't just making a life-decision for you, it's making a life decision for everyone you know and care about. That's the kind of responsibility that I don't want, personally. It's bound to hurt someone. Plus, I'm not into destruction. I'm into preservation. And if it is in any way possible to preserve something, especially something as huge as a life, I'm generally in favor.

But I realized that there were situations where it might seem rational to someone, where it might seem to be the best option, especially when alternative ones offer ridiculous amounts of pain and suffering. So, I couldn't really judge for the couple in question.I mean, it's not like I have the right to judge people for their decisions in general, but especially when they're in, or are facing, tremendous amounts of pain.

Of course the question involves basic questions of morality - like, is there such a thing and how would it apply here?But I didn't feel like getting involved in that end of it (it's another discussion from another class and I didn't have the energy to re-hash it) so I ignored it.

From the aspect of the law; it always seemed silly to me to make a law against suicide bc come on now. Some one considering suicide is clearly not worried about what the law is going to do to them for it. That's the last thing on their minds. Aside from the very obvious point of the fact that the government can't do anything about it.

From the perspective of the government however, I see why there needs to be that law. Firstly, it is the job of the government and the police force, and any other authoritative body of the law, to protect the people. This is an extension of that duty. Plus, if you don't, it just makes things messy. I mean, how would it look to be pro-suicide? you know, aside from the idea that murderers might use the excuse of "It was just assisted suicide man. I swear, he wanted me to kill him." Which would be difficult to disprove. But making suicide legal is messy in general.

This post was mostly written on a head cold so I'm sorry it isn't more polished and intelligent. But I wanted to know what the blogosphere thought. Anyone?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Family Vignettes

Editor's Note: I wrote this a few weeks ago. It's been almost four weeks since the surgery. But the time as-was sounded better, so I figured an editor's note was better than corrupting the original text. (Hee! I get to be the author AND the editor! Long live the internet!)

As some of you may or may not now, I recently underwent surgery to have my gallbladder removed, and I've been recovering this last week and a half or so. My abdominal muscles are still sore with the healingness, and the muscles that were sliced into were the ones near the diaphragm, and are responsible for helping me do things like breathing, coughing, sneezing, bending, and walking/sitting upright. The recovery process has been slow and a bit awkward.

The worst part of it is, now that I can breathe more or less normally, it still hurts to laugh. One doesn't realize how much of a problem this is until one has to deal with it themselves. For example, until one is constantly surrounded by people who have singularly ridiculous conversations. Case in point:

Scene: A dinner table. Present are Father, Mother, Brother, Sister.

Mother: I was just on the phone with Brother2. He's buying hamburger meat for the first time.
Brother: So? Isn't he, like, 23?
Father: Yes.
B: Wait, how is this the first time he's ever bought hamburger meat in his life before?? The first time I bought hamburger meat I was fifteen. We used to grill things in the woods all the time.
M: Yeah, no, he used to do that too, but you know it's different when a bunch of guys are throwing things around in the woods.
B: What?
Sister: Ow! Can we stop, please?
M: This is his first time cooking it in his own kitchen.
B: How can that be? this isn't the first time he's had a kitchen before, is it?
F: Well -
B:I mean, I had one in Israel, and then when I came back and lived with my friends, and then I went to college and I had my own kitchen there, and then I had that other apartment-
F: Yeah, he's had his own kitchen before, but he's got his own grill, and it's different when you're grilling it, you know.
S: Guys? Seriously. Please?
B: I'm just saying, it's not like buying alcohol or something. I mean, you go to the frozen meat section and there it is and you take it out and you buy it, it's not a big deal. You don't even need i.d.
M: Yeah but he's just one person, so he's not going to use all that, and he wanted advice on how to store it. Plus, you know, I mean he doesn't cook that much all on his own, and-
B: What do you mean? You wrap it in tinfoil and you put it in the freezer. I mean, if you really want to be extra careful you can go to the supermarket and see how they wrap their meat and take some notes on that, but I don't know, I mean generally it's not that complicated.
F: It's always a big deal when a man makes hamburgers on his own for the first time. It's a statement of manhood.
M: And, you know, I mean he's not that culinary, and it's nice to hear him planning out a meal like that -
F: Me man - make fire, eat meat.
S: I think I'm splitting something, guys, can we please-
B: What teenage guy hasn't attempted to make hamburgers at what point or another? This seems like a rite of passage he should've been done with in high school.
M: Plus, you know, he's so far away and he likes to call for advice because, you know it's company-
B: Tinfoil! Seriously. If you want to get fancy, you can wrap the individual patties, but come on now, what else is there?
S: Ouch!

It went on like that for a good twenty minutes. I'm still in pain.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Question of Philisophical Angst

This has been driving me nuts, and honestly, since I'm still recovering from having my gallbladder removed, I'm not sure I have the strength to start this discussion. But I will anyway.

I've been reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (Robert M. Pirsig) and, like all good books, it agitated me. There was a bit somewhere near the middle (chapter 11 or 12) where he's discussing Kant and Hume....I was going to take you along with me on the journey that was the evolving thought process which led to this burning question, but I have decided not to. Honestly, it will just confuse things. Trust me that there was a beginning point from which this sprang, and there is a direction in which it is going, hopefully ending somewhere around the idea of formulating a logic proof for G-d's existence. Never mind though.

The question which I am trying to put to you, my fellow bloggers - and I am very very much depending on you all to answer it, bc I need some help here - is this: What is the a priori abstract conception of an idea? You know, kind of like Plato's Ideal chair. Kind of.

In an attepmt at clarification; the idea being that there is this abstract concept of an ideal chair floating out there in the universe, and every physical chair in this world is a representation of that ideal, resembling it as closely as it can. So - there's this abstract ideal floating in the universe that is the ideal "Idea". What is this? What does that mean?