This is such an important conversation. A beautiful musing on community from this week’s show with Jennifer Michael Hecht on suicide.
Ms. Tippett: There’s a way you’re framing this, and you invoke, you know, Maimonides saying, you know, he who destroys himself, destroys the world. You invoke Levinas, French Talmudic scholar that our acts of friendship are the most real and knowable aspect of the entire universe. I mean, you — the discussion you want to have is not so much against suicide, but for staying alive for each other. It’s choosing life.
Ms. Hecht: Yeah. And, it’s, yeah it’s choosing living.
Ms. Tippett: Yeah, choosing staying alive.
Ms. Hecht: Choosing staying alive, and yes, I thought of myself as an individual before I started doing this thinking in a way that I no longer do and I feel better.
Ms. Tippett: Right.
Ms. Hecht: It doesn’t really mean you have to go out and do a lot of communal things, though all sorts of studies show that will help. Force yourself to go be with other people is as a good start, but it’s also just this internal thing where I notice more that I’m part of this human thing. And that there’s no such thing as wasted contributions.
Ms. Hecht: And so, it really is — it’s a better feeling about what we are and what we’re doing, and most people through history had it without trying because they lived in tiny communities that were besieged by either drought or flood or whatever, and they had to work together to do anything. And they were more aware of their connection to each other. And, nowadays, we’re very…
Ms. Tippett: In a way, that connection was also just forced on them, right? It wasn’t optional. It’s optional for us.
Ms. Hecht: Right.
Ms. Tippett: Yeah.
Ms. Hecht: It’s optional, and I suggest taking that option whenever you want. But just be more aware that we have these all sorts of secret web-like connections to each other. And that sometimes when you can’t see what’s important about you, other people can. You know, even Augustine said you can’t kill yourself because God said thou shalt not kill and that’s it.
Ms. Tippett: Right. I mean, I feel like you sound a little bit like Maimonides when you say this is something you rejecting suicide is a huge act within a community. I also think it changes the universe. And you wrote, “Either the universe is a cold, dead place with a little growth of sentient but atomized beings, each all by him or herself trying to generate meaning, or we are in a universe that is alive with a growth of sentient beings whose members have made a pact with each other to persevere.”
Ms. Hecht: Yeah. That feels powerful to me. I feel like just the respect of the idea of love and meaning.
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