Beliefs more important than life itself

 

Another story from New York Times:

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem,” Albert Camus wrote, “and that is suicide.” How to explain why, among the only species capable of pondering its own demise, whose desperate attempts to forestall mortality have spawned both armies and branches of medicine in a perpetual search for the Fountain of Youth, there are those who, by their own hand, would choose death over life? Our contradictory reactions to the act speak to the conflicted hold it has on our imaginations: revulsion mixed with fascination, scorn leavened with pity. It is a cardinal sin — but change the packaging a little, and suicide assumes the guise of heroism or high passion, the stuff of literature and art.

What makes us want to end our life, and in some cases actually do it?

As usual, the basic answer seems very simple, yet has a great deal of complexity in how it is expressed.

The simple answer is that a belief becomes more important than life itself. A belief that makes it seem hopeless to live on in the case of conventional suicides, and a belief that makes an imagined cause more important than life itself in the cases where people give up their life for a cause.

That may be why other animals don’t do it. They have the worldless level of mental field activity developed to a certain extent, the one guiding us in our daily life in the form of interpretations, wordless quesions, memories and scenarios. And it seems that they may believe these wordless mental activities or not. (Easy to notice if an animal has been traumatized.) But they don’t have the verbal version of thought, so they don’t elaborate it or get caught up in it the way we humans do.

And it is that elaboration, and getting caught up in it, that can lead to apparently “irrational” behavior such as suicide. (Although these behaviors make a lot of sense if we look at the stories leading to them, and what happens when we take them as absolutely true.)

The complexity comes in through all the dynamics around it. What believes are at play? How are they triggered or not by the circumstances? How can we best help ourselves and others in such a situation?

For ourselves, the best we can do is to be familiar with working with belief dynamics before it goes as far as this. What happens if I allow experience, as it is, with kindness? What happens if I engage in resising it?

What belifs are behind the stress and discomfort that comes up? Are the true? what happens when I belive them? Who would I be without them? What are the genuine truths in their reversals?

How does all of this look when I explore it through the sense fields? What do I find in each sense field? What happens when they come together through an overlay of the mentan field to create a gestalt? What happens if I take this gestalt as real and substantial? What happens if I see it as a gestalt? What are the different sense fields made up of? Is it awareness itself? Anything else?

And getting familiar with belief dynamics in this way may be the best way to help others as well. We build capacity to be with whatever is happening, whether it is here or in another human being. We know from our own experiene what happens when we take these beliefs as true. We know that there is really nothing there when it is explored with some guidance and sincerity. And we know that when these beliefs come up, what may be most needed is comfort until it calms down a little, and that what works from there may be quite different from what works for us

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