My new year’s resolution is to explore the idea of committing suicide sooner rather than later - meaning don't just put it off until I become too old to matter to anyone or too old to record my life for posterity.
My first step is to have a discussion between Len Tinman and Al Marley. (Combined anagrams for Martin Allen Manley). Whether this discussion ever sees the light of day, I have no idea at this time. I’m just making sure that if the day ever comes when I end my own life, that this initial and formal thought process is part of the record.
Back in the late 1990's when I first realized that I needed a handle for the internet, I decided that I should use Len Tinman and Al Marley depending upon the site and the reason. Both had their individual personalities. I used Len Tinman when I wanted to have a long-standing relationship and thousands of people know me as Len Tinman. I used Al Marley for more hit and run and confrontational situations. The reason I chose Len Tinman as the "good guy" was because "Len" reminded me of Len Dawson - who along with George Brett and Tom Watson, is arguably the most popular sports personality in Kansas City. In addition, "Tinman" is right out of Wizard of Oz and I live in Kansas.
Len Tinman: Why have you decided now to explore this rather than in the past or waiting until sometime in the future.
Al Marley: Mainly because I haven’t had any prevailing reason to do it in the past. As to why not put it off longer, the reason is because the day may come sooner than I would hope when I simply won’t be in control of my future.
Len: What do you mean you won’t be in control of your future?
Al: I mean someone else will be in control. I’ll be too old to make my own decisions. But, that’s not the only issue regarding the future. Even if I was in control of pulling a trigger or not, I may have gone beyond my ability to produce a record of my history - proof that I existed.
Len: What difference does it make whether there is a record of your (er... our) history?
Al: It makes a big difference to me! Look, I don’t have any normal way of leaving a legacy. By that I mean most people have children, lineage. They can live by way of their children’s memory as they pass down stories to their own kids. I don’t have that.
Len: Ok, so what do you have in mind for a record of your history?
Al: I don’t know. I just started thinking about this seriously today.
Len: Let me see if I have this straight. You want to commit suicide because you don’t have any children.
Al: That’s twisting what I said. First of all, I’m not saying I want to commit suicide – and certainly not today. But, I AM saying that I want to begin to consider it seriously. And, the reason is because if I am going to leave a record of my life – whether the world cares or not – I’m going to have to be proactive about it. That means I’m going to have to do it while I’m still somewhat lucid, somewhat intelligent. If I wait too long, not only will it be too late to produce it, but it may even be too late to commit the act.
Len: Why is it that you feel you need to leave this documentation of your life when almost nobody else feels that way? Besides, you are saying that you need to do it in lieu of having kids. How can having kids act as a substitute for a documentation of one’s life? After all, the kids will eventually die. The grandkids will forget and then the grandparents are lost to history anyway.
Al: Fair question, but I’m not like everybody else. If I was, I’d have kids. And, if I had kids, I wouldn’t even be thinking about suicide because there would be too many reasons why I shouldn’t. The simple fact is that I believe I have a right to leave a documented history of my life for the world to see or ignore. If I don’t, then what was the point of having taken up space on this earth for 58 years?
Len: Most people who believe in the afterlife would say they take up the space on earth for X number of years because that’s what God destined. They have a mission during that time and it’s not for them to ask “Why?”. If they don’t believe in the afterlife, they take up space because… they take up space. There doesn’t need to be a reason other than simply enjoying life as long as it exists.
Al: Well, as I say, those people aren’t me! I do believe in the afterlife and I understand God has a destiny or a plan. However, I have to make decisions about a thousand things every single day. What's one more? Besides, I believe if I live to be 70 at the rate I’m going, I will be a babbling, drooling old man in a wheel chair at a nursing home. Not only will I be of no value to anyone, I will be a negative drag on society. Even worse from my perspective, I won’t have anything to show for my life by way of documented record and nobody will care and I will be forgotten… forever. Unacceptable!
Len: You are making some pretty broad assumptions. What evidence do you have that you will be that far gone mentally?
Al: The only thing I can say is that nobody alive is more analytical than I am. I know what I can do on a daily basis. I know how many mistakes I make when I type or write or remember or think. I chart everything. I understand trends. I’m making an educated decision that my mind is deteriorating at a rapid rate. I’ve seen it before with Frank and I’m not going down that road – not a chance in million.
Len: I understand that, but what I do not understand is how you can know that this would happen at 60 or 65 or 70 or whenever. Dad was pretty darn sharp at 80! We are a lot like him. Why should we be different?
