Perhaps you have been following the Terri Schiavo case lately, in which her husband, claiming she is a vegetable, seeks to kill her by having her feeding tube removed. The U.S. Senate recently debated the issue:
Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, the Senate is now addressing probably the most gut-wrenching decision that an American family can ever face. Without even a single hearing, without any debate whatever, the Senate is tackling an extraordinarily sensitive concern that involves morals and ethics and religious principles, and this troubles me greatly. (Congressional Record, March 17, 2005)
The life of a woman unable to speak for herself has become a "decision" instead of an inalienable right.
The idea of death as a solution has gained wide acceptance in our self-indulgent culture that finds no meaning to life outside momentary enjoyment. Michael Medved wrote a great column in USA Today last week, in which he asks "Has suicide become the pop culture flavor of the month?" and enumerates recent instances of the zeitgeist's promotion of suicide as "brave."
The idea of "solving" life's problems by refusing to live reminded me of the most underrated field of mathematics, linear algebra. (The name is boring, you say. I know: "linear" sounds soporifically straightforward and "algebra" reminds you of your nightmare high-school class.) Trust me: next to geometry, this is the most insightful field of mathematics requiring only limited mathematical abstraction.
There are a number of useful insights in linear algebra that provide a wonderful basis for better understanding how the world works. (I'll leave a neat example to the comments and get back to the point of this post.)
There is a common solution for every* set of linear equations, called The Null Solution, which consists of setting every parameter to zero. The Null Solution is also known as the trivial solution because it is uninteresting: any moron can slap it down.
Death is the Null Solution to all of life's problems. What is the one sure way to rid the world of hunger, poverty, illiteracy, anxiety, terrorism and bad manners and bad breath? Global suicide.
A professor will very rightly flunk a student who enters the null solution for every problem of an exam. As in linear algebra, life's null solution is "trivial" and no solution at all.
Choosing death is not brave. It's cynical and selfish.
*Homogeneous equations, the most common form.