The Wrong Idea of Rights

The idea that your life is solely your own is based on the right of personal autonomy, which I have challenged in an earlier post. I will now go further and challenge the very nature of rights themselves.
All of us like the rights we have, and we regard them as sacrosanct, but we perhaps forget where they originated. Some have existed for centuries while others are recent, but none of them were created by you. An isolated and self-sufficient person could create a long list of rights, but none of them would mean anything in a solitary life. All your rights are privileges created by the society in which you live, and they only have meaning in that context. You have no automatic right to education or healthcare or justice; you are just fortunate enough to live in a society that has come to recognise the collective benefit of such things and agreed to provide them. Common consensus has defined these privileges as sufficiently important to be enshrined in written law, which is itself another gift that only a society can provide for you.

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Your kin are who you say they are.

In my previous post, I said that the medical staff who delivered me via caesarean section were not just doing a job of work; they saw me as kindred and brought me into the world. This will strike no one as surprising because we are all familiar with the concept of compassion, but we perhaps overlook its origins. An evolutionary biologist might tell us that as we evolved into a sentient species capable of sophisticated abstract thought, we recognised that our prospects for survival would be improved if we worked together and helped one another. Thus we could say that our global population of over seven billion is a triumph of reciprocal altruism, but that is a rather sterile way to look at something profound.

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Whose life is it anyway?

If I asked you who owns your life, you would probably reply, almost as a reflex, that you own your life and no one can tell you otherwise. It is an empowering thought and a troubling delusion.
Troubling? How can the autonomy of the individual be seen as troubling when it is one of the cornerstones of how humanity sees itself? Yet this is not true. The accurate version of this statement is to say that the autonomy of the individual is one of the cornerstones of how human beings see themselves. The difference in words is only slight, but the implications are great.

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Trying to Stay Afloat in a Sea of Words

Writing a novel, no matter how long, is like swimming up and down an empty pool. You can decide how many lengths you want to swim on any given day, your short term goal of the opposite end of the pool is always in sight, and no one will get in your way. Once you have swum all the lengths necessary to produce a completed story that is fit for sale, you must venture into open water, where you will find none of the comforts of your private pool.

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How did my journey change me?

A long time ago, I heard that the creation of a story is a journey for the writer, often more so than it is for the reader who only experiences the finished text. This was true in my case. As mentioned in my last post, I started my story with the premise that a man was dying, and to that I attached the belief that a person should be allowed to die on their own terms. This correlated with my view of myself and how I hope to both live my life and face my death. As such, my first attempt at a plot was built on the premise that assisted dying is a worthy option and my protagonist should struggle to assert his right to die at a time and in a manner of his own choosing. So far, so self-assured, I thought, but thoughts can be a slippery things and can lead you down winding roads to unexpected destinations.

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Why did I write a story about assisted dying?

The scarcity with which the topic of assisted dying is mentioned in written fiction can be interpreted in different ways. Authors look to make a living from their writing, and so wish to produce what are deemed to be the choicest tales. It can also be said that authors write what they like to read, so their lack of satisfaction with the last few books they have read in a particular genre may inspire them to write their own story, which will be free of all the irritating aspects of other people’s work.

The Long Drop to Short Text

Every author who seeks to independently publish their own work must face a transition from one end of the writing spectrum to the other, from many thousands of words, all arranged into punctuated sentences, to the 140 character limit of a tweet. After composing a symphony of words in isolation, you must find a few short notes that will be heard within a cacophony of constant noise.

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Chapter Headings – Am I being unfashionable?

Chapter headings seem to appear less nowadays than in the books I read at school, but I would rather not make a definitive claim about that because I also remember summers being longer back then. I have always liked each chapter in a story to have a title that gives an identity to the forthcoming portion of the overall text and invites me to read on and discover the reason behind the headline.

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The Value of a Worthwhile Story

The inherent value of a worthwhile story rests on the idea that a good storyteller shines a light on aspects of the human condition that most of us prefer not to discuss in our everyday lives. Yet if no one talks about such things, they do not vanish, they fester beneath the surface and affect our lives, both directly and indirectly. For example, the debilitating nature of depression hinders anyone from writing about it while smothered by its darkness. Even afterwards, when some light has returned, it may be too difficult to write down a personal memoir, partly due to the nature of the recollection and partly due to a fear of the stigma that is still attached to mental illness in a world where we should know better.

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Forwards Not Backwards

The basic tenet of writing fiction is to “show not tell”, so authors paint scenes with words instead of just explaining the next part of the story. This is solid advice that comes as close to being a golden rule as anyone can expect in the fluid realm of storytelling, where an empty page plus some words becomes a narrative that provokes a dream in the mind of a reader.

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