Al: I’m 100% confident that we’re different. He didn’t drink two-liters of pop every day for 30 years! Actually, I’m not sure pop ever swallowed a drop of pop. He didn’t have a fraction of the astronomical amount of data shoe-horned into his brain that we have had. All I know is that my mind is slipping by the day and if I don’t take the bull by the horns and plan ahead… sometime in the not-to-distant future I’m going to wake up one day and I’ll no longer be in control and the idea of leaving a documented record of my life will be a hopeless fantasy. And, THEN is when I’ll be depressed assuming I'm more than a vegetable and even capable of depression. Just as from dust to dust, I'll be going from goo goo ga ga to goo goo ga ga. They’ll probably drag my life out for years and years while I have to live with the realization that I’ll be just like every other Tom, Dick or Harry that lived on this earth that nobody remembers.
"In view of the fact that the number of people living too long has risen catastrophically and still continues to rise.... Question: Must we live as long as modern medicine enables us to?... We control our entry into life, it is time we began to control our exit." ― Max Frisch
Len: It sounds to me like you’ve already made this decision, but I’ve got 50% of the vote.
Al: No, I haven’t made the decision. I’m simply saying that it’s time to think about it. We don’t have any kids. Our parents are deceased. Our brother and sister live in other cities. Neither of them have kids. Most of our friends are analytical enough (or they wouldn’t be our friends) that they might just possibly understand. Speaking for me, I don’t like the idea of using up all our assets and resources for the next 10-20 years when they could go to someone who could use them today.
Len: The problem is that little issue of being born with an innate desire to stay alive as long as humanly possible. You can’t simply suppress that by way of some logic.
Al: Oh yes I can! Maybe you can’t, but that just means you’re weaker than me. I'm the left side of the brain and I can easily make the most logical decision irrespective of any emotional issues. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the gift of life. I do. It’s incredible. But, guess what. We’re all also given the gift of death. It's inevitable. So, why go out with a whimper? Why go out with a bunch of other geezers that nobody knows or remembers? Why not go out with a bang (pun intended)? Why not leave something for the world to chew on?
Len: The reason is simple. Human beings want to live because that’s all we know. Every day we want to see, learn or experience something that we hadn’t seen, learned or experienced before. If we die, we lose the chance to do that. That’s pretty basic.
Al: It’s also pretty flawed logic. No matter when we die, that will be true. I don’t care if we live to be 100, it will be true. It would be true if we lived to be a thousand. There will always be something to learn or experience for the first time. Besides, I don’t care about the quantity of time I live, I only care about the quality of the time I lived… AND I want to make sure I’ve left a legacy of some kind.
Len: Since I don’t know exactly what you are thinking by a record or documentation or legacy or posterity, I’m not sure how to argue that. But, it seems like it could be done two years from now or four years or six years before we were too far gone to be able to write some autobiography.
Al: Maybe so. Maybe no. I’m simply saying I’m going to start thinking about it. Besides the potential problem is that we would wait until we were still barely able to do it, but then we find we can't. I wonder how many millions of people failed to act early enough.
Len: Suppose we decided to pursue this documentation-of-life/ending-of-life scenario, it’s going to be hard to get all that done with a full time job and a blog.
Al: Finally, you are making some sense. I agree 100%. It could never work. As you know, we are getting more and more tired all the time. There are only so many hours in a day. We would have to quit the Star – obviously - way in advance, but it seems to me we would want to continue with the blog in one form or another right up to the last minute because part of the legacy would the blog. I don’t know how we yank Upon Further Review away from the Star, but maybe it could be done.
Len: It sounds to me like you’re a hell of a lot farther along with this in your mind than I would have thought. Since I share half your brain…
Al: …what’s left of it…
Len: …I’m not quite sure how you have managed to keep me in the dark up to this point.
Al: You are the glass half-full and I’m the glass half-empty. You see what you want to see. I see what you refuse to see. You think just because we write these complicated sophisticated articles every day on UFR that we’re as sharp as ever and as sharp any other 58 year-old. But, I know what it takes. It takes having Google as part of our brain. It takes going over something 10 times that should have only taken once… and 10 years ago would have only taken once.
Len: Well, so what? Everyone gets old. Everyone loses their memory. Everyone fades from the front pages of life. It’s inescapable and it’s part of the cost of doing business as a human being. It seems to me the better way is to accept that fact and go out with dignity.
Al: That’s the whole point, going out as a blabbering, slobbering old man in a wheel chair in a nursing home is hardly dignified!
Len: I’m willing to agree to this much. You take a few months and think about this whole thing and I’ll do the same. But, the odds of you convincing me to take our life for no other reason but that you think you won’t be able to document it at some point in the near future because we are too far gone mentally… the odds of you convincing me of that are slim.
Al: Ok, fine. But, if I can show you over say the next few months (or so) clear and indisputable evidence of our serious mental decline, then I’m going to be a lot more agressive about this than I even am today. All I’m doing now is simply saying that this issue needs to be looked at closely. I’ve always been one to be prepared and there is only one chance to be prepared for old age and that's before it's too late to be prepared. I’m not going to just sit idly by and drift with the winds of time into obscurity. No matter what you think today, that’s never going to happen!