There’s always something to howl about

SplendorQuest: My plan to stage a graceful exit from life when the pursuit of Splendor has become impossible to me

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
‘Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.’

      –Robert Louis Stevenson

This is important: Everything that matters in human life is to be found to the right of the zero on the number line. Zero is never greater than one, so concentrating on the zero or on negative values is necessarily anegoic — contrary to the true interests of the ego.

Can it sometimes be needful to attend to negative values? Yes. I speak of eradicating bugs all the time, since this is a useful metaphor for understanding the actual meaning and importance of disvalues. If my food is being devoured by ants, I need to to exterminate them. If there is a scorpion in my home (it happens here), I have to crush it — grind it to a gooey pulp. If a two-legged predator attempts to confiscate my wealth, I must be prepared to defend myself.

But this is not what human life is for. Some days are cloudy, but if I focus on the clouds rather than on the illimitable sunlight I can produce by using my mind to its fullest, I am throwing away the only life I will ever have in pursuit of nothing.

But: Even so: I can foresee that there will come a time in my life when the pursuit of Splendor will no longer be possible to me. Until lately, I thought the most likely scenario would be that the accumulated effects of aging would render me incompetent to continue to thrive at a fully-human state of being. Given the resurgence of Marxism under President Obama, it seems plausible to me, of late, that I might be imprisoned for my philosophical positions. And there is also the possibility that I might someday find myself unable to produce more wealth that I consume. The most likely cause of this would be the government’s progressive destruction of the free economy, but I refuse to live at anyone else’s expense no matter what the cause of my poverty might be.

In any of those circumstances, and others I can conceive of, I do not plan to remain alive. This is not a worship of the zero, but, rather, an acknowledgement that, when all future outcomes come out to zero or less, a free and rational man will have a plan to avoid descending into the squalor of indecision and inaction, the kind of undignified clinging to life that I already see much too much of. When every beauty and grace of human life is gone from my life, I have a plan to make my exit from life as beautifully and as gracefully as I can. I won’t bore you with the details. It is sufficient to say that I have a plan in place, and I have worked out how I plan to accomplish my voluntary demise in any circumstance I might face.

Why talk about it? Because I think it’s a good idea, that’s why. You were born through no design of your own, and you were born into both the squalor of your own filth and the squalor of an unchosen dependency. You have no reason to die that way — and if reason means anything at all, you should not die that way. For each of us, there will come a time when the only act of Splendor left to us will be to die as we have lived — fully-conscious, fully-engaged, fully-human.

I suppose this post might seem very far from real estate, but I do not share that view. A cultivated human life has integrity: Every seemingly disparate thing is in fact the expression of the same one idea. I’ve lived my entire life hewing to my own standards and values, and I do not intend to die any other way. If you live the thoughtful life, the contemplative life, the examined life, then this is something you need to think about.


13 Comments so far

  1. John Kalinowski March 25th, 2010 1:09 pm

    Hmmmm… Not sure how to respond to that one, except to be freaked out a bit. How do you know if the moment you decide to end your life is really the low, and that somehow things won’t get better? A bit too morbid for me. I’d rather spend my time thinking about the good things to come in my life, and not about how to shut myself down in the end. But, as you’ve said, it’s your blog.

  2. Greg Swann March 25th, 2010 1:36 pm

    If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.

  3. Cheryl Johnson March 25th, 2010 6:53 pm

    Just One Counterpoint: Even if your loved ones say they understand and agree with you, there is just simply no way you can make an exit as described without causing them an immense amount of pain.

  4. Teri Lussier March 25th, 2010 7:12 pm

    My first response is “stop stop stop talking like that! la-la-la la-la-la I can’t hear you”

    My second response is “yeah. me too”

    This is real estate, Greg. I’ve been talking to clients, colleagues, and friends about haunted and stigmatized properties. A client recently said “I don’t want to live in a house where someone has died” I needed a clarification- has died, or died violently? Someone who lives in a historic home in Ohio can be certain that a death has occurred in the home, as that’s where we used to die. The parlor was for the wake. We are now so removed from the natural part of life that is death, it’s difficult to have these conversations, but they are important.

  5. Greg Swann March 26th, 2010 10:29 am

    > My second response is “yeah. me too”

    Killed a scorpion this morning. Very squishy and disgusting. Meant nothing. Had a little time alone with Cathleen, and that meant everything. When I can no longer do either one, nor anything else that matters, my life is done. If other people choose to breathe on when all they have left is mere breath, that’s their business. I plan to die in Splendor.

