“Suicide only really frightens those who are never tempted by it and never will be, for its darkness only welcomes those who are predestined to it.”
On a car ride, my boyfriend remarked on my choice of tattoo scripture upon my collarbone. (Here’s my post about it) His argument was how incredibly sad and purposeless it was to have someone else’s suicide story sprawled across my body, permanently. “It must be a cry for help.” In my mind, I did not understand how he couldn’t at least see the beauty in the meaning behind it. Specifically, we were exchanging roundabout palaver regarding Sylvia Plath’s death, the ethics in general of glorifying suicide, and the symbolism of the poem itself, “Lady Lazarus.” Which, by the way, he has never read. I sat there, exhausting my inner poet and literary evangelist, trying so hard to explain that suicide doesn’t have to be this grandiose tragedy.
Therefore, I’m writing tonight about the human obsession with suicide and death. I apologize in advance for any unclear thoughts and nonsensical reiteration.
“To write poetry and to commit suicide, apparently so contradictory, had really been the same, attempts at escape.”
― John Fowles
Why do some of us harbor this glorified lust for the mortal expiration, execution of our fleshy prisons? Let us take a break, for a moment, from the usual assumption of suicide as a permanent escape. I’m not talking about the moments before the climatic curtain fall. Nor am I touching upon the seconds before, the wet ink on the goodbye letter, nor the flashing of life before the eyelids.
No, I’m interested in the perpetual avidity for death by our own hands.
Why? What then do we make of this morbid thirst, this appetence for the reaper?
Sexton wrote, “Death, I need my little addiction to you. I need that tiny voice who, even as I rise from the sea, all woman, all there, says kill me, kill me.”
“…I don’t want to live. . . . Now listen, life is lovely, but I Can’t Live It. I can’t even explain. I know how silly it sounds . . . but if you knew how it Felt. To be alive, yes, alive, but not be able to live it. Ay that’s the rub. I am like a stone that lives . . . locked outside of all that’s real. . . . Anne, do you know of such things, can you hear???? I wish, or think I wish, that I were dying of something for then I could be brave, but to be not dying, and yet . . . and yet to [be] behind a wall, watching everyone fit in where I can’t, to talk behind a gray foggy wall, to live but to not reach or to reach wrong . . . to do it all wrong . . . believe me, (can you?) . . . what’s wrong. I want to belong. I’m like a jew who ends up in the wrong country. I’m not a part. I’m not a member. I’m frozen.”
― Anne Sexton
I have noticed this macabre archetype in many poets, usually confessional poets.
Though slightly off topic of suicide, I rather enjoy this article regarding the Sylvia Plath Effect.
It is intriguing to me, how many of us go through life fixated on the idea of suicide. What a fantastic paradox! To be alive only to be in love with death.
Is it the unknown? Perhaps curiosity gets the better of us. What’s next? Do we obliterate into the vacuous canyon of black space? Do we reincarnate into lizards, our enemies? Do we become God?
Or is it the sweet release for some of us? What an idea- to be nothing. To be non existent, free from all feeling and thought.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.”
Is suicidal ideation always a result of a mental illness? I don’t think I’ve met a “mentally healthy” person who holds death so affectionately as I do. Personally speaking, suicide has always called me. I’ve figured that one day, I will take my own life. Perhaps not out of sadness, loneliness, or hopelessness. I just can’t imagine death coming for me without my acceptance first. I’d like to invite him over myself to establish a contract over tea. “Suicide is man’s way of telling God, ‘You can’t fire me – I quit!”
(Now, let me make it clear that I’m not promoting suicide as an actuality. In fact, I have suffered through the loss of three close family members via suicide.)
The question of why are some of us so incredibly in love with suicide is much too philosophical for me. But, oh, how I love to visit it.
And now, 1300 words worth of my irrelevant rant, I leave you with some magnificent quotes:
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
― David Foster Wallace
“I can’t deceive myself that out of the bare stark realization that no matter how enthusiastic you are, no matter how sure that character is fate, nothing is real, past or future, when you are alone in your room with the clock ticking loudly into the false cheerful brilliance of the electric light. And if you have no past or future which, after all, is all that the present is made of, why then you may as well dispose of the empty shell of present and commit suicide.”
― Sylvia Plath
“It was ironic, really – you want to die because you can’t be bothered to go on living – but then you’re expected to get all energetic and move furniture and stand on chairs and hoist ropes and do complicated knots and attach things to other things and kick stools from under you and mess around with hot baths and razor blades and extension cords and electrical appliances and weedkiller. Suicide was a complicated, demanding business, often involving visits to hardware shops.
And if you’ve managed to drag yourself from the bed and go down the road to the garden center or the drug store, by then the worst is over. At that point you might as well just go to work.”
― Marian Keyes