If you’re more than four decades old, there is a tune that is very familiar to you and yet you probably don’t know the title. It’s called Suicide is Painless, but is better known as the Theme from MASH. Probably you didn’t know that there are words to it (hear it sung here).
The first verse says: “Through early morning fog I see, visions of the things to be, the pains that are withheld for me, I realize and I can see.” This reminds me of the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, which was best stated by a character named Westly in The Princess Bride. He said: “Life is pain; anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”
The premise that life is pain is kind of discomforting, however, if not balanced by the other three Noble Truths, including the doctrine that the pain of life is actually an illusion. Thus, through the mental fog of an unillumined life I see visions of the future filled only with pain. According to the song, suicide is a way to avoid that.
The third verse says: “The game of life is hard to play, I’m going to lose it anyway” and the fourth verse of the song tells us that “The only way to win, is cheat.” These lines remind me of one of my favorite thing from science fiction: the Kobayashi Maru test. This is the final test given to all cadets leaving Star Fleet Academy, introduced in The Wrath of Khan. It is a simulation of a command situation in which there is no winning solution. The only cadet to ever beat the simulation was James Kirk, who broke into the computer the night before the test and reprogrammed it. When asked why he did it, he said that he did it because he did not believe in the no-win scenario.
But life is a no-win situation if you look at it as a competition. In the end, the grim reaper will get you. But, if you refuse to look at life as a competition with death, you can win. You can win by looking at life like playing a piece of music. The goal is not to see how many notes you can play before you get to the end, but instead to see if you can get the song just right.
I like the song Suicide is Painless because it is iconoclastic. The very fact that we are not supposed to write songs seeming to advocate suicide is a good enough reason to me for someone to write one. As I mentioned, I believe that suicide can only seem like an option if you buy into the “life is a competition” model, and that “winning” is more important than anything else. I don’t agree with either of these ideas, so I don’t find myself thinking of suicide.
If you open yourself up to the Spirit of God, you can start to feel life as a dance and not a forced march toward death.
IMAGE SOURCES: MASH: mash.fandom.com/wiki/MAS*H_TV_series_opening_sequence? file=Scene_5B-opening_sequence.jpg PRINCESS BRIDE: imgur.com/gallery/eRIEejQ