no exitNo Exit is a play by Jean-Paul Sartre in which three dead characters, assigned to Hell, find themselves in a room with no exit (1). I sometimes think life has no exit too. Not that life does not end but that we have no real cultural expectations for how to die. We rely on an accident or disease to kill us or just allow “old age” to let us fizzle out, but we rarely have a real exit strategy.

Partly that lack of an exit strategy is related to our cultural disapproval of suicide. Generally it seems that our culture and religions say it’s OK to die when external forces choose the moment but if we choose the moment ourselves, that’s morally “wrong.”

And anytime we consider making an active choice to die, we turn to suicide as the methodology (2). I’m not a fan of suicide (I might choose the wrong moment and miss something good) but I do wonder if there is a way to die with grace and in an appropriate fashion at exactly the right moment.

Along that line, the other day I was having breakfast with friends, when one of them said, “My brother, who is 75, just joined the Exit Club.” What pray tell is that? Well, it’s apparently not called the Exit Club, but there exists the Final Exit Network ( which seems like a close fit to what my friend was mentioning.

I also came across the Hemlock Society which ceased to exist some years ago, apparently due to the association of its name with Socrates. See

But taking an active role in ending one’s life is not quite my concern here, so I looked for, dying without suicide. I found a few related links but they all ended up talking about suicide, not a natural death at one’s choice.

I know of stories of people who went about their day quietly, said good night to their family, and simply transitioned to the next place. We never consider that to be suicide and I’m sure it is not. It is an example of “going gently into the night” (3).

This latter process is something we need to know more about and to teach to successive generations.

Join us for a real-time discussion about questions raised by this essay on Wednesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:


  1. The title in French is Huis Clos which means a private conversation behind closed doors as opposed to “we can’t get out of the room” but there are many reasons why we cannot get from one place to another and that’s enough for this analogy.
  2. I don’t want to consider euthanasia  at all this week. Maybe we’ll look at that later.
  3. Paraphrased inappropriately from Dylan Thomas.