No more running and jumping

Suppose you’re an attractive, athletic young philosophy student who loves horsing around, playing sport, bonking girls and hitting the road. One day, as you’re riding your motorbike through Mexico, you do, actually, hit the road. Next thing you know, you can’t move anything below your nipples.

People tell you, your life’s not over. You can still party with your friends, read, write, philosophise. Have sex, though you won’t feel it. Be loved.

You swallow it, for a while. You try. But the mechanics of life as a quadriplegic get to you. You can’t control your waste functions, for instance, and that – to you – is embarrassing, time-consuming and disgusting. All the physical things you used to enjoy are now off the menu. It’s hard to romance girls when you’re liable to shit yourself at any moment.

So you decide life as a quadriplegic is not for you. You write an extensive essay on your condition and daily life, explaining the truth about your situation as you see it. And then you take a kitchen knife, slice yourself open (luckily you can’t feel a thing) and die of blood loss.

It’s an awful, tragic story, but one of the things that struck me while reading this guy’s pre-suicide essay was his commitment to the idea of ‘truth’. His truth, obviously, was that his own life was unlivable, but he also wrote that the ‘disability’ community is untruthful when it claims that life with a disability is somehow better than, or even equal to, life without one. Make the best of having no legs if you have to (he says) but don’t pretend it’s a blessing in disguise. Acknowledge that for every person living with severe disability there’s a bunch of people enabling them – often at considerable expense – to do so. Face it, you can’t ‘climb’ Everest in a wheelchair. Stop insisting that life is always worth living; sometimes it’s just not.

The concept of ‘truth’ is bandied about a lot these days; so it ever was. ‘We live in a post-truth world’ is tremendous bullshit considering that for most of the last two millennia we all went about believing that kings had divine right, Saint Whatsit’s fingerbone could cure cancer and God made the world in seven days. We’ve always lived in a world where truth is subservient to ideology, at least till it punches you in the gut.

Absolute truth is confined to things like gravity and the ill-effects of being squashed by a falling boulder; for the rest, we have to put up with truth being a matter of probability, something you search for but can never quite put your finger on. Still, I think we owe it respect; not to go arsing about with claims like ‘Well it ought to be true and so…’ or ‘I wish it were true and so…’ or ‘If it’s important to you that it be true then let’s all pretend that it is,’ or ‘according to this pre-determined tenet of Marxist/feminist/gender-fluid/Christian/Moslem/racial ideology such and such must or must not be true, and anyone who suggests otherwise should be cancelled/beheaded/sacked’.

So to suggest (as this guy did) that severe disability is unpleasant for the person who has it and expensive and time-consuming for the people who care for that person, is probably true, as far as it goes. To argue that therefore everyone with a severe disability should take his course of action (as this guy didn’t) is a step beyond – it’s not about truth, but values. But our values shouldn’t blind us to truth; if anything, we should look the truth in the eye and say, ‘Ok, I acknowledge that such and such is probably true/false, but I’m going to ignore that and do my thing, come what may!’

So maybe there’s close to zero chance those fingerbones will cure my cancer – but prayer makes me feel good. So biology made me a man – I’m going to make like a woman anyway! It’s a bummer being a quadriplegic, but I’m going to try and enjoy it, so there.

Or to quote the Orange Man, ‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone, and I wouldn’t lose any votes.’ Now that’s the unashamed truth.

Need a hot duke or a saucy duchess to dream on this month? Me neither, but you can pick up Pandora’s Jar free, if you enjoy a spot of Byzantine adventure, at the Timeless promo (and while you’re at it you can buy the sequel, All The Evils, for $0.99 here till the end of Jan 23).


  1. This is great! I wonder…. Is truth “a matter of probablity,” or relativity? I am glad I am a liar, not a statiscian like my husband who forced me to understand probability. His statistical truths are relative, to statistics, just like my lies are relative, to me. I’ll stick with lies thank you very much. They seem more honestly deceptive.

