Saturday, November 9, 2013
In the desk column of the Catholic Times we are introduced to the book by the Finnish writer Arto Paasilinna, who wrote the tragicomedy A Charming Mass Suicide. Two people who have decided to end it all go to a countryside location where they meet in person for the first time. After failing in their attempt to kill themselves, though in the process cementing their friendship, they decide to recruit others with the same intentions, rent a bus and stage a mass suicide.
They advertise and successfully assemble a group of 20. Their plan is to travel to Norway and have the bus go over one of the cliffs there, but they end up going through Switzerland to the ocean side cliffs of Portugal. During the trip, which they all knew could end any day, they began to form close relationships with one another, finding solace; two of them falling in love. Life, they discovered, had become attractive and now, their thoughts of suicide put aside, they were looking forward happily to a new beginning.
Finland's problems are the background for the novel. They are the first country in the world to make the prevention of suicide a national project. In 1983, after bringing together 50,000 specialists and making a study of 1,337 suicides, they inaugurated, in 1992, a program of prevention. The results have been noticeable, with a reduction each year in the number of suicides, moving them from the 3rd country with the largest number of suicides to the 13th. A good example that efforts made in this area will bring results.
Korea for the last 8 years has been number one in the world in the number of suicides. What is the reason? Those who have studied the problem say it is the importance the Koreans give to economic betterment and the competition this requires. Behind all this, says the columnist, is the lack of importance that life has for many Koreans.
The Church in Korea has given the subject much concern and study. The recent symposium in Korea attended by specialists of Japan and Korea concerned with solving the problem is a good example of the importance and vision of the Korean and Japanese Churches. Interest in preventing suicide stems, of course, from the importance the Church places on life.
As important as is the medical treatment for those who have attempted suicide, the connection with society and the feeling that there are persons concerned with their welfare is also important for those who are having suicidal thoughts, and they need to feel this, the columnist says. The teaching that suicide is forbidden is the Church's position but it has to make efforts to be close to those who have attempted or are thinking of suicide and work to prevent it. In the novel A Charming Mass Suicide there is the word 'together' which she found emotionally moving. It is when we have a deep connection with others, she feels, that we will have the will to want life.