Four ugly options

I had a weird dream. This isn’t uncommon; what was weird was that this one left off at a point where I was about to make a decision, and then I was back in the dream again.

Someone has turned my dreams into a ‘choose your own adventure’ story.

In my dream, I was rock climbing, and I was literally clinging to the great, jagged cliff-side of a canyon. Everything was fine, although the rocks were sharp. I had my gear.

Unfortunately, the world started to move. The plates of the earth shifted, and the canyon started to close, the other cliff-side shutting in on me.

To my left, there was a big sharp rock sticking out. To my right, there was a small cave. There was no getting up to the lip of the canyon before the earth closed.

When I woke up I actually thought about my options. I could

A. Stay where I was and see what happened
B. Cut my safety line and fall to the bottom of the canyon
C. Move my body over the sharp rock, ensuring a swift death when the two ledges smashed together, or
D. Crawl into the small cave on the small chance that there would be some way out, some rescue, some hope of getting out of the mess, but thus risking a slow and fearful death trapped in total darkness by myself.

When I fell back asleep the dream came back. I must have made my choice sub-consciously, because I was curled in a small, dark space, waiting for the world to stop moving, and hoping that it wouldn’t stop moving because then my fate would be sealed. It was very black, a black that presses in on you. It felt like a night when I was taking a bath and the power went out.

I’ve heard you can’t die in dreams, because the subconscious has no experience of death, so it always finds another option. I’ve also heard that if you hit the ground in a falling dream, you’ll actually die. That’s bogus though, often you just wake up. Particularly if you’ve fallen out of bed.

What I’m wondering now is this… if you were a person with faith in God, which of these options would be faithful?

If you really believe in life after death, then you display that faith when you choose a swift death over a small possibility of life, right? But if you believe in God’s mercy, you would choose the slightest hope. Then again, to stay where you are communicates the most faith in God’s will. Would it be cowardly to choose the sharp rock so that death wasn’t prolonged by suffering? I don’t know. If death is a foregone conclusion, this wouldn’t constitute suicide, right?

But death is always a foregone conclusion. So we have strange rules about not ending it of your own free will.

Still, I can’t see myself letting go and falling, though I think the most frightening thing would be to die slowly in the cave, becoming nothing more than a miserable awareness, with no relief for the body, no stretching, no touching, no sounds, no sight. Only the smell of your body, and the taste of death. I think this would be the worst thing: To be buried alive.

What do you think?

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31 thoughts on “Four ugly options

  1. What a brilliant psychological foray. I choose Option E. Death by Chicken!

    Morte de Poulet!

    (Original comment: Please feel free to delete this comment. Or leave it. That’s quite up to you. You know…I think you can edit it too. I suppose you could mark it as spam. I’d rather you didn’t do that.

    That’s four choices for you.)

  2. In specific response to your specific question, the most faithful option is to crawl into the cave, having faith that it was provided to you as a way to escape untimely death. Then you would further have faith that you would either be able to get out or be rescued.

    Suicide often gets its own special classification as an extra bonus hell-worthy offense, but really it falls under the blanket commandment against murder. There are instances, biblically, where the taking of another life appears to be acceptable so there is always the chance that you would not be express shipped to the lake of fire if you cut the rope to spare yourself undue suffering, but I wouldn’t take the chance. God seems to want us to try to live as long as possible… our pesky survival instinct is pretty good evidence of that. Also, if God really wanted you dead there wouldn’t have been a cave.

  3. I think I’d end up in the cave even though I agree with you that it would be the worst possible death.

    Way back when I was young I had some major surgery. I was given morphine to relax me (enjoyed that very much), then the anesthesiologist hooked me up to an IV and dripped in something else. The doc came in to check on me about ten minutes later and I was sitting there reading my chart. She looked surprised, fooled with the IV some more, came back again and I was still awake. So they wheeled me into the OR where the surgeon was surprised to see that I was still awake. I didn’t like being awake at that point either because I was told I’d be asleep before the took me to the operating room.

    Eventually the anesthesiologist put a mask over my face, saying it was oxygen, and that I should count backwards. I don’t think I made it past 95.

    My very long-winded point is that after the surgery, when I told this story to a friend, he said that I probably won’t surrender to death very easily if I’m not willing to go to sleep when prompted to do so by good drugs.

    Yep, I’d be in the cave, holding out hope.

    As for faith, I’m reminded of the joke about the guy who dies in a flood, having refused all offers of help because he’s waiting for God to help him. When he gets to heaven he asks God, “Why didn’t you help me?” and God answers, “Who do you think sent the fireman, the policeman, and the neighbor with the boat?”