  2. I’ve liked this post. I have a severe mental condition. I am sick and tired having to explain to people I can’t do things that sane people do.

    1. I hadn’t thought of mental illness in this context but yes, that must be hard because it’s less visible and there’s the view that you can control your own mind. Sometimes you can’t…I have a grand nephew with severe mental illness.

  3. Here, hear! I love this, especially the comic you shared at the top of the post. If nothing else the Trump years confirmed how little many people understand about the difference between facts and opinions. Just say it loud enough long enough and an opinion magically becomes a fact!

  4. You’re exactly right that calling this a “post-truth” world/society/whatever is laughably inaccurate. I think the mistake is confusing the concepts of “right and wrong” with the concept of “truth and opinion”.

    Truth is the domain of science, and can even more accurately be called “fact” and “not-fact”. These can generally be assigned a probability based on the physics of the universe which, in the end, is all there really is. It’s only casually related to the common concept of “truth”.

    That is to say, if I drop a baseball, at least two things are very high-probability facts/truths: (1) I dropped it. (2) It’s going to fall toward the center of earth.

    Now, due to the nature of quantum physics, there is some possibility that either (1) or (2) will not occur. However, the entire universe will have time to come and go millions of times with uncountable tires of different configurations of ball-dropping in each before it’s likely that either will occur even once.

    With statistics like that on my side, I can safely call “If I drop this ball, it will fall,” a true statement to any degree relevant in the real world. Even the vanishingly small likelihood of its being false can be finely calculated by much smarter people than I.

    “Truth” in terms of “right/wrong/morality” on the other hand, is a slippery commodity.

    If your paraplegic suicide’s “right” (by his lights) decision had come to the attention of the “life is sacred” and/or “right to life” crew, he would very likely be living to this day bound and imprisoned next to the corpse of Terri Schiavo while the appeals wind through endless court proceedings. Would that be “right”?

    Who’s telling the truth? Right to life? Right to die? How about if it’s not a paraplegic, but someone who’s only lost a little finger, or is just having a really bad day? Where’s the line when “right to die” as a “Truth/Right” is crossed?

    Naw, you don’t have to answer. That’s the point. There is no answer.

    These questions of morality (which is what they all are) can’t be put on a scale by scientific or logical reasoning. There are no probabilities for “right” and “wrong” that are independent of a root belief founded only in “it feels right”, and is always subject to the question “Why?” with the wholly inadequate and ultimately unsatisfactory “Because it just is” as the only answer.

    In other words, the only basis for this “Truth” (or any other moral/political/whatever belief) is “because it feels right to me.” All else is the enemy who is lying.

    A consensus of these in a given group are what passes for “truth”. You and I have a consensus of what a dangerous asshole the orange guy is, for example, as do many around us. But it’s a mistake to decide we’re “right” and everyone else is “wrong”. After all, anyone who isn’t on board with that consensus or deviates from it considers it a lie — which is what the group feels, too, about the “deviant”. Arguing from a purported moral high-ground is a losing proposition, as everyone IS.

    Go back 50-200 years and check out the journalism, the politics, and the nature of society. By our current standards, the whole thing was a horror-show. We are the enlightened ones. But any of us who think that’s because we know, or even understand “truth” and “morality” better than they are as deluded as any stalwart young Hitler Youth member in 1938.
    And on a completely unrelated matter, I am in the middle of your new book “All The Evils”. And from one pile of random matter in the universe to another, let me just say “Dayum, you’re good.”

    I’m loving this. Review forthcoming before too long…

    1. Yeah exactly. When we moan about current standards of truth we should cast an eye back a few hundred years and get some perspective. I still reserve the right to inflict my truth on whoever I can force to accept it, though 😁 Thanks for reading Evils. It was an interesting week in history and I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  5. Hmm. I think my comment would be too involved. But I do think farts are funny. 😄

    I think there is a knowable truth that is not just personal truth. I’ll just say that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s