Sunday, May 16, 2010

Suicide clubs

"An act like [suicide] is prepared within the silence of the heart, as is a great work of art."

- Camus, in his Myth of Sisyphus

Because I have written about suicide extensively in the past, immediate present, and will do so even more in the possible future, and there go into depth about such a subject, an editorial like this which is dashed off unceremoniously and with one eye on the clock (the other eye on the editor, who is himself Argus-eyed and eternally vigilant, crouching behind his great mahogany desk, catching water from the dripping pipes above on his outthrust tongue) can not even begin to pretend (it hesitates always on the edge of pretending, too shy, too wary) to say anything of profound value about self-murder or self-created death, profundity in this case just being another illusion. I don't know the members of these suicide clubs personally and even if I did - or especially if I did - I wouldn't want to suddenly spawn giddy generalizations in order to convince myself I knew something. What would I know? I would always be in front of locked doors and outside tall high rise apartments in Tokyo in the bitter cold while inside people were inhaling charcoal. Every fist against the glass a sound of self-mockery. Why care? I don't. But each unique opportunity to write about suicide is of course a meaningful chance to talk about nothing, and in this world of messages that multiply unceasingly, nothingness is an island of south wind-soothed calm that the mind desperately needs. I am grateful for the suicides of others so that I can gaze on the emptiness that opens up before me as they fall forward into death, their retreating personalities and histories blossoming in sudden bursts of antimatter, swallowing light, and my eye firmly on the area around, I let myself reach forward into these wormholes in order to touch the peace of nonexistence. The selfish cells inside of me won't let me follow them, at least not yet. And I pity them, of course, or rather...I despise them, which is often the same as pity. One must take what gifts the world brings when one can, and another leg up back into the bitter race is worth it for the living and breathing, even if you're stepping up a ladder of corpses...or perhaps I should say: especially so if it is done that way. "I outsurvived you." One fears being weak and shallow in the face of death, or of suicide, but of course this is an ironic, impotent fear. Death is meaningless, it is empty, one can find whatever one wants in it. Whatever statement one makes about it, one is equally profound in that one says nothing at all. Camus's musings on suicide are on the same level as my local preacher's - as their words reflect their own histories and momentary consciousness, and as soon as the statements are uttered the world changes and the meanings shift out of focus. What matters to me more is my own reaction to their flight from nothingness, and that hardly matters at all either. My history ends with my own death, my words fall on deaf ears - or, I should say, dead ears. Because my own meaning arises from a personal experience that can not be communicated, I might as well speak in tongues to the still-living and have them try to decipher my random sounds after I'm dead, if they even cared to. I might as well write the story of my life in the sand beneath the waves. As a self-imposed ironic martyrdom I suppose I might strike a Jesus pose and spout impotent words of wisdom, to mock my own humanity. One should at least laugh at the last moment. One could also hope that one's death would give another soul an instant of peace, as I mentioned above. I would like to dedicate my death to console the heart of a beautiful young woman bent on the final act herself. I am a Romantic, I read Poe breathlessly when I was young.

There are those who gape in wonder at the paradox of social gathering suicides, or tandem suicides, or suicide in anonymous groups. Suicide, which is often interpreted (and it has to be interpreted, meaning painted over it in order to make it a symbol) as the archetype of all antisocial acts (self-murder being, basically, a withdrawing of personal resources out of the social collective back into nothingness), it can not be associated in the popular consciousness with, say, a happy, fertile, skyclad assembly of shining eyes. This strikes as a traitor against our Christian origins, it gives the lie to the basic assumption of the joy of Heaven, but of course in order to resolve that paradox the Church cast suicides out of Heaven quite early...otherwise the nascent Nazarenes would have never made it out of Judea. How would they have resolved the conflicting desires of apostlehood, worldliness, and escape? Evangelism and impatience to reach the afterlife? The tension must have been almost unbearable - perhaps it was the sand-clogged engine that drove their agonizing ascension. Here I am wandering the desert wastes, suffering as is my destiny, watching the Elders slough off with twisted smiles for the highest sphere - they can not even hide their anticipation beneath their white beards, wrapping my robes around me against the starry cold, each day in the burning sun a challenge (a trial, that last trial, the center of all trials) for lips and eyes and heart, for the tongue giving birth to saved souls. Inclination leads me towards death, of course, but duty saves me as a locust spreading disease and denial, I look deeply into men's eyes, into darkness, and cast blinding light therein. Instead of generating instant death I create death-in-life, life as a suicide. What pain can Rome create next to me and my "religion"? Rome executes in a moment, the gladius impaling or beheading, perhaps it crucifies along roadsides as a demonstration of dominance, a gentle (far gentler than wholesale genocide, it can be said, but is this even true?) laying on of hands in the name of Roman law, my religion steals the sun from my adherents' eyes and turns them inward towards existence as slow annihilation. Longing for death, they can not even trust their own suicides...but perhaps in the last moments death makes hypocrites out of us all. Can we expect anything less than existence as a hypocrite when one's eyes are always on extinction?

