I don’t know if I’m the right person to ask this. I’ve already upset at least one loved one by saying that I want to find a pension scheme that’ll pay out on a shorter term basis on the notion that I don’t much want to live past 60 (I actually started at 50, and she started haggling). It’s not that I don’t think I’ll be able to live well after that point, its that I don’t understand why I’m mortgaging my present so that I can survive longer when I’m less flexible and more worn out.
It’s probably not something I find true at my centre, and I probably wouldn’t have the guts to actively kill myself just because my arbitrary timestamp has come, but I do think I want to make plans for various outcomes.
For me, I’m considering getting a not for threes or no code tattoo, and not because I’m a fan of Pearl Jam and Plaid. I don’t think I want a fortune to be spent on keeping me alive beyond whatever natural incident might harm me. But of course, predicting the outcome of a procedure is difficult, and if something terrible happened tomorrow, I’m not sure I’d be ready for it.
Will I ever be at peace enough to say I’ve given whatever this is my best shot?
And you can’t say what constitutes a good enough life. It’s patronising and bigoted to say that you wouldn’t be willing to live with a disability when millions do. At what point do the vicissitudes of life become too big a change to accept?
I think in general, the issues come down to physical pain and mental ability. In theory, I don’t want to go on if my mind is lost. In theory, I don’t want to live a life that’ll be nothing but pain, no matter how englightening.
But is that all just weakness? Am I just scared? Am I not willing to see the continuity of self between myself and a reconstructed me?
And what if the new me wants to live in a way that the old me didn’t. Is it okay for one version of myself to decide whether the other can survive?
As a human machine, I house a brain that houses a mind that I recognise as me. All three of those things could go dramatically wrong, and I could be unable to live as I do. Is that enough to give up on the whole project of me-ness?
And does that even constitute giving up?
Personally, I think it is right to acknowledge that we are finite, and I find it hard to argue against having a plan for that finality. I don’t want to be kept alive at great expense, but I want to leave room for miracles.
But maybe, by the time I’m willing to make that choice, it’ll be too late, and I’ll be someone different.
Illustration by Tomo