p>Today I saw this photo on Facebook, of the wonderful Cliffs of Moher, here in Ireland.
One person had written a comment underneath:
“What are those crazy people doing there on the ledge? I thought there was a huge fence around the cliffs nowadays to deter jumpers.“
Well, that got me going and we had a wee dialogue:
Me: “Hope to god there isn’t a fence! H&S taken too far. I went to some amazing, huge caves in Mallorca, which had no warning signs splattered about, no safety measures except an unobtrusive 9″ high concrete edging…teaches people visual awareness…and if someone really wants to jump they’ll find a place….(the big joy of the Mallorcan caves is that they were warm!).”
Other person: “Hey Charlie, I don’t think you can compare the caves of Drach Mallorca with the height of the cliffs of Moher (214 meters high). Sadly the cliffs of Moher have become a bit of a magnet for jumpers like the Golden Bridge San Francisco.
I’m for trying to deter people either falling off some of the highest cliffs in Europe or deliberately jumping. They can learn visual awareness elsewhere surely?”.
Well, that set me thinking about a few different aspects, and I felt a blog coming on!
The Drach caves in Mallorca.
Firstly, why would the ‘Powers That Be’ fence in the cliffs? I was once told that the Irish taught the Americans about litigation, it certainly flourishes here, and so that’s probably the P.T.B’s number one reason.
But how sad to lose that awesome wonder at the overwhelming power and majesty of nature at her wildest!! Devoid of human attempts to label it, control it, to dominate it with human concerns. Not even Mount Everest is immune to the appalling desecration left by our species.
‘Other Person’ wrote of trying to deter people from falling off….this reminded me of living in a community, where one boy had a very over-anxious mother, and sure enough, he was the one child who fell off the huge rope swing over a gulley, and broke his arm. Yes, as parents, (or even just as Adults), we need to protect our children, and teach them how to be observant and safe, but a parent who is overanxious can imbue their child with anxiety and fear, which over-rides their own instincts. Just as we need to teach children to be aware of others, we also need to teach them visual/spatial awareness to keep them safe, but not fill them with tension that may contribute to them having accidents.
Then we come to suicide…anyone determined to do that will want the highest place possible, rather than the spectre of just paralysing oneself and ending up in a wheelchair. Yes, there can be cases where the intervention of a caring bystander can give the intended suicide pause to consider, and if the i9ntended act was a spur of the moment thing, that person’s life can be saved. They may be forever grateful that a stranger intervened, and may then see life anew. However, an attempt at suicide can come after prolonged despair, and one has to have experienced real despair to know that there may be no other way to end that excruciating state. One cannot judge other people’s lives by our own.
I remember being in a group of women in Scotland, after a mutual friend had walked into the sea and drowned. One woman present wanted us all to promise that if we ever felt suicidal, we’d ring one of the other women first. She was obviously well intentioned, but to me, having known periods of deep despair, it’s not just needing a chat, or a cup of tea, or to be looked after for a weekend, or a week, or a month….it’s a deep, black hole inside that feels like it will never be alieviated, that no one else can ‘fix’. And the idea of asking someone else to take on responsibility for one’s own life, would be a huge burden and an impossible imposition on them….We can all feel so helpless in the face of other people’s pain and suffering, our natural inclination is to try and fix it, but it may be beyond our realm to do so.
Having lost my own parents, suicide was never an option; there’s no way I could have ‘done’ that to my sons, but I would argue for the right of any person to have autonomy over their own life. Obviously, as with euthanasia, there are huge issues involved…that are hard to resolve with mere legalities.
There’s one culture, was it the Marsh Arabs? who live in floating homes. Their belief is that if a small child fell into the water, that was their fate, and if you rescued them you would be responsible for that person’s life forever. To us, that seems SUCH an alien concept….and yet the children were brought up with enough spatial awareness to not be falling in left right and centre.
I’m totally up for discussions on these thoughts….my opinions are not cast in stone and I’d welcome feedback!