It’s been about 4 years since I lost my legs. As a friend reminded me, I was always losing my keys, so it was not surprising that I lost my legs eventually Driving was much harder than I imagined, mainly because of the hand controls. They are difficult to describe but I don’t have a picture, so I will try.
It is an automatic car
You steer only with your left hand, using a knob on the steering wheel
You use your right hand for accelerating, braking, blinkers, lights etc.
There is a bar below the steering wheel that sticks out to the right of the steering wheel
You press the bar forward to brake
Other controls are on the bar including a switch/trigger for accelerating, blinker buttons etc
Everything is so different. It is like learning to drive all over again as you have to consciously think of every little action you take. But just as it eventually became automatic when I first learned to drive, I’m sure this new way of driving will too.
For my fellow psychology students, this is an example of Piaget’s accommodation in action, hopefully leading to automaticity
Over the last 6 months in hospital, I have had a lot of time to think about what really matters in life. It is an age-old question and here is my answer.
First and foremost are the relationships in your life. Without them, life is meaningless.
The most important relationship I have is with my two amazing children, Eric and Niamh. I was very lucky that they came down from Mackay to visit me last weekend. We had an awesome time! We went to the movies (they let me out of hospital), my daughter dyed my hair, and we shared many meals together. Yet, the most enjoyable times will when we were just chatting with each other.
I’m also fortunate to have such wonderful and supportive friends. I’ve known some of my friends for over 20 years. I also have friends that have only recently come into my life. I met some of my friends through my work (including some ex-students), some I have met because of my heart condition, and others have popped into my life from the weirdest locations. I am grateful for all of them.
The second thing that really matters in life is personal progress. I (like anyone) am capable of some truly remarkable things. Yet, I am always capable of more. Growing towards (and even stretching) my potential helps give meaning to my life.
The areas where I can grow include my knowledge, my personal habits, and my physical development. In fact, the areas where I can grow are virtually infinite. The point is that striving to become all that I can be is immensely rewarding.
Of course there are things you have to do, such as working to make a living. Yet, knowing what is really important to me is helping to reshape the way I spend my time. Perhaps it can help you too!
In my brief profile on my homepage, I mention that I am a father, a teacher, a blogger and a humanist. Since started this blog a few weeks ago. Since then, I have had several queries about what humanism is and why I have chosen to follow this philosophy.
In simple terms, as a humanist I am on an ongoing quest to become enlightened. However, this is not in any religious sense. Rather, I am on a quest to find truth and beauty in the world and to then share this with others.
The Elements Of Humanism
As a species we have the gift of a powerful innate intelligence. This gives us the capacity to discern truth using revidence, logic and reason. We have learnt so much about the world. In fact, it is estimated our collective knowledge is now doubling every 9 years. Yet, we still struggle to make use of this knowledge. Why? Because we cling to superstitions and blind beliefs. Humanists seek to consciously overcome this struggle and to encourage others to do the same.
We can also use our intelligence to allow creativity to flourish. We sing, we write, we paint and we act – albeit, some of us better than others . Furthermore, we can appreciate the artistic endeavours of others. These may be novels, sculptures, songs or something else. Humanists seek to consciously appreciate the creativity around them.
Yet, reason and creativity are not enough. We are also wired to feel compassion for those in need. This innate tendency calls us to help our fellow man. Humanists consciously strive to answer this call.
I think the Humanist Manifesto sums all of this up nicely. It explains that humanists are guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience. Such guidance encourages us to live life well and fully.
Of course, humanists are not the only people who seek truth, who appreciate beauty, or who show compassion. However, the combination of all three is quite unique.
Humanists are guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience— such guidance encourages us to live life well and fully.
Sadly, some people still cling to superstitions, some fail to appreciate beauty around them, and others have no regard for the needs of those around them. At a personal level, such failures can lead to a lack of self-fulfilment. At a collective level, they have seen humanities potent power turned to evil ends.
So Why Did I Become A Humanist?
After spending the last 6 months in hospital and cheating death on several occasions, I have had a lot of time to think about what life is all about. The notion that you can achieve personal growth through seeking truth, and then compassionately using that knowledge to create a better society resonated with the person I want to be.
Some people have serious reservations about legalizing it. While I disagree, I understand where they’re coming from.
People have concerns about the elderly being pressured into ending their life by family who consider it a burden to care for them. They are also concerned about how legalizing euthanasia gives doctors a license to kill and about the capacity of seriously depressed people to make such a decision.
While I understand these concerns, I do not believe they warrant taking away a person’s right to die with dignity.
At the moment, I have no wish to end my life. However, I know what it is like to pray every night not to wake up the next morning. Being alive does not mean you have a reasonable quality of life. Sometimes, you are forced to exist with your dignity stripped away and nothing to hope for in the future.
I know this is a contentious issue. Many of my good friends would disagree with my point of view.
Perhaps with improving palliative care euthanasia may be unnecessary. But my experience is that efforts in such care make you feel subhuman, insignificant and hopeless.
My health has improved dramatically and I look forward to many years of living. However, there will come a time when I am little more than a piece of meat being poked, prodded and kept alive with no hope of any meaningful future. At that point, I believe I have the right to die with dignity – and legalizing euthanasia is the only way to enact this right.
Yes, appropriate safeguards need to be put in place, but I believe that dying is as much a human right as living.