  4. Robin,

    I’ve always liked that joke because it really is a good lesson. We can get so wrapped up in miracles that we forget that God usually works though His own established laws for our universe. People that will pray for a miracle to cure cancer and get upset with God when they had to have surgery and chemo to cure it are missing the point. Modern Medicine is one of the greatest miracles God has ever performed. Second to the Resurrection.

  5. wow… this is really interesting Amuirin… especially the responses. So which is my choice based on being a person of faith. I think I choose the cave. Why?…

    I have faith in a Divine Creator but don’t believe He/She/It is actively involved in what goes on here. God, from my perspective, is more like a coach watching the game unfold from the sidelines (Deist perspective). I have faith that I will someday be back on the sidelines having gained much accolades and favor of The Coach from the way I played the game (Universalist perspective). If I screw up a few plays, fumble the ball, fall down, etc and lose the game, He’s gonna say, “Jules you really screwed up!… and bad! Hey, but there’s always next season.” (Buddhist -reincarnation perspective)

    So why the cave?… I believe I have lessons to learn in this lifetime so that I might get closer to The Divine. To do that I want to keep my body, mind and spirit healthy so I can have as much time as possible to learn those lessons. The cave gives me a little more time even if there is the chance of slow death. Who knows… that could be the final lesson to get me back on the sidelines. thanks for an awesome post.

    *hugs* Jules

  6. Maybe the cave because while there you could be monk-like and reflect on what God is. Also, God is present in suffering.

    But I think Option A. Stay where you are and see what happens. Because you already know the other choices bring death. And so to choose any one is to choose death. Whereas, staying where you are might give you an option to live. And if you still have a life force, then you must do what you can to save your own life. Especially since you have a child who needs you.

  7. If the plates stop moving, no choice ends in death (except maybe cutting the line). If the plates don’t stop moving, all choices end in death (Option A, I think, will also be death, if the canyon closes. Crushed and all). This is really way too Kobayashi Maru for me. I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.

    However, since all choices end up the same, depending only on whether or not the earth stops moving, then none of the answers are much dependent on faith. So, there’s my non-answer.

    And, I know it’s not my dream, but I don’t believe it’s impossible to make it out of the canyon before it closes. I’d go for it.

  8. Let’s see….A sharp rock (Phallic Symbol), a cave (Yonic Symbol)…wait. That’s not what we’re doing.

    OK…I’d probably jump in the cave, because you never know what might be hidden in the darkness. At least if you are alive, there’s a SLIM chance of rescue.

    My beliefs say that though there is a creative force, we are responsible for our actions and the consequenses, wo all options are equally valid.

    Of course, I’m afraid of heights, so I wouldn’t be rock clibing in the first place.

    Oh, and someone give Molo extra geek points for mentioning the Kobyashi Maru senario.

  9. Never underestimate the powers of adrenaline. I think you could’ve climbed out of the canyon before it closed all the way. At least you could have tried. That’s what I’d do.

  10. Decisions, decisions.

    Based on faith (of which I have none) I think the correct answer is A. Do nothing. You could argue that God helps those that help themselves, but (letting my bias show) churches have done nothing progressive for centuries and are still seen as the way to “get to God.”

    My personal option is B. Cut the line. I wouldn’t mind being like Bierce’s character in An Occurrence at the Owl Creek Bridge and experience a happy sidetrack before my demise.

    Yes, many bonus points to Molo.

  11. oh i love philosophy!

    once in philosophy class we were asked this question:

    You are in pit that you and lion can not get out of, period. The pit and its remains will not be discovered for another 10 years. In the pit you find a gun with one bullet what do you do?

  12. fish:

    How big is the Lion because that would have to factor into the equation. Also, where the pit was located would come into play too, Mebeing who I am, I’d shoot the lion and work towards the best. Of course if it were a steel pit, all bets are off…

  13. the size of the lion does not matter, kill it for food if you want, it won’t last 10 years, but will give you more time to yourself for a couple more days, keep it for a pet until you starve to death if it is small and have a companion to love, one more time, or if a large lion then be killed by lion and not ‘suicide’ with the gun

    the list of options go on and on

    the pit made of anything that is unescapable, and the location can be Canada, France, or Switzerland, it doesn’t matter too

  14. but if he had his cell, he’d call me, and I’d throw jujubes down the pit till we thought of something.

    See, the human brain just won’t accept the unsurvivable, the inescapable. There’s gotta be a way.

    One of the worst mind %$cks I’ve ever heard was that scenario where you are out in a boat, with the two people in the world you love the most. The boat goes down. Neither of them can swim.

    Who do you save?

    over and over again I’ve tried to brainstorm a scenario where both of my loved ones lived. I guess that’s heroic.

    It’s also, probly cheating.

  15. I’m afraid I’m unable to accept scenarios where there are a limited number of options. It seems to me that there are always other options that are not obvious. What are they? No clue — but I’m confident they exist. I think there are probably an unlimited number of options in any situation.

