Hudsonblick 05

If you don’t speak english yet: Go and learn it. Now.

You’ll find out, amongst other things, that The Beatles‘ lyrics are massively overrated and that George W. Bush is even scarier without a translator.

And most of all, you’ll be able to read Charles‘ latest Hudsonblick called

Now is the Moment of My Death

This month, the United States is obsessed with dying. Not dying like „10,000 terrorists were killed in a police action in the Sunni Triangle“ or „10 Million Indonesians died in a mudslide“, these kinds of stories don“™t have that much effect here. Rather, we are dwelling on the story of the heavily litigated, highly politicized, and altogether tragic situation of one woman who died in Florida. Her story has distracted us from our habitual tallying of body counts, if only briefly, to consider the individual and personal experience of dying.

For me, this topic became very personal. As the cable news shows were reporting every physiological stage of this woman“™s decline, my wife“™s grandfather was checked into a hospice. He was in his nineties, and had simply stopped eating, eventually slipping into a comatose state. From what I knew of him, he was a tough old guy who refused to give old age an inch. A few years ago he fell off of his own roof while he was up there painting. A year or so ago he had a stroke, and fought back from it to regain his speech and mobility. It never seemed to cross his mind to stop pushing on. I have to wonder why he did stop. Was it a purposeful decision? Very soon after checking into the hospice he passed on. It was peaceful, and he was surrounded by family.

The experience of dying, and the choices around it, are not usually discussed openly: When do you want to stop living? When you“™ve run out of organs and brain cells, or before? Will you have the guts to accept the inevitable when it“™s your turn? The will of every organism is to keep living, but a cognizant creature desires to control her fate.

Most often recalled for the always quotable revelation of cannibalism at its climax, the movie Soylent Green also had a memorable vision of industrialized suicide. Choose your music. Choose your images. Turn them on, and drift off into eternity… Did anyone watch this without thinking what music they“™d want? Tough choice. As much as I love the Sex Pistols, for example, I think I“™d prefer something a little more existential. The third movement of Beethoven“™s Ninth, for example. With nitrous oxide. I“™ve experimented with this combination, and I think it has the effect that I“™m after. I might also be happy with morphine, which was generously provided to both my wife“™s grandfather and to the woman in Florida. It“™s comforting to know that the War on Drugs is suspended when you“™re on your final lap.

I was on morphine once in an intensive care unit (ICU) here in New York. I don“™t remember the drug being particularly euphoric, but maybe they were being stingy. It did make reading One Hundred Years of Solitude pretty trippy. I was in the ICU because I did something stupid while drunk and got a large hole put in my chest. It turned out to be completely treatable. Once I was in the emergency room, well, once I was in the second emergency room (fuck you, VA hospital!), they put a chest tube in my side and sent me off to morphine land. After a while (day and night do not exist in the ICU), a nurse came by to get some basic information: my name (Charles), next of kin (Mom), religious affiliation (Dead Kennedys), and one other thing:

„OK then….,“ she continued, going down her checklist, „Who would you like us to contact in case we need to take extraordinary measures?“

„Extraordinary measures? What do you mean?“

„In case your heart stops and we have to take extraordinary measures to revive you, who should we ask?“

I was confused. I was looking this woman in the eye, cogently answering questions, and she wanted to know what to do if there was an unimaginable fuck-up and I was suddenly on the brink of death.

„Take. Extraordinary. Measures.“

I was fairly young, in fairly good shape (modulo big hole in chest), and in the middle of a modern, fully equipped hospital… My plan was to walk out alive. But later I had to ask myself: under what conditions would I not want to be revived? If I was doomed to live in unbearable pain? If my brain could no longer control my body? If I was in the same state as that poor woman in Florida? In the first two cases, I would still be able to answer for myself. But in the last case? No question. Pull the plug. To Beethoven. With a big tank of nitrous.

Oh son of noble family, that which is called death has now arrived, so you should adopt this attitude: „˜I have arrived at the time of death, so now, by means of this death, I will adopt only the attitude of the enlightened state of mind, friendliness and compassion, and attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings as limitless as space. With this attitude, at this special time for the sake of all sentient beings, I will recognize the luminosity of death as the dharmakaya, and attaining in that state the supreme realization of the Great Symbol, I will act for the good of all beings. If I do not attain this, I will recognize the bardo state as it is, and attaining the indivisible Great Symbol form in the bardo, I will act for the good of all beings as limitless as space in whatever way will influence them.“™ Without letting go of this attitude you should remember and practice whatever meditation teaching you have received in the past.

— The Tibetan Book of the Dead

„Let it roll!“ he screamed. „Just as high as the fucker can go! And when it comes to that fantastic note where the rabbit bites its own head off, I want you to throw that fuckin radio into the tub with me.“

— Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

Links of the week:
Convinced? Time to go shopping!
Critical Mass or Critical Massacre? NYC continues to cuff cyclists.

