I’ve never embraced the practice of keeping notes, or a journal, beyond what I occasionally write in here. It’s not for lack of trying. Over the years I’ve bought paper journals, and even a hand-held tape recorder, to help me lap up my insipid thoughts and banal observations. The attempts always failed to one degree or another. There are moments when I succeed and jot down this and that, and I even made a list of everyone I’ve ever fucked. To see if my one-night stands outnumbered the meaningful relationships. They don’t, even though after I made the list, three meaningless, very brief, encounters came to mind. It’s odd to forget sex. It’s another human being for Heaven’s sake.
There have been other brief periods of success regarding pencil on paper journal-keeping. Pen on paper. ECT compels me to keep notes, for practical reasons, to keep from driving my wife crazy by making her repeat herself. Forgetting conversations, ugh. Those I can write down, some of them, anyway. Writing down where I put the remote control or nail clippers isn’t going to happen. There are thoughts and quotes and anything I think is noteworthy, few and far between, but there. Now here.
And that’s what I’m going to relate, a journal entry of mine, something I did. It speaks to the value of journal-keeping, and may compel me to do so more often. In this case, it allows me to see myself as if I were another person. We lose our ability to see clearly if we get too close to something, including ourselves. Something too close is just as blurry as something that is too far away. One benefit of writing, or any creative endeavor, is that part of you is collected for some healthy observation and analysis. And you can share it, or keep it for yourself. Either way, you’re bound to learn something. I have to believe that that’s a good thing. Perhaps it’s a pleasant fiction. God knows.
I love watching people and listening to them. My social phobia prevents me from joining in, most of the time. However, I don’t have to socialize with a great therapist, fat stuntman, or blue-tipped peeping tit-mouse in order to appreciate them. The same is true with people. You can admire them either way. And while I enjoy the blurry spectacle of The Masses, I find the individual within society wicked fascinating. I’m my best example.
Every single one of us is alone, and we all want to realize some dream. We have to reconcile what we want with what we have. Naturally. Human beings grapple endlessly with the concept that the world is a fair and decent place where things make sense, and hard work is rewarded and, “what goes around comes around,” with the fact that the universe is indifferent and, basically, life hurts and can really suck. For a thinking human being, existence is a frozen outpost in a no-man’s land between what is and what could be. Inches away from what is, and one needs binoculars to see what could be. Most of us are kind and compassionate for the most part. Republicans try to change that, with some success, but we are still, well, good.
Our frail bodies are the mediocre instruments of our tremendous minds. Like Mozart trying to create his masterpieces with a ukelele or bagpipe. While I would like to hear what Mozart would have produced with just a ukelele or bagpipe, I’m glad he had more with which to work. I wish our minds had more to work with than arms, legs, hands, feet, vocal chords and ear-holes. We do a little but we don’t a lot.
That is one reason that it is very important to be careful of what one desires. Our minds can get us into so much trouble; with capers, schemes, philosophies, and whatnot. And that brings me to my journal entry.
The entry reads, “February 19, 2013, 4:37PM, logic dictates that I make a choice here.” The logic involved suicide in the face of existential nihilism. I’ve always been comfortable with existential nihilism, and still am, and on that evening I was ruminating about the ancient philosopher Hegesis. I read something, bully for me. He felt that life was made up of more pain than pleasure. If that is the case, he reasoned, suicide is the answer for all of us; rich, poor, fat, thin, beautiful, ugly, man, woman, whatever.
The entry, and my memory, allows me to piece together what happened next. I was sitting on a bench at the Davis Square “T” station. At that moment, I felt I had to make that choice. I was either to kill myself as soon as the opportunity presented itself, which would be the proper end result given how I had embraced Hegesis’ logic. If I didn’t kill myself, I was then either a coward who couldn’t take a simple concept to its logical conclusion, or I didn’t actually believe that life was balanced too heavily in pain vs. pleasure. Despite a very happy childhood, a wonderful family, a full stomach, a warm bed, and a few friends, my mind, hobbled by mental illness, crippled me with depression, anxiety, and self-loathing. Therefore, there was (at least at that moment) more pain than I could bear and little pleasure in sight.
The trouble into which the mind can get you. Fuck.
His philosophy, which he probably used to cultivate a dark and brooding personae to impress women, doesn’t withstand scrutiny. What did I want out of Hegesis? The nihilistic prick. Yes, I live life and face depression and regret and shame and self-loathing. But I get so much help; medication, electro-convulsive therapy, Nancy loves me and I love her, a great therapist, friends who support me, and phenomenal pets. Bipolar disorder most certainly funks up the room, that’s for sure. Sometimes suicide definitely looks like a fantastic option. It’s an an exit, if needed. We’ve all been there. But Mr. Hegesis is wrong. When I make Nancy laugh it counters 1000 hours of depression and self-loathing. You know?
But for a few hours I was convinced Hegesis was right. Earlier that afternoon I had a small meal at a Chinese Restaurant on Holland Avenue. I was amused at what the fortune cookie said, and I taped the slip of paper into my journal. The fortune read, “Many opportunities surround you.” In my frame of mind at the time, I took that to mean that there were many ways to off myself. I could throw myself in front of a bus, or jump off of a building, eat a pound of Limburger cheese, put a hole in the Mystic River, who knows.
So I found myself sitting in the station, thinking violent thoughts. How absurd! At one point, since nobody was around, I walked to the very edge of the platform. The end of the yellow, bumpy part. Every few seconds I had to repel a thought that demanded that I stop the foolishness and just go home. I started to imagine what I would look like smashed along the rail, or if I would produce a huge fart or “Wilhelm Scream” just as the train hit me. Time passed, and finally I could hear the rumble of a train on my side of the platform. “If I just lean forward,” I thought, “I never have to see a loved one die, or feel sorrow or loss or depression again.” If I could just wait for the train and move forward a bit, I would instantly reconcile my nihilism with a practical course of action. I would traverse the frontier between the intellect and the universe. In an odd way, I was being idealistic. While my method of suicide was motivated, at least in part, by watching too many Bugs Bunny cartoons, at least I was finally doing something with my life…by ending it.
But I left. I went home. I kissed my wife. I walked the dog as I smoked my pipe and read some damn thing. The movie, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” was on TCM. Creepy movie. Funny, interesting, and…creepy. Anyway, ending your life isn’t doing something with it, I concluded. And by that I mean I really concluded. My decision was made for all time. Suicide is no solution, it’s a waste of a deeply flawed but fundamentally good world, amazing to behold. At least for me, the debate was over. It is over.
One man’s experience, among 7 or so billion. But there it is, along with my well-considered solution.