  16. meant to point out something not ask another question, sorry, but i do think it is kinda funny we are all talking about our preference of death, funny how some don’t pick the answers available for whatever reason, interesting

    i’ve thought it over long and hard, and even though the situation, with boundaries, would most likely be a decision i made at that time, i’d like to say, now, that i would go into the small cave with the acceptance of not being saved (i so want to say ‘yet’, but won’t), i don’t think dying of thirst or hunger would be swift, obviously, but i don’t think it is bad just because it is slower, or more, or less, painful

    funny thing is my initial reaction was quick death, can’t cut the rope, but then turned into, i like me, i’ll take a couple more days with me, no matter what the outcome is, and if i tried hard enough, i could lay on back in the small cave, until it felt like i was at the bottom of a pool, on my back, eyes open, looking up, holding my breath

    i like that feeling

  17. D: the cave. But I think that one of the things I never liked about Christianity and a few other religions is the loss of ownership of your life. If you believe in traditional Christianity, God brings you to life, he owns you, and he also owns your death. If you actively choose death at moments when you could live, you are usurping his role. And as was pointed out, if you choose death, you are denying that he has the power and possibly the desire to save you.

  18. he also was quoted as saying something about temples, i don’t consider all the temples as being owned by one, but instead more of independent ownership under one cause, each with its own way of accomplishing one goal

    if ownership was part of the plan i don’t think i would be here right now

    the question is what temple do you try to be like the most or better yet pick to use as the example to match what christianity is, i was taught only to use one, knowing we were not born perfect, down the road this is what i chose to believe

    the thing i never liked about christianity is the ability to find certain quotes and instances to come up with an answer or view to a life on earth situation, but a couple pages further and there is another one, but this one contradicts what was first assumed too

    it is maddening to say the least, i’m catholic, i some times like to consider myself an orginal christian, i’m guessing that is traditional, but it all really doesn’t matter when talking about christianity to me

    i like that chirstianity keeps us from taking our own lives, and puts that blanket rule out for us to live by because in my mind the rule applies for more positive outcomes that i can think of than negative, with an understanding that nothing is perfect, plus i think the bottom line trying to be set for us is ‘cherish your life’. too bad the flip side of all of this is not as strong, i think, taking others lives

    lastly, i feel that as a reader some times no matter how powerful a writing can be our state of mind will alter a reading greatly

    i like to listen to music too, a bit more uplifting to me

    Love Is The Light – Horace Andy
    Separation – Barry Brown
    Y Mas Gan – Abyssinians
    The Good Lord – Abyssinians
    When You’re Down – Abyssinians

  19. It always seems that the most “faithful” option is the most powerless option; but personally, I’m not enthused about hiding in a cave and waiting for a miracle. I’d go for the fastest form of death. I believe that death should have satisfying narrative potential, and languishing in a cave, while rather Jungian, doesn’t make a good story.

  20. I would so stay in that cave, since my greatest fear is death (and staying alone all my life). I wouldn’t be brave enough to kill myself by cutting the rope etc. But it’s a though call. I mean, how would you feel if you choose to cut the rope, only to find out afterwards that you would’ve survived in the cave! (Okay, I know it’s not possible to “look back” when you’re dead if you, like me, don’t believe in any “higher power”, “God”, or “Force”… )

  21. ybonesy- I did, in fact read the poisonwood bible. Just once. I don’t remember the part that might have tied into the boat scenario though, I remember vividly some other parts.

    The Poisonwood Bible really put me in mind of The Mosquito Coast. It wasn’t my favorite Kingsolver book, in fact I kinda think of it as her exception because her books are always so easy and joyful for me to read, and that one was somehow difficult. But it was a worthwhile read, all the same. What did you think of it?

  22. I love the discussions and thoughtful responses that have evolved here. I wish there was some place on wordpress where you could boast about how smart your personal blog community is.

  23. I LOVED the Poisonwood Bible. I think what ybonesy is referring to is when the army ants had overrun the village, and the mother had to choose whom to save: her youngest daughter and her crippled daughter. Later in the book, she is again forced to choose which daughter to take back to America with her. Later still, she explains her decisions.

  24. Mmm, what to do what to do? Considering the plain basic absolute truth that no one can predict the future, no matter how bleak it looks from the present, I would probably prolong life just long enough to see what happens myself.

  25. dreams is an outlet for what u cant solve in real life. not always true but i have gone through a period of time where i didnt let my real emotions show in real life and it was supressed until it emerges in my dreams. on the other hand, sometimes in your real life, the things have passed for a long time and u have let it go, still, it creeps up on you all of a sudden. i think it’s because your mind is a huge massive library of drawers, and at certain time, it so happens the drawers are mixed up and creates your so called adventure choice dream. so! this is a question you can oni answer yourself :)

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