We are not solitary self-defining intellectual identities who form temporary alliances with each other for short-term mutual advantage. My existence is fundamentally bound up with yours. Of course, I will clean you up. Of course, I will hold your hand in the long hours of the night. Shut up about being a burden. I love you. This is what it means to love you. Surely, there is something extraordinarily beautiful about all of this.
I rarely agree with Giles Fraser, the former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, but in this article in yesterday’s Guardian, he is spot on. It is about euthanasia and the fact that much of the drive towards legalising it is from people who fear being a burden on their relatives at the end.
The whole circle of life, however, is predicated on being a burden to others at both ends of it. Are you ashamed of the time you spent drooling, having your bottom wiped, and having to be carried everywhere when you were a baby? Do you regret putting your parents through that? Of course not! That’s the way it works, so why not at the end of life?
It’s because we’ve been so enchanted by what Fraser calls “the liberal model of individual self-determination” that we’ve forgotten about the rhythms of life that our ancestors knew and accepted. We’ve forgotten about caring and being taken care of. We’ve forgotten how to love, and thus how to live.
My problem with euthanasia, [Fraser concludes,] is not that it is a immoral way to die, but that it has its roots in a fearful way to live.