In the creation of a social circumstance, then, an event where two souls come together and create that third entity, the couple, the pairing, the shared consciousness, I suppose there is a relief from the despair and fear of suicide, as if the shared death was happening to the created essence, the pair, and not the two individual selves. The greater the number in the group, perhaps, the less the pain and burden of individual consciousness, consciousness in this case meeting and blending in with the social instinct, the layer of the consciousness where the individual (in solitude, in one's own mind) ellides the self and interpenetrates with the social construct, the social consciousness...which, after all, is a completely different structure in the mind. Is consciousness a substance that is concentrated in solitude and then divided between souls sharing a single space? It is of course ironic that it is these types of social consciousnesses that often lead to suicide in the first place, if suicide arises from interpreted social judgment, but it is useless to look for existence outside of irony when one is dealing with life in a social unit, or (even worse) life in "modernity". One thinks of Jonestown, for example, the shame and burden of feeling a last reach towards life in one's heart when everyone else is sliding into death around you. How could you dare to stay alive? With personal, individual consciousness reduced to a single candle's flame, shivering in a gale, held behind cupped hands, how simple to just...spread one's fingers and let the wind through? One certainly feels justified in doing so.

It is difficult to justify these suicides as the result of a belief in nothingness, however. If one looks at it logically the absurd character of their unthinking (fleeing from thought, the social consciousness suffocating the individual's ability to think clearly) approach to nothingness and nonbeing is apparent. For one thing, they appear (I have to use this word, I can not judge based on anything given, one can not peer inside a suicide, appearances are all we have) to judge their lives as not worth living - this immediately introduces a number of problems: a, who are they to judge - how are they judging, from what experience; b, they can only judge the temporary, the present, and it is the nature of the temporary to change - nothing is clearer, it is the mistake of the suicide to believe in permanence; c, death will end their suffering - this is a form of faith in a shallow idea of nothingness, for all they know their consciousness will not be extinguished and they will continue to suffer, except in this case without a body or ability to change; d, at the last second the individual will and ego will intrude upon consciousness once again and in that instant they will suffer all the agony of a single, isolated, lonely death, the shared experience will melt away like candle wax; e, in seeking nothingness they forget their own lives are already filled with a nothingness that makes the transition to death relatively painless. Suicide requires a faith in too many unknowns. If life-as-suicide, living death, and a death that seems to call out of nothingness are all the same, why not stay alive? At least on this side of death one knows what to expect from experience. I am guessing it is too much trouble to maintain the body, the mind, the illusions, as if death and the peace it supposedly offers weren't the most powerful illusions of all. One wonders if they seek death out of boredom...but because boredom arises from a similarity of impressions and perceptions, and one's perceptions are controlled by one's choices, state of mind, philosophy, and past experiences, this boredom is self-created as well, it is the cocoon the soul manufactures for itself. One could say that their boredom already immures them inside a living suicide and it is the duty of the actual suicide to give them a last experience they could at least cherish, if only for a split second before consciousness ends - if it does. How typical that those who seek life must do so in death, as this world has been reduced to a waiting room on the way to a mass grave.

U. Amtey
18 December 2004
13:43 CST