I was speaking with a girl some weeks ago, and the conversation made a turn toward teenage angst and suicide. The girl was young and had many personal issues; she’s one of those who had the habit of being sad and hopeless all the time, which was crazy because she had much going for her and she was pretty.
After a while, the girl asked me, “If you don’t believe in God and life is absurd and meaningless, why go on living? Doesn’t it depress you?”
This was a line of questioning that was always tricky. So I did what Jesus Christ would do: I told her a “parable.”
Two things, I said.
First, read my old blog post called, “Existential Song.” It’s basically a mishmash of all things Albert Camus and his jolly philosopher friends, but I made some of my points there.Second, listen to this quite long drivel.
I’ve always hated human death. It’s wrong. Nobody deserves to die, ever. It’s probably why I’m endlessly fascinated with things that promise to make death obsolete. Things like nanotechnology, cryonics, stem cell research, and the fine words that dribble out of Ray Kurzweil’s mouth.
It’s also why people who commit suicide sadden me so much.
A high school student was on the news some months ago. He slashed his wrists and bled to death because his girl friend had dumped him. I’m usually jaded that I couldn’t care anymore, but there are few things that still hit me at the center of things, and that was one of those few things. If you’re sick of incurable cancer and stewing in indescribable pain, maybe I’d relent, maybe I’d give you a lethal dose of morphine. If your testicles have grown into the size of those balls they use to demolish decrepit buildings and you just couldn’t stand the sight of them, maybe I’d push that button or pull that trigger for you. But if you were healthy, young, and free, that kind of stupidity is just… too much.
Besides, your time will come, so don’t rush it. Maybe you’ll die tomorrow, anyway. So cheer up.
Whenever I’m in one of my rare episodes of feeling down in the dumps, I usually think about that old fisherman in Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea, and how he hangs on to the carcass of the dead whale even as hungry sharks surround him. That guy’s cool—he hangs on to the carcass no matter fucking what—and that image alone is usually powerful enough to yank me out of my occasional depression. My little point is (and I’m probably making this sound so odd here), sometimes, salvation comes in the form of a dead, rotting thing, even if you end up with nothing but bones and a sad story to tell. Sometimes, vindication can look and smell so bad you have no idea what the hell it is until things melt into their right places.
Besides, whenever the thought of death brushes my brain, what I think about are the maggots. Or the loneliness of the grave. Or some silly pain. Or the unsavory possibility that the coroner might be gay and he might play with my penis. Imagine that for a second: I’m a goddamn object. He might draw cute smileys on my balls. He might check out my ass hole and decides I can be violated. It happens.
Suicide is a silly thing. And know this: Nobody really cares about somebody else’s sadness; what the world wants to know is how you’re facing it, how you’re kicking it in the teeth even if you’re also blind and bleeding. Yeah, life is like a vast field strewn with land mines, but you never, ever chicken out because you have nowhere else to go. We face it, gather our courage, and walk through it and pluck the things that we think are nice. You can never choose death without losing your humanity first. All those fuckers who choose to “die with dignity” are just a bunch of idiots; death is always, always ugly. Nobody dies with dignity, Gregory House said. You live with dignity; you can’t die with it.
[End of drivel]
So no matter how crappy things become—and believe me, you haven’t seen real shit yet—just go on living, I said. I’m usually not serious, but this is one of those instances when I am.
“Fuckin’ A,” she said. “Sometimes, you do make sense.”
“Because you frighten me,” I told her.
And you can’t die, I muttered to myself, because we haven’t even dated, yet.
[Image by Frozen Emotions]