Why we should stare at the ceiling once in a while

By 5 January, 2017Thoughts

‘Staring at the ceiling’ is a typical comment from an elderly person to denote that life is meaningless and merely waiting for death to come. After all, what notable benefit could you gain out from staring at some lackluster ceiling of your home or an institution?

I had lunch with my boss recently and he shared about some personal stories of his friends/family suffering from life-limiting illness and how this reinforced his desire for euthanasia/desire to hasten death (DHD for short). After openly declaring his position, he examined me with curiosity, while twitching his eyebrow in an awkward suspension.

‘You don’t support Euthanasia, do you?’

I shrugged my shoulders.

‘Actually I do,’ I said while pausing for a moment to gather my fragmented thoughts, ‘I agree in principle that there will come a time when physical suffering could become overwhelming and the dying process may become undignified. However, the only problem I cannot reconcile is that I cannot see how a human system can be constructed in a way that this motivation – and only this motivation – gives dignify back to the dying person through euthanasia. In today’s context, when we think about euthanasia, we often have an image of a patient ravaged by cancer. Someday down the road, some paraplegic patient may decide that he doesn’t want to live anymore because it is meaningless not being able to have mobility. Then we start expanding the criteria. Subsequently, those suffering from major depressive disorder or bi-polar may start to clamor for the same rights using the same basis of reasoning; it is worst to be living with this mental condition, even though we have mobility.’

Then the situation would go on a slippery slope; a race to the bottom. People would begin to debate ‘whose suffering is worst’ to qualify for euthanasia. Hence, implementation becomes highly problematic without some kind of systemic and/or adverse impact on society.

That night before I sleep, I stared at my room ceiling for a moment… in a mindful way.

Then I realized that when we stare at ceiling, a reflecting process naturally arose. On one hand, it forced me to reevaluate the potential meaninglessness of things in my life, but on the other hand, it also served as a reminder that having meaning in life is important for our well-being, even in dire situation.

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Everything could be taken away from a man, except for his freedom to choose the kind of attitude to relate to his circumstances. Albeit it would be notoriously difficult to choose otherwise, especially when the norm may be contempt, bitterness or anger – it doesn’t essentially change the point that the freedom of choice is given for us to decide.

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We are always fighting fire in our daily lives – perhaps clinging onto an unhappy relationship, unsatisfying job or indulging in unhealthy obsession. Maybe tonight, you should try staring at your room ceiling for a while; knowing that you could actually change your attitude towards your circumstance may potentially change your life.

Cathedral Ceiling

About Mark Lin

Mark Lin works in Montfort Care and is the brain for the Good Death project. He has been working in the social service sector since 2010 with a passion to serve the elderly population in Singapore. He loves potatoes very much

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