By William Markiewicz
In the Polish quarterly, "Aspekty filozoficzno-prozatorskie" (Aspects of Philosophy and Prose), under the above title, the author, Stefan Konstanczak, outlines the duty of “soul doctors” in hospices to help those who are on the most difficult trajectory, from life to death.
In one Science Fiction story, a female android with all the aspects of a normal human being, when questioned, “Are you afraid of death?” answered: “If death is nothingness, then of course I am not afraid. How can you be afraid of something that is nothing?” For somebody who can go so directly to such a simple conclusion, of course there would be no problem. But – perhaps you have to be an android to reach this stage. For all living beings, instinctive fear of death persists. As far as I remember, only certain ants throw themselves onto a fire to save the anthill, and the lemmings commit mass suicide by throwing themselves into the sea’s depths. These are perhaps the only species that show no instinctive fear of death. We cannot compare them to humans and to the rest of the animal kingdom. So, the “soul doctors” can be successful only with those who believe in life after death. I know skeptics who did not change; even in their last moments. For them, the soul doctors’ remedy doesn’t work.
Those who accept death may fall into categories:
1) Those who are more scared of life than of death
2) Those who choose death for an ideal, like suicide bombers
3) Naturally courageous people, like fighting soldiers or those who choose dangerous professions or vocations like sport, stuntmen, etc., people who possess natural armour of courage, often unexplained, but stronger than the fear of death.
There are situations where no soul doctors could have access. For instance, there is no possible preparation for long and painful death by torture. Self inflicted torture, such as self immolation by monks, is still possible as we’ve occasionally seen. Probably self - decision plays a role. Nobody can be prepared for impaling, or boiling alive in hot oil as practiced in the old times. The only help for this victim is that death comes as quickly as possible. This is the only situation where death is desired; the suffering may be worse than death. All the suicides know something about it. Aristotle said that the supreme reason for existence is happiness. But there are philosophers who claim that you can live without happiness because there is such a thing as the philosophy of real life and that compromise is a form of philosophy. I know people who choose mediocre situations in everything, in love, in jobs, in health, consoling themselves that it could be worse. In another corner are extremists who want all or nothing. Here we pass from philosophy to psychology. The choice may be temperamental. Logic may have multiple directions, like the ocean waves which capriciously change powers, frequency and direction. In continuity of existence there may be situations that apparently don’t change, or change drastically. The rest is destiny, another word for history.Back to the index of the Vagabond