A professor in college once told us the purpose of philosophy is to help answer the question, “Why shouldn’t I kill myself?”
I’ve considered suicide, only because I wanted to write about it realistically for a novel I was writing. I had my main character, loosely modeled on my misanthropic, entitled young self, utterly alone in the city and stuck in a Dostoevskian existentialist abyss, go through with a plot to kill himself only to be saved by chance.
After a planned night of ribaldry and licentiousness, he secludes himself and prepares for the self-execution. He carefully reviews his rationalizations for suicide, making sure he’s covered all the bases and that this is indeed the way out of this awful, awful life. He gets on his knees and sticks the barrel of a gun in his mouth. He squeezes the trigger, but the gun doesn’t fire.
He looks at the gun. He’d forgotten to flip the safety! He laughs at himself. Even in his attempt to leave this world behind forever, it still mocks him. A gratuitous parting shot, one last joke at his expense. His act to take control of his life, by ending it, is like everything else, vanity.
Still smirking, he flips the safety off and sticks the gun back in his mouth. Before he squeezes the trigger, a thought passes through his mind: that these last few seconds almost didn’t happen, that he actually appreciated the moment, an experience that he would not have had if he succeeded in killing himself the first time. It was like a gift.
The hesitation breaks his concentration. He puts the gun down and thinks. What if he had killed himself? He would not have been alive. He would not have had the last minute to himself. What was a minute? It was nothing. It meant nothing. Compared to death, though, a minute was everything. It was all supposed to end, but it hadn’t. As arbitrary as the last minute’s contents were, it was something.
What has changed? he asks himself. I’m still me. I’m the same as I was this morning. My reasoning is sound. Why shouldn’t I kill I myself? Why shouldn’t I?
But even the opportunity to ask the question chastens the thought. For the opportunity was afforded to him because of time he did not count on having.
He feels it in his stomach. This is the start of something, a second chance. He throws the gun away. He wants another minute. He wants another hour, another day, another year. He wants the time to be alive, even if in pain. For he is not the poor wretch he thought he was. He is rich with time. And he’s rich with time because he chooses to have it. It’s free for him to do with what he wills.
He doesn’t know it, but this minute will lead him to believe in life, to believe in God, and finally to believe in God’s sovereign grace in sending His son in the flesh to take the punishment for the flawed, desperate man he was. A whole life that he almost threw away the chance of living, he lives.