Ask Faye 7 – The Big Countdown Clock: A Universal Chrono-Headcase

by | February 11, 2020

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Faye Girsh is the Founder and the Past President of the Hemlock Society of San Diego. She was the President of the National Hemlock Society (Defunct) and the World Federation of RTD Societies (Extant). Currently, she is on the Advisory Board of the Final Exit Network and the Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization. Here we talk about time, meaning, and wills.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: As a species, we appear driven a teensy bit mad by thinking about the passage of time. From hopes or assertions of an ever-after to considerations of an extended legacy in the memories of loved ones, we fret. 

I see this in the elders around me. I see this in myself. A sense of the impending – either far off at the ultimate ultimatum of life or some assignment due for a course. I think about the individuals coming forward with living wills. 

How far in advance of a typically expected death are wills produced by people? How is this will timing production different from a sudden or creeping illness with poor recovery prospects landing onto a person’s conscious life? I may be wrong, but I would assume a difference in the timelines.

Faye Girsh: In the event of the proverbial being hit by a truck, an advance directive is recommended for anyone over 18. No doubt our wishes would change if we had a lingering illness and pain and weren’t able to do the things we enjoy. In my retirement community, I am impressed (and surprised) at how people cling to life when they are dependent on caregiving, medication, and even a loss in cognitive functioning.

Sometimes younger people say they would not want “anything” if they were in a dependent situation. But once there people do change their minds. You can always change your document but it’s important to have one.

Jacobsen: Observationally, experientially, time seems intuitively hooked to a sense of the significance of things, of meaning, and gets all the more amplified with digital technology. Stuff that counts units of time. 

Sometimes to the accuracy of the radiative tick of a Caesium 133 atom – truly astonishing, almost miraculous. Is this ever remarked upon or written within the books, journals, or newsletters of the societies in which rational suicide, dying with dignity, and so on, are central premises of their vision and mission?

That is to say, is there lengthy conversation on a sense of time and its relation to a sense of meaning/significance in life?

Girsh: This may be above my pay grade. I don’t know any research on this point. Time is a variable that markedly changes depending on what’s happening during the passage of it.

Steve Jobs, in a speech before he died, expresses his gratitude to death. “Death is very likely the single best invention of life…It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

Time is the gift we take for granted. How we use is our legacy: what we accomplish, what we do for humanity, what we leave for our loved ones. As it gets shorter it does seem to pass more quickly.

Jacobsen: Following from the previous question, does this change the quality or reflective quality of the wills?

Girsh: As I speculated above, younger people are more careless about time and often ready to say “enough” if their quality of life is at all compromised. As we age, that time shrinks and we do everything possible to hang on to what’s left.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Faye.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-booksfree or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican AtheistsAmerican Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

Photo by Curtis MacNewton on Unsplash

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About Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. You can contact Scott via email, his website, or Twitter.

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