I did not choose to be alive. Nobody did, I guess. Yet, once here, whether we realize it or not, leaving is always an option. As we may know, not everyone chooses to stay.
I have lived inside my mind long enough to know when my desires did not arise from my own heart. That is why, a few weeks ago, when I suddenly realized that I was happily anticipating my future in this world—a thing I hadn’t experienced for maybe three years—I was both stunned and terrified. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it felt like a miracle. That night, I worshipped, but I am not quite sure that I rejoiced.
This was a super-natural phenomenon because life had been chosen for me, and I was apprehensive because I already knew what that meant. For one thing, the desire to stay alive was not for my own glory or comfort, but for the glory of the one who placed it within me. I’m not blameless here; at least at one point, I’d gotten fed up enough to say, “Lord, I’m tired of everything. Please do something about it.” But this wasn’t quite the type of “something” I’d been looking forward to. I wanted comfort. This, however, is the farthest thing from comfortable I can imagine.
Picture a person with acute acrophobia, whose feet suddenly acquire a compulsion to climb all the steps they can find, until the person lands on the balcony of the highest floor of a sky-scraper. For this person, the journey is infinitely more excruciating than it would be for someone who merely likes to climb things. With acrophobia, think of the vertigo, the danger-zone heartbeat, the sweat breakout, the loss of sanity, the pure torture. Climbing to the top of a skyscraper with acrophobia is what it feels like to be saddled with a desire to live, even though staying alive really is the last thing in the world you want to do. The paradox is how you know that something apart from you is working within you—but anyone who tells you that transformative intervention produces purely pleasure is a liar.
Lately, I live with a mantra that declares, “Life Over Everything.” Though I myself did not choose life, I suddenly have a burning desire to remind everyone else how important it is to prioritize it over everything else, whatever this means for them individually. I have come to realize how incredibly counter-cultural such a reorganization of priorities is; when everything I am being forced to deal with seems to have been designed specifically to kill me, choosing life has turned out to be nearly the most destructive possible action to take—because sometimes, it means not choosing (to do) anything else.
I recently learnt the contextual connotations of the word “meaningless” that appears so frequently in the book of Ecclesiastes. It means, “like vapor.” Vapor exists, it has functions, it is born out of something and is useful for something else—but it is temporal, dissipative, not as substantial as it would like us to believe of it. The word meaningless there is not quite synonymous with “useless” or even “without meaning,” but even interpreting things as vapor-like ought to make you think twice.
Human life is far too precious to snuff itself out for the sake of vapor. And yet, the vapor of the world is so powerfully persuasive.
When the process of killing yourself over vapor makes you so fed up that you literally want to kill yourself so that you no longer have to deal with vaporous things, choosing life over “everything” may mean that everything about life other than life itself will fall apart. You probably have to ask yourself, “Would it be worthwhile to have everything fall apart if it means that I will not? Am I more valuable than vapor?”
And who will reap the benefits of all the vapor you are self-destructing for, if, halfway through sowing it, your heart permanently stops beating?