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  7. Suzanne Gantner March 26th, 2010 10:16 am

    I hope you read this back and re-consider. You might need to think about who you are leaving behind. They love you no matter what mindset you might be in.

  8. Greg Swann March 26th, 2010 10:24 am

    > no matter what mindset you might be in.

    This has nothing to do with “mindset.” This is about the choice to live as a human being or the failure to make that choice, resulting in the descent into a sub-animal state.

  9. Al Lorenz March 26th, 2010 12:55 pm

    I think it is funny how people react to this. Yet, folks make this trade-off every day. In my youth, I did things that were dangerous on motorcycles, boats, cars, and just being out and about. It wasn’t because I wanted to die, it was because I wanted to experience life. I explore other parts of life now 🙂 The challenge was to experience all of that without dying, even while realizing it could happen. Look at all the accountants riding around on Harleys in their middle age. They want to experience something they missed, although I have to admit I don’t understand what that is.

    If you want to avoid all danger, you would sit in an underground fortress having only sterilized air and tested food brought in. I don’t know anybody who would choose that over engaging in life, especially Greg Swann!

    When it is time, I suspect I won’t have to look hard to find an exit. For me, I don’t need a detailed plan. It will be more like I’ll just have to quit avoiding the exits with quite as much gusto.

  10. Jim Klein March 26th, 2010 7:04 pm

    “This has nothing to do with ‘mindset.’ This is about the choice to live as a human being or the failure to make that choice…”

    Oops. This is either the ontological fact of living as a human being, in which case you have no choice, else it’s as you usually mean as living as a human being, in which case it has everything to do with mindset.

    You wouldn’t believe how remarkably close I’ve had to deal with this and these issues over recent history. I almost would’ve thought someone clued you in, but I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve resolved it by concluding that there isn’t the slightest thing in the world preventing me from living more than one life between my birth and death.

    The items of Splendor may be the product of egoism in action, but Splendor is rather more than those items else every looter and moocher would have Splendor beyond our wildest dreams. Of course.

    It’s very much about mindset; the Epicureans have at least that much right. Much as I’m personally enamored of production, there’s a case to be made that it’s /only/ about mindset. I’ll let you know if’n I make it to my third life!

  11. Greg Swann March 26th, 2010 7:57 pm

    > the ontological fact of living as a human being

    I don’t want to take up any more than this. I thought the comment I was responding to was weak, but I didn’t want to press the point any harder because death is such a sore spot for so many people.

    But: I would argue that being a human being is not an ontological fact. Being a genetic homo sapiens is, the unavoidable consequence of prior, uninterrupted, natural causation. But a human being is an artifact, a man-made thing, the consequence of a long sequence of choices made by one’s parents, with each one of those choices being as avoidable as any other choice.

    Remaining a human being — a genetic homo sapiens within whom has been cultivated the capacity for volitional conceptuality — is generally not itself a matter of choice — although, of course, it can be. But the issue in this post concerns what one should do once it becomes obvious that you will no longer be able fully to exercise the capacity for volitional conceptuality.

    Corporeal existence as a genetic homo sapiens always precedes and often succeeds the state of being a human being, but, once you know that you will soon no longer be a human being, what should you do? Being is ontology. Choosing is ethics.

    In my own particular case, my choice is never to be anything other than independent. When dependency is all that is left to me, I will make my exit. I offer no prescription to other people. But I refuse to be a slave, a prisoner or an infant, so the only choice I can make, when faced with those fates, is to expire voluntarily.

  12. Bob Hunter March 27th, 2010 6:45 am

    Well said Greg. My father showed his kids what it meant to control his destiny. While we did not realize at the time how hard he was working to stay alive, once he was not able to carry on the struggle himself, he made the conscious decision that it was time. A lesson that will be with me until my last day. One cannot ask for more than to go with honor and on one’s own terms.

  13. Jim Klein March 27th, 2010 7:26 pm

    “When dependency is all that is left to me, I will make my exit.”

    Oh good, because that will never happen!

    “I offer no prescription to other people. But I refuse to be a slave, a prisoner or an infant, so the only choice I can make, when faced with those fates, is to expire voluntarily.”

    But that was my point. You can only be dependent as a genetic homo sapiens; as a human this is an impossibility. Plus, there’s an issue of, as I think someone called it, “temporalism” or something like that.

    While obviously I agree with Bob and what he intimates, I sense something rather different from you. Further, I came to exactly the same conclusion as you, some time ago. I have since concluded that I was wrong on the point, precisely because a human is not a mere genetic homo sapiens. While endless physical suffering might present a problem, the one thing we know is that there is no other sort of necessary suffering…and we know that in no small part thanks to you.