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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 23, 2009 / 2 Menachem-Av 5769

A Terrible Feeling

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "The whole thing gave me a terrible feeling," a friend told me, "something deeper than plain old moral revulsion."


She had just read the joint obituary of Sir Edward Downes, 85, the noted English conductor and his beautiful, talented, devoted wife Joan, 74. They had gone to Zurich to end it all at a clinic run by Dignitas, which arranges suicides under Swiss law.


Sir Edward was the world-renowned director of the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden. His first job there had been as a prompter to Maria Callas in 1952, and by the end of his career five decades later he'd gone on to conduct something like a thousand performances of 49 different operas there. In 1991, he would be knighted by Queen Elizabeth.


Joan Downes — ballerina, choreographer and later television producer — had been his assistant for years. It would be hard to think of a couple whose lives had been so full of music, art, talent, joy, mutual devotion and life itself. But Joan Downes had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and Sir Edward had grown almost blind and increasingly deaf; he was losing touch with the music he loved and made.


So they went off to a beautiful mountain setting, their grown children by their side, drank a small amount of clear liquid that rendered them unconscious, and died hand-in-hand.


To quote the statement issued by their son and daughter: "After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems."


As their son, Caractacus Downes, told the London Evening Standard, "They wanted to be next to each other when they died. They held hands across the beds. It is a very civilized way to be able to end your life."


The dispatch from Jill Lawless of the Associated Press continued the theme, noting that their deaths "were a poignant coda to Edward Downes' illustrious musical career...."


Reading this account of their lives, and deaths, you could almost hear the strains of Albinoni's "Adagio in G Minor" in the background.


So why would this "poignant coda to Edward Downes' illustrious musical career" give my friend a terrible feeling?


I think I know. Part of the reason is the disconnect between how we are supposed to respond to this story, and how, I have to hope, many of us did.


Strangely enough, my first thoughts on reading the Downes' joint obituary were of a B-movie made in 1973 — a kind of noir sci-fi fantasy called "Soylent Green" about a future dystopia, circa 2022. By then the planet has been made an ugly, crowded, sweaty place by overpopulation, global warming, an evil corporation and the other usual villains.


Despite its essentially simple-minded script, some of the movie's scenes keep coming back to me, demonstrating that the visual sense has a life and power of its own, independent of the critical judgment. As in a nightmare.


One of the characters in the movie, played by Edward G. Robinson in his latter years, is an aged professor who still reads books. Indeed, he and his colleagues, throwbacks all by 2022, are nicknamed "books" by the rest of their society. He is so depressed by what the world has become, and so shocked by what he's uncovered behind the scenes, that he avails himself of the services offered by one of the government's assisted-suicide clinics. In the movie, naturally enough, such suicide is called Going Home. It might as well have been called Dignitas.


Before taking the hemlock and drifting away, the old professor gets to see a video of how the world used to be, which is a lot like what we can see any time on the Nature Channel — beautiful countryside, romping zebras and giraffes, life-filled oceans, maybe the kind of Alpine scenery available in the vicinity of Zurich, Switzerland.


I knew what I was supposed to feel while watching this flick: How could man have destroyed this beautiful planet, and how soon can I join up for the next socially enlightened crusade, whether against overpopulation or for euthanasia?


My problem was that I didn't feel that way at all. Why would someone as valuable as the professor, rich in years and experience and with so much learning to pass on, choose to kill himself? Of course that was only a plot twist, and I knew all along it was just good ol' Edward G. Robinson up there on the screen hamming it up as always.


What made the alarm bells go off in my mind was the manipulation of my feelings, or rather the clumsy attempt at it. Death, too, was being commodified in our consumer culture. I was supposed to think of suicide as a reasonable, even noble and aesthetically attractive option when life gets crummy.


At $9,300 a customer, Dignitas has made suicide tourism the final deluxe vacation. Think of it as a coda to your life/career, which in our time grow synonymous (another bad sign). I was supposed to nod my head in agreement, even admiration, at this new, more civilized approach to life and death.


No doubt any number of reasons for and against exercising such an option could be adduced in your average seminar/webinar on bioethics. But the ultimate argument against suicide comes not from reason but from revelation: Choose life.


That moral imperative can't just be listed on one side of a yellow pad to be balanced by another, separate but equal argument in favor of suicide. The commandment transcends all argument. It beats somewhere within every living creature. Maybe that's why, on reading this obituary for two, we are left with a terrible feeling, something deeper than plain old moral revulsion.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here. Paul Greenberg Archives

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