Now I want to have a word with you. With you specifically. I can almost hear the creak of the gray, rusty gears in there, rushing to invalidate the legitimacy of this direct address. Take a moment. Loosen your grip, gradually, and drop and fall; leave the instinct toward ping-pong model argumentation behind, and have a conversation with me. It’s true that I don’t know “you.” And my guess is, you’re thinking that I might succeed in following this with something so universal that it applies to most “you’s” out there. But, you think it will still not apply to you you, because you are so substantially more unique, and hard to pin down than your typical human. That is, again, my guess: if I’m wrong, acknowledge my error and continue the conversation from it. But don’t dismiss me for it.
Because, I assure you, it is you that I speak to. And what I want to speak to you about is your impending death. How have you dealt with it so far? Conjure it up now. Your go-to reason for living on, despite the unshakable fact that you will die. You might have religious views that address this. You might believe that your soul or spirit will go to a better place after death. Or, you may feel that you and the universe are one, and so in a sense, you won’t ever die. It may comfort you to think that the particles that make up your body will exist for millions of years; and might someday participate in the body of another living being. Perhaps a porcupine, a scarab, or a chupacabra, should they turn out to exist. So that, materially, who you are, will live on, and may even live again. Or, you might argue that “right and wrong” are social constructs, so there is nothing wrong with death, because there is nothing wrong with anything. Even death’s incomprehensibility isn’t a problem, because nothing compels us to insist that things ought to make sense. This is the sort of rationalization we all engage in.
I once dropped acid at a music festival. I was standing on a line, waiting to go through a security checkpoint, and I had some pot stuffed in my sock. I became afraid that I would confess to the security guard: “excuse me sir, it seems that I have a bundle of marijuana in my shoe. I believe it got there when I intentionally placed it there to sneak it past you.” As I neared the guard, I experienced an epiphany: I did not want to confess, so I would not. So simple! Immediately, I mapped the insight onto the question of suicide. I did not want to die, so I would not kill myself. Since then, when faced with the inescapable meaninglessness of life and the absurdity of death, it is that night’s epiphany that I reach back to, to remember that I choose to live.
Egbert B. Gebstadter once wrote: “Perhaps the greatest contradiction in our lives, the hardest to handle, is the knowledge ‘…there will come a time when I am not alive.’ On one level, when you ‘step out of yourself,’ it makes complete sense. But on another level, perhaps a deeper level, personal nonexistence makes no sense at all. All that we know is embedded inside our minds, and for all that to be absent from the universe is not comprehensible…When you try to imagine your own nonexistence, you have to try to jump out of yourself, by mapping yourself onto someone else. You fool yourself into believing that you can import an outsider’s view of yourself into you…And…though you may imagine that you have jumped out of yourself, you never can actually do so…In any case, this contradiction is so great that most of our lives we just sweep the whole mess under the rug, because trying to deal with it just leads nowhere.”
A few years later I found myself again tripping on acid, this time with a good friend of mine. Again, the topic of suicide surfaced. I told him it was a non-issue for me, that I had solved it. This seemed to confuse him, so I eagerly recounted my breakthrough at the music festival. He pointed out that that was then and this was now. When I look back on this scene now, importing some objective camera’s view into myself, it’s as if reality had jump cut over a few seconds, or the frame had suddenly mirrored on itself; an instantaneous, radical shift in perspective. A moment, a glitch, then the information lay within me. The information of how the night might progress toward my suicide. And for a few seconds, I did not know that I would not kill myself that night.
It was a terrifying choice – allowing myself to consider suicide. Terrifying because, in reality, there is no reason not to do it. But isn’t that what freedom is: allowing yourself to consider any possibility? Giving yourself the space to receive any input, and engage with it honestly, not fearing, but looking forward to what truth you might discover. Without the monolithic oversight of that which you categorize as yourself, but is really the barrier between the world, in its purity, and your seeing that world.
At some point, we all deduce that dying is not a good idea; and now we wear this arbitrary moment’s reasoning as an armor against thoughts that may try to break in and engage our minds at face value. We sell our free-roaming souls to stay alive, and thus alive but soulless, we live lives that are detached, blurry, only half-there; the lives of spiritual slaves.
So I ask you now. Consider anew. Let the thought be there now. While I’m here with you, let yourself be with the possibility of suicide. Be open enough to say that it is possible – merely possible – that out of what I’m saying now, out of your listening of this piece, you will kill yourself.
Can you allow yourself to say that? And mean it? I doubt it. And that you can’t only goes to prove my point, that your desire to stay alive stands between you and your freedom of thought.
And if you’re deluded enough to think that you can allow yourself to truly consider suicide now, let me ask you this: why not do it? Set aside for a moment the social agreements and impulsive retorts stored in your introspection-deflecting repertoire – your everyday life is empty. It’s automatic locomotion designed to kill away the seconds until you die anyway. And even those rare moments of clarity, of pure being – the kind of moment, I hope, you may be experiencing now – these moments are shortsighted enough to inspire us, to convince us that things can change, that we can keep these moments coming, and tomorrow will be different. This, though history shows us a tomorrow that is always the same. So, even in these scared moments, we see the desperation of a soul justifying its own meaningless existence.
There is an alternative. An active stance. You can now – now! – have the definitive say on your life. Now! live the fullest, most powerful and meaningful moment of your life. And now! once and for all escape the farce that human nature has made of everything you’ve ever been and held dear. Do it now.
If you have, in fact, committed suicide, you can no longer hear me, and no longer need meandering distractions such as this. If, as I’m guessing, you’re still there, that’s well and fine too. I’m still here. But let’s get one thing clear. There’s a reason we’re still here: cowardice. The rationalizations and justifications we indulge are an insult to our minds and to human potential. You are a coward. You trade what’s most beautiful about life – inner honesty – for the superficial condition of physically staying alive. Suspension of freedom of thought is the choice you make every day. Own it. Do that at least.
NEXT: 6. My Future With Stevie