15 Kommentare

  1. 01

    Mh, is there a free will? Even when we´re not in a comatose state like Terri Schiavo. Mh, I´m not shure.

    Did I comment here because I wanted to or was it just a chemical reaction in my brain?

  2. 02

    If it was chemicals, keep taking them ;-)

    I was thinking about this, too, while I was writing this article. Particularly the „under what conditions would I choose not to be revived“ part. Would I be qualified to make this kind of decision in the state of mind I’d be in if I were in agony? On the other hand, am I really qualified to make that decision now, in total comfort?

    As for the question you pose, I wouldn’t rule out that it might be both free will AND a chemical reaction in your brain. The source of ‚intention‘ is murky, but it may have been the catalyst for that brain chemistry change.

  3. 03

    Warum sind manche Artikel hier in Englisch? Werden die auf einen anderen Server veröffentlicht für eine Englische Leserschaft?

  4. 04

    Uwe: Weil sie nicht von Johnny, sondern von Charles (aus New York) kommen.

    I had the discussion about this with my family over the Easter holiday. It was kind of strange that not many of us really had thought about the question when to „let go“ or about having an organ donation card. At least, after this discussion, everyone knows of each one for sure that he/she does not want life-support measures if we are in „that“ situation. And everyone filled out their donation card.

    For the music part, I am not too sure about it. Probably, I’d go with R.E.M. („It’s the end of the word as we know it“) as long as the „and I feel fine“ part is done by some good drug. ;-)

  5. 05

    Doh! Now I do underständ ;-)

  6. 06

    Actually, we are not able to choose „right“. If i was in a comatose state and if i was not able to sense anything, i would choose to die. But if i am not able to sense anything, it does’nt matter anyway. So pull the plug or don’t. I literally would’nt care about it. But what if i do sense something but i am not able to communicate. As far as i know, there were similar cases, where people were in coma without any evidence of brainactivity and one day they woke up and after they regained strength, they were even able to remember things with the help of hypnosis. Pull the plug? Don’t pull the plug? There might be a state of consciousness that is so low that it’s not measurable. In this case, would it be better to pull the plug to relieve the person or is it worth keeping them „alive“ and hope that they wake up one day. Now we are at the beginning again. I just don’t want to be in this situation!

  7. 07

    What if one day we’ll be able to keep people alive who otherwise would’ve died? I mean as in „very old people“? I bet there’s already Millionaires who pay for being kept alive on machines until medicine and technology found a way to get them back. At the age of 150.

  8. 08
  9. 09

    Oh. I thought it was called madness.

  10. 10
    Charles (not in Iraq)

    Hi Christian,
    Yes, borderline situations like the ones you mention keep the discussion lively. In Mrs. Schiavo’s case they spent years trying to get her brain working again, and by the time she died most of it had atrophied away completely. At some point, I think that heroic measures cross over from hopeful to ghoulish.

    Another interesting angle is that (at least here), even if a patient has made a choice to die quickly rather than make a slow descent through dementia to eventual death, it’s illegal for anyone to help them, even doctors.

  11. 11

    There is a Movie called mar adentro i can recommend. It’s about a guy who is paralysed since an accident 27 years ago. He wants to die but he is not able to commit suicide because of his handicap.

  12. 12

    Holy fricking Moses!
    You sir have put the pin to the point.

    Watch SouthPark Season 9 Episode 4 – Best Friends Forever

    It’s very philosophical concerning the death of a person supported by a feeding tube.

  13. 13

    OMFG, that was INSANE. When those guys make a point, it’s like they punch you in the nose with it over and over and harder each time until you’re screaming I GET IT! I GET IT! Especially in the episode where Kyle’s dad gets a species-change operation… Both of them had my jaw on the floor.

    It’s also amazing how they can put out an episode relating to current events so quickly. They’re like the bloggers of cartoon-land!

    Thank you for the kind comment,

  14. 14

    Once Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone started to „unwrap“ their messages and slapped them right into the users face, Southpark entered the new level which I kinda miss in the late simpsons. The way they’ve dealt with becoming gay, Walmart, Sex-changes and every other thing that is infesting the prejudices of people all around the world -due to globalization- …simply brilliant. Your picture of them being the bloggers of cartoon-land is pretty good. Bloggers are the criticizing word of the people of the new generation. People who can’t utter their true opinions because of facing a world full of competition and uncertainty. I personally have issues telling someone what I really think because for most of the self-enjoying free market loving prejudiced individuals I get to talk to every now and then I don’t wanna ruin my chances of getting one piece of the cake by telling the truth. I don’t like it, in fact I hate it. But there’s no other way around in this world of hardship that stock shares and the quest for lowered labor liabilites by losers gave us.

    Btw. I’d like to know a lot more about really living in the U.S. if you’re willing to spend some spare time writing me about your way across the big ocean to the big apple I’d really appreciate that.

    Keep on blogging, my thoughts are password protected!